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Analysis of ‘Diptych’ Essay

‘Diptych’, by Robert Gray is a free verse poem in which imagery is used to invoke feelings, but also specifically influence a reader’s first impression of character. Throughout the poem Robert Gray has swayed natural speech, used strong imagery and also included poetic tone to create a poem which allows insight to his childhood. Robert Gray has explored his parent’s struggles during their marriage, in the poem ‘Diptych’. He likens his childhood experiences to a diptych hinge, which is a painting, photograph or drawing hinged in two separate parts, the joint cannot function without both parts.

The poem has two separated sections, one which addresses Gray’s feelings towards his mother and the other aimed at his memories of his father. The two parts of the poem are very different and the reader is influenced during the poem by the tone and language which Gray uses. He displays his mother as a warm and caring woman, she acts based on her emotions and this is shown through her marriage and her ability to take care of things that needed to be done. To communicate his emotions, the first part of the poem, which addresses his mother, has a sympathetic poetic tone.

In the second section Gray’s father is displayed as quite opposite to his wife, he is portrayed to not be fuelled by emotions and rather by manners and the preservation of his reputation. Throughout the poem Grays parents are shown to be quite opposites of each other, yet they also have a mutuality in their relationship. The example of his parents allows Gray to communicate to the reader how people may be close to each other but entirely unalike. Gray has used poetic techniques such as punctuation, asides and a careful choice of words to convey meaning to the reader in his poem, ‘Diptych’.

The portrait of his mother explores her strengths in the family, she is able to hold off a bull in her garden, ‘…she forced it, through the broken fence, it bellowing…’. The use of words like ‘forced’ display her strength and show her duty of care. A sympathetic emotion is expressed with the words, ‘…stay awake in our old weatherboard house’, they communicate to the reader, his mother’s ability to show affection and place others above herself even when she is unhappy with the situation. An example of use of punctuation is shown in the part ‘….

This other night, my mother was reluctant to go out, and leave us kids asleep, and fell asleep herself…’ this punctuation gives insight to the anxiety and worry of the situation. In the opening lines Gray has portrayed his father as unfavourable in comparison to his mother. The asides, added to include more information, aid in the portrayal. For example the inclusion of the car crash story as well as mention of his father’s drinking, ‘…in his state…’ convey unpleasant feelings to the reader.

The poem allows readers to feel the emotions which Robert Gray felt as a child. The struggles and differences between his parents have been highlighted by the specific use of punctuation and language. The form and structure of ‘Diptych’ greatly contribute to the meaning of the poem. Firstly the poem is visually placed in two parts, 1 and 2, which display an extreme change in the poem. Gray has used this to firstly talk of his mother, and then in part 2 discuss his father.

The two sections of the poem are separated by the numbers, but are linked together; this is a representation of both a diptych hinge and the relationship between Gray’s parents. This structure adds to the influences Gray has over the reader of the poem, the gap between his parents is made clearer when their descriptions are not place together. The structure is another example of how Gray has been able to convey his emotions and a concept more clearly to a reader.

The form throughout the poem follows no poetic structure. ‘Diptych’ is a free verse poem, and so the structure of it does not have a specific order, it is instead structure to become more dialectical. Gray has also placed words on detached lines as to be read in a way which follows natural and conversational speech. In some cases he has used this pause or separation of words to have a difference of placement allowing the reader to gain more information about what he has conveyed.

The structure and form of the poem ‘Diptych’ has specifically been used to convey a stronger meaning to the reader. Robert Gray has effectively conveyed the emotions involved in his parents struggling marriage in the poem ‘Diptych’. He has also addressed the issues involved between people who are different to each other, and yet who are often in close proximity. ‘Diptych’ is a free verse poem in which Gray has correctly used imagery and poetic techniques to communicate his personal emotions to a reader.


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