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Memories of childhood in “Looking For Dad” Essay

Memories from our childhoods are often remembered for the rest of our lives. They can range from small things like playing in the park or a birthday party to important milestones such as a first kiss or the first day of school. Now matter how small or insignificant these events seemed at the time, they will be treasured for ever and looked back on as some of the best times of your life. The memories are normally reminders of good times and the joys of childhood. But for some people, their childhoods are looked back on in sadness and remorse.

In the poems “Looking For Dad”, “My Grandmother” and “The Sick Equation”, the narrators explore the darker sides of childhood. Each poem tells a different story, but are all about tragic memories from shattered childhoods that will scar forever.

“Looking For Dad” is about a boy who’s father leaves home. I think the author chose the title because not only does it explain the main theme of the poem, but the phrase “looking for” maybe refers to the soul searching the boy has to do while “looking for” what is missing in his life. When reading the poem, you notice that it is written in quite an upbeat tone even though it is obviously a sad poem. I think the narrator has done this because the poem is from a child’s perspective. The main themes of this poem are dis-functionality and grief. Lines such as “I had not tidied up my room, because I was too full of gloom” and “hope he will come back soon” clearly show the despair that is put across by the narrator. Another theme of the poem is self-denial. The narrator doesn’t want to face up to the fact that his dad has gone.

“Dad was hidden beneath the things I’d been given” and “flying about my underwear but could not find him anywhere” are two quotes that show that the character still believes his dad is still apart of his life even thought it is obvious he is not. The fact that he dreamt about his dad not being with him anymore shows that sub-consciously he knows his dad has gone forever and isn’t going to return. The character believes that his dad “simply vanished” because he didn’t tidy his room. At the end of the poem it says “hope he will come back soon and admire my very tidy room”. This shows the self-blame the character has put upon his conscience and how he now regrets taking his father for granted.

The structure of the poem is strange. It has a nursery rhyme feel to it and this feel good rhythm doesn’t really fit in with the other wise sombre mood of the poem. This could however represent the fact that the poem is seen through a child’s eyes and he maybe does not fully understand what is going on around him. The quick feel to the poem is mainly down to the fact that it has a loose rhyming scheme and short lines.

“The Sick Equation” is also written by Brian Patten. It is about a “broken home” and tells us how the narrator has been scarred for life due to his home situation. The title of the poem can be looked at in many different ways. I feel the author chose this title because people often think an “equation” will be confusing and complex. This is exactly what the narrator’s life is like. He may also have chosen to use the word “equation” because it can represent that when all these different factors are added together there can only be one outcome. Unlike “Looking For Dad”, the rhythm of this poem is slow and the lines are a lot longer with no real flow. One of the themes represented in this poem is isolation. With his parents fighting all the time, the narrator was convinced that it is better to “stay one”. The narrator decided to grow up alone and if anyone tried to get close to him he would make sure they quickly disappeared. The phrase “I came to believe how it was best, that one remained one” not only backs up my point, but also shows that he is maybe scared of love.

Another theme which is shows quite a lot in this poem is regret. As the poem goes along, you can slowly notice how the narrator changes his attitude towards love. In the first paragraph, lines such as “For by becoming two, one at least would suffer so” shows that he is strongly against being loved or loving anyone at all. In the final stanza the line “I am better off for knowing now, that given love, by taking love all can in time refute” proves that the narrator’s mood towards love has changed dramatically as he has now learnt that not all love is painful. The second stanza really shows regret and anger. “Believing this I threw away so many gifts- I never let love stay long enough to take roots but by thinking myself of too little worth, I crushed all its messengers”. It shows that the narrator feels he has missed out on so much and is angry that he didn’t learn his lesson sooner. “I was wrong of course, just as those who brought me up were wrong” is another quote that shows anger and resentment towards his childhood, in particularly the way his parents brought him up. “I grew – or did not grow” is a phrase that shows that the narrator feels that while he was un-loved, he could not grow as a person.

It could also mean he thinks he has missed out on his childhood and started off with the harsh feelings only and adult could understand and no child should have to feel. And as you cannot grow past being an adult, in that sense he has not grown. The narrator also tells of how even a new couple cannot possibly, in his mind, escape the “shadow of divorce”. When conveying this view, he makes reference to an albatross. This could also have different meanings. The most obvious meaning that springs to mind is because the albatross has the biggest wing span, it would create a huge shadow over any marriage. But a more in depth analysis could link the albatross back to the poem “Rhyme of the ancient mariner”.

The tone of the poem is a lot more depressing than the first poem. The structure is also cleverly devised by the author. The first stanza has a disorganised and erratic rhyme scheme which represents the confusion and disorder in the narrator’s life. But as the poem progresses, a more organised rhyme pattern starts to appear and the emergence of rhyming couplets maybe shows the narrators life is calming down and becoming more organised. The narrator also uses irony when he says “home, sweet home”.

The final poem I studied was “My Grandmother”. This poem is about the narrator’s grandmother. The title was chosen mainly because it explains what the poem is about. The word “my” may seem small and unimportant, but when people are proud of something they often emphasise and make it known they are linked with the person or object by using this technique. For example, when people use the phrase “That’s my boy” it is a way of saying, he’s with me and I want everyone to know. The title could therefore mean the narrator is proud of his Grandmother and wants everyone to know this. Once again the main theme of this poem is regret.

“I remember how I once refused, to go out with her, since I was afraid” and “Though she never said, that she was hurt, I could still feel the guilt” are phrases that back up this point. Another theme of the poem is isolation and loneliness. “She kept an antique shop – or it kept her” and “She watched her own reflection is the brass” are quotes that show the Grandmother was lonely and obviously didn’t have any close friends or family. I think the use of an “antique shop” is meant to represent old age.

When reading the poem, you notice it is quite fast and up beat. This is because of the rhyme scheme – A, B, A, B, C, C, which is used in each stanza. The poem also uses iambic pentameter. This gives it a quick tempo and makes it free flowing. The speed of the poem is again in contrast with the themes of the poem. This is maybe due to the fact that the narrator admits “when she died, I felt no grief at all”. This means that the narrator has nothing to be sad about and therefore keeps the poem quite up beat. Each stanza tells a different part of the story and the first and third stanzas are explaining events, where as the second and fourth and primarily about the feelings of the narrator.

Each of these poems outlines different experiences of childhood. “Looking For Dad” talks about divorce and separation, “The Sick Equation” discusses the affects of domestic arguments and “My Grandmother” is about the death of a loved one.

But the themes that are constantly mentioned in all the poems are regret and isolation. This shows that maybe bad memories are more memorable than the good ones and the scars left by these experiences will always remain fresh in the minds of the characters


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