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Sparrow by Norman Maccaig Essay

“Sparrow” by Norman MacCaig has a strong social issue of the class system and how the classes differ. MacCaig talks about the issue of the class system in relation to survival of to fittest. The poem itself talks about birds like sparrows and other birds in general, which are metaphors for people. Word choice, sentence structure and enjambment were strong in improving my understanding of the social issue of the class system. MacCaig uses word choice to describe the sparrow and other birds in relation to different types of classes within society.

MacCaig begins by describing the sparrow by saying “He’s no artist”, “a proletarian bird. ” meaning someone whose only contribution to the state is his offspring and calls the sparrow “dowdy” meaning dull clothes with no colour. MacCaig is saying that the sparrow is nothing special; the sparrow is dull, talentless, boring and colourless. MacCaig continues by saying that he lives in “a slum” and would “rather a punch up in a gutter. ” to gliding over oceans. By this we can assume that the sparrow rough and violent.

Whereas MacCaig describes the other birds as “ballet dancers, musicians, architects” therefore MacCaig is saying that the other birds are talented and educated which is a complete contrast to his description of the sparrow. MacCaig continues to contrast the sparrow and other birds by stating in stanza three about the sparrow that “He carries what learning he has lightly … on the usefulness whose result is survival. ” MacCaig is saying here that the sparrow only keeps what information is useful to his survival.

Whereas MacCaig then states that the other birds will “die in the snow” when winter begins and that the sparrow will survive. MacCaig is commenting that despite the other birds various talents it is the dowdy talentless bird that continues to live and that the educated talented birds will die because their talents and education is not what can get them through difficult times. Therefore the poem informs us of what the classes within society are like. MacCaig uses birds as a metaphor of humans within our societies.

MacCaig is saying that even though the sparrow’s is a basic, unskilled, untalented and uneducated animal he survives hardship. Whereas the other sophisticated and educated birds die in the snow and freeze meaning that there is no need for their talents and education in life. MacCaig uses enjambment to help emphasise the main points that he is making for the readers to better understand the poems central concern. MacCaig does this by for example saying “on the usefulness whose result – is survival” MacCaig places “is survival” on a new line to help the reader to understand that within this sentence the important part is survival.

MacCaig uses sentence structure also to help emphasise the main points that he is making for the readers to better understand the poems central concern. MacCaig does this by for example saying “He’s no artist. ” and “No scholar. ” MacCaig uses these short, blunt sentences to emphasise that the sparrow is unskilled and uneducated. Overall Norman MacCaig use of word choice like “dowdy” his use of sentence structure like “No scholar. ” and finally his use of enjambment were strong in improving my understanding of the social issue of the class system within “Sparrow”


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