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Analysis of Slough by John Betjemen Essay

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In Slough, Betjemen presents many ideas about his views on technological advancement. Most of these views are negative, and he comes off as being very cynical of the system, and also portrays a sort of violent hatred towards the industrialisation and rise of capitalism in Slough.

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However, he also seems to have some hope for the future.

Initially, Betjemen uses lots of repetition of words such as ‘tinned’ to emphasise his views. The phrase ‘tinned mind, tinned breath’ could possible be used to suggest even the very things that make people human – such as the mind and the breath – have too become commercialised and artificial due to the growth of industry and capitalism in Slough. Furthermore, he compares mind and breath to ‘tinned milk, tinned beans’, which could possibly be used to symbolise how ‘mind and breath’ have lost all value or meaning.

In addition, he refers to ‘peroxide hair’ and ‘synthetic air’. This could possibly be used by Betjemen to portray the artificial nature of modern living and how unnatural and superficial it is. This cynicism is emphasised by the way in which this poem makes use of lots of enjambment. This could possibly suggest that this poem is a sort of ‘rant’ by Betjemen, and that he releases all his views in a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’. Alternatively however, the fact that full stops are used at the end of each stanza could possibly suggest that Betjemen has structured this poem intentionally, to emphasise every point made in each stanza, and that this poem is used to provoke thought in the reader.

John Betjemen is also portrayed as being quite angry at these occurrences in the poem. The fact that he calls for ‘friendly bombs to fall on Slough’ is quite drastic, and the oxymoron of ‘friendly’ and ‘bombs’ is quite peculiar, but also portrays how he wants Slough to be destroyed. Furthermore, he writes ‘Swarm over, Death’, which again, is quite drastic, but Betjemen possibly uses this phrase to portray the extent to which he hates Slough now. He also asks these ‘bombs’ to ‘blow’ Slough ‘to smithereens’, which could possibly be used to suggest that he wants the town to be destroyed to the point of no return, and that he doesn’t want this way of living to come back. In addition, Betjemen writes ‘smash his desk of polished oak’ and ‘smash his hands’. The use of violent language such as ‘smash’ accurately portrays Betjemen’s fury and anger towards Slough, and the description of ‘polished oak’ could possibly represent how Betjemen wants this new method of opulent and capitalist living to end.

However, Betjemen also portrays the way in which there is possibly hope for the future. In the poem, he asks for the bombs to spare ‘the bald young clerks’ and that it’s ‘not their fault’, showing how Betjemen still has hope in humanity, and that it is the people at the top of the system who are responsible for all these issues. In addition, the fact that Betjemen writes that they ‘daren’t look up and see the stars’ could possibly suggest that this issue of industrialisation and commercialism is thankfully confined to this area, and that hopefully, other part of the world will stay the way they are.

Furthermore, Betjemen writes that the ‘cabbages are coming now’, which could possibly suggest that this is all going to end, and that eventually everything will revert back to normal, being ‘ready for the plough’. The fact that the ‘earth exhales’ could possibly be a ‘sigh of relief’ that this is all over. However, alternatively, it could suggest that it is the Earth’s ‘final breath’ before death due to the acts of mankind, and the full stop at the end of the poem could suggests that there is possibly no future.

Overall, Betjemen seems to very critical of the developments of mankind, and describes its many downfalls. However, it is evident that he keeps an open mind, and hopes for a better future.

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