Write a critical appreciation Essay
Write a critical appreciation
Write a critical appreciation of the poem that follows, looking particularly at its language, structure and imagery. You may find it helpful to know that the poet, Hugo Williams, is the son of the actor a playwright Hugh Williams. “Walking out of the room backwards” is written from the point of view of a child about his father. The poem tells of the father’s difficulty in finding work as an unemployed actor at fifty.
The use of repetition “Out of work at fifty, smoking fifty a day” hammers home that the father has reached an age where acting jobs are not as easy to find as they once were, this also draws attention to the fact is the “first time in his life” he has gone to auditions, the use of numbers is important, because children have a tendency to place trust in statistics and figures, numbers are used as a form of authority, the young narrator permeates the tale with this outlook.
The narrator emulate his father’s persona by drawing attention to small details such as “his sheepskin coat” and the fact he is “smoking fifty [cigarettes] a day” this allows the reader to construct a mental image of the narrator’s father; these memorable pieces of personal property embody the narrator’s father, and are almost like an actor’s costume in a stage play. The language in the first two stanzas is vivid and simple. Throughout the first two stanzas the diction reflects the profession of the narrator’s father and field is drawn from a theatrical register “amused”, “frightened”, and “horrified”.
“I watched in horror from my bedroom window” the reader enters the mindset of the young narrator. The father is described as missing the bus to London “in full view of the house opposite” this is a horror to behold for the young narrator, the theme of performance is brought through, the father’s inability to perform (or catch a bus) is being observed by an audience, the narrator from his bedroom window, and the narrator is self-conscious about the neighbours seeing, almost s though they are critics at the opening night of a play.
The use of direct speech at the end of the first stanza “If it weren’t for you and the children” involves the reader, and as an adult reader it is apparent that the child narrator can not understand his father’s predicament and the significance of it. The narrator’s father when described in the first and second stanza is always in his bed, this shows the physical helplessness he experiences as a result of the psychological distress he is feeling. The father is confined to his bed. The father is never given a name and is usually referred to in third-person “he” in the poem, this gives him an air of authority.
The language in the second stanza is very particularized and self-conscious. The narrator uses similes “There were cigarette burns like bullet holes in his pyjamas. ” Symbolically the cigarette burns are bullet holes to his father’s pride, the imagery here lurks in the depths of despair. Attention might be drawn to the use of plosives and alliteration throughout this stanza “Broom”, “Bad”,”Bedclothes” and “Broke”, this is used for dramatic effect and is similar to how an actor might speak to emphasise what they are saying.
The repetition of “I” in the first two stanzas is childlike and is used as a rhetorical device to demonstrate the innocence of the narrator. Attention might be drawn to the length of the stanzas which are long and echo the way a young child might talk in long and unbroken sentences overlapping into one another. Reported speech is used when the narrator describes, “Because he was ‘broke'” the use colloquialisms is childlike and informal. In the final stanza the use of a contradiction in terms “The future stands behind us” this is an oxymoron.
This use of personification is epigrammatic. In the third stanza the usage of the words “amuse his theatrical friends” recalls the start of the second stanza “He wasn’t amused”, the poem constantly harps back to amusement and performance, everything is done to evoke a reaction, and the presence of an audience is always felt. Performance is used as a punishment “To punish me”, this can be cross-referenced to the fact that the father’s inability to perform in destroying him and is the ultimate form of punishment.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 4 July 2017