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By the River by Steven Herrick Essay

Steven Herrick’s work of “By the river” displays a bildungsroman novel in which harry goes on a journey through life, facing love and loss. Steven Herrick’s verse novel “By the River” is very successful in conveying the significant ideas about human nature. He uses key themes such as grief, environmental influence and coming of age to explore these ideas. To convey the themes Herrick uses multiple techniques such as imagery, repetition, personification and positive and negative influence throughout his text.

Grief is a key theme throughout Herrick’s novel “By the River” highlighting the suffering and distress from losing a loved one. Herrick explores this theme through the death of Harry Hodby’s mother and his close friend Linda. The first element of grief depicted in the novel is shown through the quotes “we sit in the tender shade/leave him to share some time with our mother/his wife. Herrick uses collective nouns in this quote to convey the ownership of the mother that not only does it show her titles but also it shows the roles within their lives.

Herrick then uses personification to describe the “tender shade” and how it has a positive connotation displaying his positive outlook on grief. A second element that is depicted throughout Herrick’s novel is shown in the quote “and dad/alone in the kitchen/stirring his tea/until it was cold in the cup” Herrick uses imagery in this quote to display the numbness in his life. By using the theme grief we clearly see the ideas about human nature and how they can have a positive and negative outlook on life. Steven Herrick explores the idea that environment can define who you are.

Herrick uses imagery to show the impact of setting on Harry. He shows Harry’s confusion in the first poem “The Colour of My Town. ” Harry shows us the effects the environment of the place he has grown up in has had on his identity. And example of this would be “after listening to all these ugly little voices, I want to run away”. Herrick personifies the voices creating the impression that the voices has an effect over Harry making it hard for him to chose certain decisions that would shape parts of his life.

Also the use of depressive connotations like squashed and dead in “A dead snake, cane toads squash flat, nothing that lives, and nothing that shines”. Herrick uses this theme to create a sense of the environmental effect on Harry Hodby’s identity, and to show the significant ideas about human nature. Coming of age is another major theme throughout Herrick’s novel “By the River”. In this novel we see Harry go on a journey through childhood to adolescence experiencing various changes and pleasures of life in a country town.

In the quote “I see clearly now/which part of me/is my dads/the part inside/the good part/the part that knows/Johnny Barlow/Linda/the ring/the white cross” Herrick uses a list method and lists multiple things to show how much Harry has taken in over time and realized what has actually happened throughout his journey. This shows his change from child to adolescence. Herrick uses the repetition of the word “part” to emphasise to his readers that Harry has finally found the part of him, which belongs to his dad.

Coming of age is a very important theme in this novel and expresses very significant ideas about human nature. Herrick was very successful in conveying the key elements of human nature by expressing them through the themes, grief, environmental influence and coming of age. The poetic techniques Herrick used to explore these themes are clearly shown throughout his verse novel “By the River”. As an audience we watch Harry Hodby go from child to adolescence and observe the various changes of life in a country town.


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