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Analysis of Robert Gray's Poems

Through Robert Gray’s poems Diptych and Late Ferry I have actually learnt that remembering past occasions and revealing a brand-new fact or element to them can inspire discoveries. These recollections are evoked through the fond memories revealed by the speakers in each poem. Although the poems vary in the sense that one speaker deliberately keeps in mind the past, rather than the other persona that just thinks of the past since they are looking with fear into the future, both poems still illustrate that discoveries can be made through retrospection.

In Diptych, Gray (the speaker) is thinking back about his youth and his parents, and by doing this he starts to have a much better understanding of them. Whereas, in Late Ferry the speaker is watching the demise of warmth associated with earlier times, by looking at a ferry leaving port and venturing into the unidentified. Through Gray’s usage of different strategies including; sensory images, tone and the plurality revealed through his choice for similes, he enhanced my understanding of the idea of discovery.

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In Diptych, Gray explores the concept of discovery through his recollections of his parents, the driver for this was the fond memories for past experiences. The message I think Gray is conveying through his didactic writing is that relationships are an integral part of discovery. The awareness that Gray comes to at the end of the poem is that he evaluated his parents too roughly and that they were doing as best as they could.

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Gray uses the idea of the diptych (the 2 panels collaborated by a hinge or clasp and connected through a common concept or style) as the inspiration for the kind. The effect of this is to provide the portraits of both his moms and dads individually and to compare and contrast his sensations towards both of them. The first words of his poem “My mom” utilizes a possessive pronoun and alliteration to show the individual level that this poem operates on. Gray intends this to create a connection to his audience and himself. Gray utilizes similes in his poems to provide the plurality of his imagery and this is intended to assist the reader understand Gray’s relationship with his parents and his feelings towards them.

In Diptych Gray paints the portrait of his mother emphasizing her caring nature, this is evident when he states “Her care you could watch reappear like the edge of tidal water in salt flats”, this simile particularly illustrates his mother’s resurging, caring attitude in a visual image, which shows how Gray uses similes in order to better his audiences understanding of abstract ideas. Gray’s use of anecdote directly after this simile highlights the fact that he engages the reader through non-abstract ideas. Gray further proves his mother’s protective instincts by claiming “It was this made her drive out the neighbor’s bull fro our garden with a broom”, she did this to protect “her seedlings”. I believe that this anecdote is a metaphor and that “her seedlings” actually refers to Gray himself and his mother’s protective nature over him. Gray slowly begins to understand his mother’s attitude was just her way of showing her incorruptible care for him.

This leads him to discover that his mother was doing the best she could for him, however this realization differs to the one Gray has regarding his father. Gray describes his father as being “a drunkard”, a pathetic loner when Gray stated he “often drank alone” and even a racist and misogynist when Gray claimed he read “Nothing by New York Jews; nothing by women, especially the French”. Despite all this atrocious qualities Gray still says “I had long accepted him…he’d given me, shown me, the best advice”. Gray uses his conversational tone and language throughout the poem to mimic a stream of consciousness. The tone is used throughout the poem as if Gray was himself was explaining these recollections of his past personally.

The effect of this is to again connect to the audience, but also as this is near the end of the poem, it shows he is reaching a conclusion about his parents. Even with all his faults, Gray cared for his father. Gray ends his poem with “My pocket-knife slid sideways and pierced my hand – and so I dug with that one into the ashes”. The visual imagery of his blood mingling with his father’s ashes signifies that he is the link between his parents and his blood is the unifying element. Overall Gray has shown how discovery can be about having a renewed perception of the past and that the impact of these discoveries can be transforming for the individual. Through the nostalgia shown by Gray in this poem he is able to uncover a different perspective on his parents and this could only occur by looking back at his life with retrospect.

In Gray’s Late Ferry, the concept of discovery differs slightly to Diptych. In Late Ferry the speaker is looking with fear and uncertainty into the future, which leads to them longing for the past. Through this nostalgic attitude the speaker reflects on the future and discovers that he must move on from the past. The ferry that the speaker is observing is an icon of a bygone era and is associated with earlier times. In the first stanza the speaker describes the ferry going into “the huge dark harbour”, this visual image uses the adjectives “huge” and “dark” which carry connotations of uncertainty and the unknown.

This highlights the vulnerability of the ferry and symbolizes the fragility of people as we move out beyond our secure moorings and into the unknown. This is why I believe the speaker had an immediate affinity with the ferry, as they are moving forth from the warmth and safety they associate with the past. The speaker throughout the poem juxtaposes natural and man-made imagery. This is evident in the third stanza when “street lights’ fluorescence over the dark water” is compared to “like chromosomes uniting and dividing”, this simile uses a natural activity to show the effect of artificial lights. This juxtaposition shows the speaker’s apprehension to progress and modernity, which again shows his fear of the future.

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Analysis of Robert Gray's Poems. (2016, Sep 09). Retrieved from

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