Brooklyn Cop by MacCaig

Categories: Poetry

The cop appears to be a savage yet we are later made aware of his underlying vulnerability. New York’s reputation of violence and crime leads to our awareness of the cop’s fear of not returning home to his wife. … We are first made aware of the cop’s intimidating appearance in the first line, of the first stanza when MacCaig uses the simile “built like gorilla. ” This gives us a very negative and animalistic idea of the man, an enforcer, and almost a thug.

This is reinforced with the metaphor, “hieroglyphs in his face” instead of eyes. We build a picture of someone who is very strong, brutish and somewhat sinister. MacCaig includes the element of humour by saying, “but less timid,” this is also ironic, as gorillas aren’t renowned for their timidity to begin with. We are further made aware of the cop’s threatening appearance when the cop is described as being, “steak coloured. ” This suggests that the cop constantly looks enraged, due to the comparison to raw steak, which is bright red.

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A very important metaphor is created in the first stanza, which establishes the main theme of the poem: “he walks the sidewalk and the thin tissue over violence… ” This leads us to believe that there is an underlying threat of violence in the cop’s persona, which implies that the cop is an unpredictable and perilous character. We now know why this man has to be so strong: his world is one where, as the metaphor highlights, the thin veneer of peace and civilisation is very fragile and could easily be broken.

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MacCaig retains our interest by creating contrast in the cop’s persona in the first stanza. The stanza concludes with Norman MacCaig giving a more defenceless view of the cop, by expressing the intimate relationship he shares with his wife. He says, “See you, babe” as well as “Hiya honey. ” We can now almost think of him as a gentle giant, less of a brute. The word “honey” is a term of affection that shows both his love for his wife and his relief at coming home safely from his work.

These conflicting parts of his personality; his brutal, animal-like side at work, and his tender caring side at home are revealed in these two contrasting lines and contribute to the vivid description of the cop. We are further made aware of the cop’s vulnerable side when we are told, “he hoped it, he truly hoped it. ” MacCaig uses repetition to increase our awareness of the cop’s fear of not returning home to his wife. In the last stanza, the poet shifts the image of the gorilla. No longer the powerful and dangerous animal, he has become one of an endangered species who faces death or extermination at every street corner.

Who would be him, gorilla with a nightstick whose home is a place he might, this time, never go back to? ” Norman MacCaig uses a rhetorical question, as he wants us all to consider the dangers this man faces on a daily basis; The fact that every working day is a life threatening situation for him is affluent throughout the poem, as is the fierce, tough and unyielding characteristics of this Brooklyn Cop, all of which are necessities in order for him to be able to fulfil his duties.

MacCaig questions the cop’s integrity in the last sentence of the poem, he asks yet another rhetorical question: “And who would be who have to be his victims? ” Here, MacCaig has used an elliptical sentence structure. This last question is almost encoded, requiring the reader to think of all the implications, but leaving us to make up our mind independently.

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Brooklyn Cop by MacCaig. (2018, Oct 20). Retrieved from

Brooklyn Cop by MacCaig

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