Comparing Portrayals of Old Age in Poetry

Categories: Old Man

Compare the Images of Old Age one gets from the two poems 'Old Man Old man' and 'Warning' From reading both 'Old Man Old Man' and 'Warning' the attitudes and images of old age which the two poems present are completely different to each other. 'Old Man Old Man' describes a man who is becoming old and he doesn't like it "Your Helplessness, you who hate being helpless" whereas in 'Warning' the old lady is really looking forward to the freedom of old age, "You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat".

'Old Man Old Man' puts forward all the down sides of becoming old, such as losing your independence "He was always a man who did it himself", loosing your eyesight "he left for himself when he saw better", losing your memory "I've lost the hammer" and loosing your mind "Now you ramble in your talk around London districts, fretting at how to find your way from Holborn to Soho.

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However the lady in 'Warning' becomes a child again and starts to be rebellious "I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells." Things that you would imagine a child of about 5 would do, she does! "Run my stick against the public railings... and pick the flowers in other peoples gardens." In 'Old Man Old Man' he can not bear the thought of loosing his authority whereas the lady in 'Warning' is looking forward to the thought of loosing all authority and dignity and that she will not have to live up to the expectations and values of Middle Class Britain when she mocks it by saying "and set a good example for the children, we must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

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" Implying that she does not want to do any of this.

The language in 'Old Man Old Man' is very pessimistic. The old man who seems to be the father of the poet thinks that he is going to hate old age, this is backed up by the writers' conformation when he quotes "Self-demoted in your nineties to washing up". The language in 'Warning' is very egotistical and self-absorbed because she mostly uses 'I' "I shall go out in my slippers in the rain", she also is ungrammatical "You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat" this shows lack of care. The lady uses phrases like 'Gobble up' which emphasises greed as it is quite a powerful and evocative phrase.

Although both poems deal with old age, they not only take a very different attitude to it but have a very different tone. In 'Old Man Old Man' the first half of the poem is almost an impersonal description of the old man and how his world is shrinking. It is only at half way that the poet reveals his close relation to the old man - he starts to talk in terms of you and I.

The first half is certainly bleak and bitter with its description of his falling eyesight and memory and the mocking reference "Lord once of shed, garage and garden," yet gradually despite the obvious bad relationship, the old man had with his children (including perhaps the poet) the mood changes to one of almost gentle pity. The poet notes that the old man tried not to cry and he follows this with the ambiguous lines "I love your helplessness, you who hate being helpless". At first sight it might be that the narrator is rejoicing in the old mans' helplessness, but then he goes on to offer his help "Let me find your hammer. Let me walk with you to Drury Lane. I am only a cloud." And this coupled with the more personal way the poem is expressed possibly indicates a change of attitude in the poet. Or it could be the Narrators bitterness shown in its fullest.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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Comparing Portrayals of Old Age in Poetry. (2020, Jun 03). Retrieved from

Comparing Portrayals of Old Age in Poetry essay
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