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'The Lesson' by Roger McGough

Categories Capital Punishment, Education, Literature, Poetry, School

Essay, Pages 4 (967 words)

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Essay, Pages 4 (967 words)

‘The Lesson’ by Roger McGough and ‘Comprehensive’ by Carol Ann Duffy both discuss the violence in schools in their poems. ‘The Lesson’ is a more visually violent poem whose bloodthirsty villain is infact the teacher, whereas the characters in ‘Comprehensive’ tell us about the problems and racial tensions in their schools without as much violent language.

Roger McGough writes about violence and tension in schools through the use of his own opinions. He uses humor in ‘The Lesson’ as he shares his views on three main themes, the first being his criticism of classroom management.

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‘Chaos ruled OK in the classroom’ suggests that the teacher cannot control his students and this is further confirmed as ‘his voice was lost in the din’.

One of the most important qualities a teacher should have is power so they may continue with the lesson planned without any unnecessary interruptions and the teacher in this poem should have been able to stop the noise being made almost at once.

This point leads onto McGough’s views on teacher/pupil relationships. The poet implies that there is very little respect for the teacher as the children carry on talking and he is ‘ignored’. Throughout the rest of the poem we see the teacher carry out his anger on his class, even the headmaster joins in, someone who is seen as having a high authority and someone who must care for the children to the best ability he can. The third view we see the poet has is that schools are potentially threatening environments.

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We know this from the line nine until the end as vicious acts are taken place on the students, instead of them being in the safe environment that school is meant to be.

Carol Ann Duffy uses her several characters in ‘Comprehensive’ to express her own views on violence and tension in schools. It is mainly the English characters that show any sign of tension in school. It is clear that Carol Ann Duffy sees white, teenage boys who are mainly racist and she shows this mainly through the personality ‘Wayne’. It is clear that Wayne is ignorant through the lack of education.

Carol Ann Duffy has taken what she believes to be a typical thug, he is almost a caricature in the way that his name is associated with British working-class males with racist attitudes and is at the age when he believes he must prove his masculinity by ‘paki-bashing’. Wayne is the stereotype suggested by his name and Carol Ann Duffy tries to bring out his racist remarks in his stanza.

The poet portrays the foreign speakers as shy and nervous, something which she must believe is true. The immigrated children do not talk of racism at all, so it is clear that Carol Ann Duffy believes that tension and violence in schools is mostly down to the English youths.

In ‘The Lesson’ structure and form is used by Roger McGough to write about violence and tension in schools. The opening two lines are in italics, which clearly separates them from the rest of the poem. It is almost as if it is not part of the poem itself but an introduction. It asks an ironic question and the poem beneath it is an answer. The strong rhythm of ‘The Lesson’ suits the disturbing yet powerful poem. Rhyme is used every second and fourth line and the stanzas frequently end with a horrific line such as ‘put the gun to his temple and fired’. This adds to the shocking focus in the poem.

Carol Ann Duffy uses structure and form in ‘Comprehension’ to discuss the environment at schools by using her ventriloquist techniques by using seven different characters. Each one has a unique view, so the poet can use several opinions on tension among youths. Carol Ann Duffy uses enjambement in this poem so that the poem would be read without any particular rhythm. The structure of Wayne’s sentences are very short and this tells us that he is not properly educated, which may be one of the reason why he is racist, because he does not know how to accept the cultures of others.

Roger McGough uses language in ‘The lesson’ to write about violence and tension in schools. The first two lines in italics is the comical aspect on which the whole poem is based upon. The poet has changed the common question ‘should there be corporal punishment in schools?’ to ‘should there be capital punishment in schools?’

This is a dramatic change of word as corporal punishment used to be accepted and meant that pupils would be cained or whipped for their wrong – doing, whereas capital punishment was abolished in 1965 because it meant certain death. Therefore, the suggestion that children should receive the death penalty for minor acts in the school means that Roger McGough’s ‘The Lesson’ is ironic and is to be taken light-heartedly.

The title ‘The Lesson’ could be interpreted in two ways. It could mean a school lesson such as mathematics or it could mean retribution and then the common clich� ‘Im going to teach you a lesson’ is used in a literal way which creates a sense of danger and fear. Puns are also used in ‘The Lesson’ as the teacher declares that ‘first come, first severed’, which is taken from ‘first come first serve’.

At line 36, silence has its hands up, as if to surrender to the teacher. The teacher has won the war. The readers recognize the clich�s and puns Roger McGough has cleverly used and this makes the poem more comical for us to read. ‘School-speak’ such as ‘Homework will be set’ and ‘Please may I leave the room sir?’ is used to help the readers feel comfortable placing an odd situation in a well-known place.

Cite this essay

‘The Lesson’ by Roger McGough. (2017, Aug 26). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-lesson-by-roger-mcgough-essay

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