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In Mrs Tilscher’s Class by Carol Ann Duffy Essay

Task: Write about a memorable poem that portrays growing up and change. Show how the poet recreates the childhood experience and shows the children’s growing independence.

Carol Ann Duffy’s memorable “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class” deals with the themes of growing up and change. Set in the eponymous teacher’s classroom the narrator starts by describing a joy and delight in learning which changes into disillusionment and confusion in the last two stanzas. As the subject matter is a universal experience, Duffy’s narrator successfully draws the reader into the poem and made me reflect on my education and life.

The free verse poem is written in the persona of a young adolescent girl who uses the second person “you” to write about the experience and her memories of primary school. The title emphases Mrs Tilscher’s control and influence but this poem is also increasingly about what happens out of the classroom in the real world with all its difficulties. The poem starts with Mrs Tilscher taking her pupils on a journey: “You could travel up the Blue Nile/ with your finger tracing the route/ while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.” This symbolises the learning journey/curve the children are on – Mrs Tilscher guiding them to exotic far away places that they may never actually visit but only be able to see in their imagination. The narrator initially loves the bright classroom with all its opportunities. She loves that Mrs Tilscher leaves “a good gold star by your name”. This made me think about how people change: little infants love school but when they become adolescents they just want to finish school.

The way Carol Ann Duffy has brought all the senses “sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing for example “the sent of a pencil slowly getting shared or the laugh of a bell swing by a running child” the way it contrasts with the metaphor, similes, personification, alliteration and onomatopoeia to tie in joyful, and funny memories of learning and playing in school for some examples “ the classroom glowed like a sweetshop, sugar paper, coloured shapes and Enthralling books and examples are used to show examples of the fun in primary school.

The contrast between the safety and protection in Mrs Tilscher’s and the outside world with its dangers (e.g. Moors Murders Brady and Hindley ) is showing in stanza 2 however class it was save because “Mrs Tilscher loved you” and put a good gold star by your name school was better than home. The danger of the out side world could be rubbed away. Brady and Hindley are like the faint uneasy smudge of a mistake this simile highlights the simplicity of the narrators world view.

The turning point in the poem is reality in life and was growing up e.g. why tadpoles changed from comas into exclaiming marks shows the children we growing up and a rough boy told you how you were born and freed by dance.

In the last stanza of the poem the girl is under going changes and her relationships in adults have changed and she looks at adults in a different way now. Mrs Tilscher cannot answer the narrator’s question because she doesn’t think that they are ready to know the truth and she will have to learn in her own experience and making mistakes which cannot be easily be erased.

The poet’s message is growing up and you have to figure it out your self and all about change in your life etc.


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