Les Murray’s “The Widower in the Country” Essay
Les Murray’s “The Widower in the Country”
In “The Widower in the country”, change is conveyed in many ways. The poem shows that change can bring a life of isolation and loneliness. The poem also shows how change is not always embraced and how we should not lead a life with a lack of change.
The title of the poem, the widower in the country immediately gives the reader the impression of an individual in a vast area. This lets the readers know that the widower is alone and isolated. Already, the reader already feels sympathy for the widower, not only because he has lost his wife, but he now lives alone in a vast and empty area.
In the first stanza, the first line, “I’ll get up soon, and leave my bed unmade”, shows how the persona leads a life that is monotonous and repetitive each day. There is a certainty and reluctance in his tone and it seems as though he now has no reason to make his bed, as he is lonely and there is no one who will see the bed even if it was made. At the end of the stanza, “For I get up late now”, the word “now” has been deliberately placed to show how the widower has changed his behaviour.
In the second stanza, the personification of “Christmas paddocks, aching in the heat”, imitates the personas own feelings, and the words “aching in the heart” look like aching in the heart, which is what the persona feels like, as he has lost his wife. Christmas is also usually a time for family gathering, and this highlights how change has caused the widower to lead a life of loneliness and isolation. This stanza is also filled with negative imagery and mundane activities- “The windless trees, the nettles in the yard… and then I’ll go in, boil water and make tea.” The … at the end of the sentence shows that the widowers day is filled with other activities that are more or the same, again highlighting his life that has a lack of change. The lack of punctuation in this stanza also reflects the widower’s monotonous life and again shows how change can bring a life of isolation and loneliness.
In the third stanza, there is again a lack of punctuation. “I’ll stand out on the hill and watch my house away below, and how the roof reflects the”. There is a certainty in the widower’s tone and the detached images show he doesn’t want to be in this situation. “Makes my eyes water” gives us an image of the widower in misery and crying and we feel sympathy for him. This also shows he has not embraced the change. “Close on bright webbed visions smeared on the dark of my thoughts to dance and fade away” shows how the persona has visions and memories of the past.
There is a paradox between bright and smeared and this reflects the persona’s misery. Although he wishes to think of the happier times in the past, they have now become blurred and have faded away. “Then the sun will move on” shows the widowers unhappiness and “I will simply watch, or work, or sleep” is a cumulative listing of three monotonous and mundane activities, which highlights the lack of variety in the widower’s life. The sentence also shows how the monotony is never-ending. In “And evening will come on” the “and” is placed at the start of the sentence to draw attention to how the widower is so certain about his life as it is always the same, day after day.
In the last stanza, “Getting near dark, I’ll go home, light the lamp and eat my corned-beef supper, sitting there at the head of the table” shows how the widower’s day is filled with even more mundane activities and his reluctance to make any changes. The fact that he is sitting at the head of a table highlights his loneliness, as he has no family, and is by himself. “Then I’ll go to bed” again shows the certainty in his tone and his lack of change. “Last night I thought I dreamed” is the only time there is a change in tense and harsh sounding images- “the screaming was only a possum ski-ing down the iron roof” follows it. The widower has lost all hope as he cannot even dream and has nothing positive to look forward to, not even in his dreams. The poem ends with its only positive image “little moonlit claws”.
With uses of imagery, personification, paradox, assonance and cumulative listing, Les Murray’s “The Widower in the Country” clearly shows how change can lead to a life of isolation and loneliness.