Since the poem is an extended metaphor, Vernon also uses a lot of imagery to make this possible. One of the types he uses is personification to describe everything around the child. When the child’s friends go away from his hiding place the poet describes the sound of their leaving using personification in the quote, “… words and laughter scuffle,” Here he compares the sound of their departure to sounds small rodents or animals of sorts make when they run away.
Scannel tries to make the audience picture the child’s friends as animals hunting for the place he has hidden. Scannel proves this by describing their movement by the word ‘prowling’, showing how the seekers moved, as if to hunt the child like an animal. The poet also uses personification to create space between the hider and the seekers, by showing quiet and emptiness. The two phrases,’… darkening garden watches… ‘ and ‘… bushes held their breath… ‘ show that the child had no audience apart from the garden in front of him.
He was far away from his friends and the bushes holding their breath shows how quiet the place is. The second phrase also creates tension when the child comes out of his hiding place where he has been waiting so long wonders what would be waiting for him outside. Alliteration is also used repeatedly throughout the poem and the poet uses it for a reason, there are underlying meanings to every alliterated word/sentence. A few examples are ‘mustn’t sneeze’, ‘someone stumbles’ and the simile ‘the sacks in the tool-shed smell like the seaside’.
The simile is describing the sacks smelling like the sea. The repeated ‘s’ sound relates to the gentle waves of the seaside, showing his hiding place. This is also shown in the other two examples, with the repeated ‘s’ sound. The reference to the sea is a metaphor for life as well, showing life is like the sea, always moving. Scannel uses alliteration to describe how painful the cold is in the personified phrase ‘cold bites through your coat’. The sharp ‘c’ sound makes us picture how painful the cold is, as if it is cutting through skin.
One last thing to mention is the punctuation use by the poet. He masters punctuation in this poem by using exclamation marks for confidence (‘I’ve won! ‘), enjambments for increase in tension (‘whatever happens-you mustn’t sneeze… ‘) and short sentences (‘don’t breathe. Don’t move. Stay dumb. ‘) , to make the poem move along faster. Overall, Vernon Scannel’s poem ‘Hide and Seek’ is based on the children’s game ‘hide and seek’ but is actually an extended metaphor for facing difficulties in life.
Scannel uses a variety of literary skills such as imagery and use of punctuation to make the reader feel all the emotions the child is going through. The poet makes us feel cramped when the child is hiding and the loneliness and pain when the cold bothers him and his friends leave him. I think that the way Vernon Scannel has managed to put in the struggles in life into such a simple children’s game is brilliant and I feel that the literary devices he has used is the key to connecting to the readers.
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