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Rebellious Attitudes in Wendy Cope’s Poem Sisters

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    The poem written by “Wendy Cope”, titled ‘Sisters’, is a well-structured poem, which describes the rebellious attitudes of two bad sisters. The use of several literary devices such as a detailed description of tone, and the change in tone, also, insight into the personalities of the characters and their nature of social relationship, assists in making this poem succinct and comprehendible.The title is relevant in the sense that it portrays to the reader that the two females being discussed in the poem are sisters, and not friends, strangers or cousins.

    The fact that the females are presented as “sisters” prepares the reader to believe that they probably share similar qualities and attitudes. Whilst this is true to some degree, it is revealed that the “sisters” are fighting through to their own brand of ruthlessness.There is no direct setting indicated throughout the poem. The poet makes no indication of a time or place in which these sisters were raised or when they become such rebellious sisters.

    In the initial stages of the poem, the reader can’t help feel, through lines such as, “my sister was the bad one, said what she thought, did what she liked”, that the older sister is the bad one whilst the sister narrating the poem is the good and innocent one. Hence, the tone in these initial stages of the poem is that of rebellion and to a lesser degree, innocence. However, towards the end of the poem, the reader may possibly have a different outlook on the sister narrating the poem, as she states, “we talk and smoke and laugh at everybody – two bad sisters”. Surly there must be some element of irony in the term “bad”, the poet is looking with adult maturity at her earlier life, there must be a sense of perspective.

    Hence, the tone is now presented as just rebellion, regarding both sisters. Such indication of tone, as indicated in the initial and latter stages of the poem enhances the reader’s appreciation and understanding of the poem.The poet has used imagery to assist the reader in appreciating the tone. Descriptions of knives, leather belts, short skirts and cropped locks assist in portraying the rebellious nature of the sister.

    The imagery used is a successful technique by the poet because it is easier for the reader to visualise rebellion, rather than read about it.There are two protagonists identified throughout the poem, however no names have been provided. One of the sisters narrates and describes the other sister, and it is revealed in the initial stages that she is the “bad one”. From the descriptions provided in the poem, the reader feels that this sister is rebellious and ill-natured.

    Such was the description of the sister that at thirty, “her mother wept and prayed” and she was divorced.The other sister, the sister narrating the poem, appears to be the innocent one at the initial stages of the poem. However, by poems end, the reader feels that the older sister has influenced the younger sister. She is seen as the younger sister, as she describes the life of her older sister, and is then influenced by her as she “fights through her own brand of badness”.

    The style of the poem isn’t written in a third person perspective, because the narrator is involved directly with the readers or audience. Therefore, the style is that of nostalgia. Were the narrator is telling us something that happened to her in the past. It appears as though the sister narrating this poem is reminiscing over the different stages of her sister’s life.

    This is indicated by references to her sister’s ages such as “ten” and “thirty”.The poem is divided into equally lengthed stanzas of five lines. The poet has not used any form of rhyme, whether it is alternate or consecutive. The length of each line varies between four to five words indicating that the poem is in a rapid pace and succinct.

    The poet has on several occasions used hyphenation to indicate that the narrator is making a point and the information, which follows, is directly linked to the point, which she was initially making. For example, the line states, “my sister was a bad one – said what she thought and did what she liked and didn’t care”.In conclusion, the poem titled “Sisters” is a well thought out piece of literature, which describes the rebellious nature of two bad sisters. The use of great sense of tone and grammatical techniques aid in the overall appreciation of the poem.

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    Rebellious Attitudes in Wendy Cope’s Poem Sisters. (2018, Jan 06). Retrieved from

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