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The Two Brothers by Judith Beveridge Essay

How is the concept of power and powerlessness depicted in this text? “The Two Brothers” by Judith Beveridge portrays the perspective of a young girl forced to witness the horrific torture of animals by two brothers. The concept of power and powerlessness is presented in the poem. There are many techniques which assist in conveying this idea some include euphemism, simile, contrast and metaphor. Through these techniques readers gain a deeper sense into the power and powerlessness presented in the poem.

The use of euphemism enhances the idea of power and powerlessness in the poem. The persona recounts an event where the two brothers “Showed me themselves”. This implies the brothers exposed themselves showing her their bodies, tormenting her. She is powerless to the sexual abuse committed by the brothers. The brothers dominate the power as they have a choice of either sexually abusing her or not. As they have the choice, they obtain the power. The power of the brothers is also due to their sexuality, they are male, generally the more dominate sex. Through the use euphemism, the idea of power and powerlessness is conveyed.

Simile is yet another technique used to express the idea of power and powerlessness. “We watched the snail boil and froth like illicit stills”. This shows the individual powerlessness of the snail. Even with the protection of their shell, they are still vulnerable to the torture inflicted by the brothers. As they boil and froth they are unable to do anything about it, unable to prevent or save themselves from the torture, powerless. The simile also shows the power of the two brothers. The boys obtain their power as they have choices. They could easily exercise their power, torturing the animals or leave them alone as they have this choice they dominate the power. The power and powerlessness within the poem is suggested through the uses of similes.

The ideas of power and powerlessness are accentuated through the use of contrast. Throughout the poem we experience various changes in tone, these changes contrast dramatically, showing the shift in power within the poem. Initially the persona emits a sense of hostility towards the boys but as the poem progresses she expresses sympathy towards them. In the beginning, the poet saw the boys as powerful due to their sexuality and their physical domination. They held all the power, using it to torment the girl and torture animals. But towards the end of the poem, the poet expresses sympathy towards the boys. They were no longer able to withhold their power based purely on their sexuality. As a result they do not know how to act or their position within society causing their powerlessness. Power and powerlessness in this poem is expressed through the use of contrast.

Metaphor is used in the poem to depict the concept of power and powerlessness. “How many grains of salt it took to evict a small snail.” The metaphor is used to demonstrate the powerlessness of the snail. As it is to be ‘evicted’ it illustrates to readers that the snail is homeless. Anyone in society without a home is seen as socially powerless, this is similar to the snail, without a home it is powerless. Through the metaphors used in the poem, the concept of powerlessness is conveyed.

The poem evidently portrays the ideas of power and powerlessness. The uses of poetic techniques such as euphemism, simile, contrast and metaphor help to emphasize these ideas. Through these techniques the ideas of power and powerlessness to illustrated to readers.

http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2000exams/hsc00_english/99english_general_er.pdfPAGES 35-53

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