AQA GCSE English Lit Poetry Character and Voice


Give - Simon Armitage

Give is about homelessness and the way in which society reacts to beggars. The poet has adopted the persona of a homeless person to challenge the reader directly.

Structure - by following a strict structure and rhythm, Armitage is helping create a sense that the beggar is educated, possibly to surprise the reader. And is it significant that the poem has five stanzas, like the five fingers of an outstretched hand?

Sound - alliteration is used throughout the poem: "public places"; "chosen" and "choose"; "street" and "stars"; "swallow" and "sword". The plossive words (p sounds) and sibilance (s sounds) convey the bitterness of the homeless person.

The is a sense of pride at the beginning of the poem but this gradually decreases until the last line - "I'm on my knees. I beg of you " - where all that's left is desperation. 

The penultimate stanza : "It’s not as if I’m holding out/ for frankincense or myrrh, just change." has a double meaning, he wants some spare money but what the beggar really wants is a change on view in society and acceptance.

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Clown Punk - Simon Armitage

The poem describes an encounter with the eponymous Clown Punk, a tattooed, slightly tragic character who presses his face against the windscreen of the narrator's car when it stops at traffic lights, frightening the children sitting in the back seat.

Sound -Some of the vocabulary is very 'northern' - the phrase "slathers his daft mush" is particularly suggestive of Armitage's Yorkshire roots. -the rhyme in the phrase "town clown" contributes to the creation of a comic image, before telling us not to laugh.

The man's skin is an image all of its own, made up of "every pixel". But the poem stops us from reacting with fear, as we might typically; instead we are encouraged to think sympathetically of how such a person will look in old age, when the tattoos become "sad". However this description is dehumanizing and so the Clown Punk gains empathy from the reader.

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The Hunchback in the Park - Dylan Thomas

This is the sad story of a man who is different from others, both physically (he has a deformity, hence "hunchback") and mentally. As a result, he is isolated and spends all day in the park.

Form - the poem is divided into seven stanzas, each of six lines. On the face of it, the poem looks as if it will be highly organised and regular in its approach but it isn't.

Structure -however, the punctuation is irregular and minimal: there are only three full stops in the whole poem.The lack of organisation (because of an absence of punctuation and irregular, inconsistent rhyme) could reflect a lack of stability in the life of the "hunchback".

Imagery -the images in the poem evoke sympathy for the main character. The image of the children filling the poor man's cup with gravel and the description of them aping his hunched back are simple but powerful and so our sympathy for the main character grows.

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On a Potrait of a Deaf Man - John Betjamen

Two tones ->one of affection and nostalgia -> one of bitterness of the harshness & reality of death

The depth of feeling is shown in choice of words  -> grotesque imagery 'maggots in his eyes' and deathly connotations 'hangs on Highgate Hill' ->which contrasts with his pleasant multisensual memory

Very discriptive and paints a detailed picture of father as a prosperous and educated man

Structure -> verses contrast life and death ->very controlled verses - ironic as you can't control death -> regular alternating from iambic tetrametre for lines 1 & 3 to iambic trimetre for lines 2 &4->this regualer rhythm gives a sense of nursery ryhme or childish poetry ->conveys Betjamen's childlike/infantile need & love for his father

Final Stanza: caesura 'you,God' ->definite accusation ->reptition to convey emotion 'Thus and thus' ->Athiest view is very poignant

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Medusa -Carol Ann Duffy

The title of a gorgan from classical mythology is purposefully misleading

Uses many poetic devices to convey obsession and jealousy ->tricolons 'a suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy' ->onomatopoeias 'hissed' and 'spat' ->sibilance 'spat', 'scalp', 'soured' and 'stank' ->metaphorical descriptions to give an intense insight into her feelings

The more she thinks about it the more obsessive she becomes ->as her feelings intensify her destruction gets bigger -> bee->bird->cat->pig->dragon - and she begins look more purposefully ->'glanced'->'looked'->'stared'

Penultimate stanza is linked to Perseus (who kills medusa) as if her boyfriend/husband is killing her on the inside. 'Wasn't I....?' <-repitition of rhetorical questions->desperation for reasurance ->'your girls, your girls' ->power of the repeated possesive conveys power of emotion and obsession

Fianl Stanza -> standalone line ->commanding yet emotive -> also ambiguous - to turn us into stone? to see what a wreck she has become?

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The Ruined Maid -Thomas Hardy

The oxymoron title applies to both girls ->ruined financially/morally                  Amelia=work/effort/strain  Melia=jealousy/rival and also a pun om latin word 'melior'=better ->ironic has she made her life better? she has in her freinds view

Constant contrasts of present past ->once both mais living a 'hag-ridden dream' -> now lead entirely separate eyes ->this is illustrated in the differnce of dialects and the division between town & country

Some would say Amelia appears to be happy with the choice she has made HOWEVER she says she lives a polished & 'lively' life -> polish only hides whats on top (shes the same underneath) ->she has to be lively for he profession

Her final line 'you ain't ruined' could be perceived as mocking as she deliberately returns to her 'raw country girl' accent ->BUT is it a sign of regret missing her old unruined life?

Structure->strict & creates a revealing picture -> always the past->present->ironic comment-almost like punchlines!->all dialogue apart from 'said she'

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The Horse Whisperer -Andrew Forster

'They shouted for me' <- contast to 'whisper' of title highlightens the power of his skill <-possesive links to his pride

Repitition of first line the show his sense of pride at how much they needed him.

There is a sense of mysticism to his skills 'traced circles in the earth' and first is god-like/'life blood' BUT now is 'demon'-like ->he confirms this by leaving the hex

Notice the internal rhyme that links 'door' and 'more'-> like a paganistic chant ->gives his curse prominence

Each verse gets progressively shorter ->refelecting the decline in his influence

The power & majesty of horses is evoked with subtle and imaginative imagery

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The River God - Stevie Smith

It is a dramtic monologue with pagan/classical overtones.

The river god seems like a dirty seedly old man HOWEVER he also seems slightly sinister and unhinged which discomforts the reader.

The pun on bed along with his obsession show his sexual predatory.

He has the characteristics of a river ->dirty & smelly ->the enjambment also reflects the flow of river/speech ALSO irregular rhythm and rhyme gives a connected and disjointed paradoxical feeling -> mirroring the rivers unpredictability

'Oh will she stay....go away' <-parody of traditional love poems <-'Oh' is an intensifier of emotion ->shows possive and obsessiveness

Last 4 lines are in envelope rhyme ->the river has enveloped the woman.

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Les Grands Seigneurs - Dorothy Molloy

Title='The Great Lords' in French ->ironic as this is contradicted in 1st 3 verses ->Also establishes the atmosphere ->which is sustained in Molloy's use of imagery -> castles, damsels, courtly love etc...                                                                                                  Strong use of metaphors of men ->all extravagant & wanting attention

Narrator/persona is sheltered from reality ->men filled every part of her world ->air,water and earth (first 3 verses) -> this is a tricolon which emphasizes he assumed power and obsession with men ->the posseive pronown 'my' emphasizes her feeling that she thought she was in control and 'their queen'

Sexual puns & connotations ->'cockatoos', 'ballast', 'peackcock' and 'peach ->she teasesd men with her sexuality

Final stanza-> 'But' indicates change/contrast of present & past-> 'wedded, bedded' and 'bluff' with 'fluff' only internal ryhme ->draws attention to crucial change in tone AND highlights how quickly it happened

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Singh Song! - Daljit Nagra

Title is a pun ->singh is a sikh name BUT also the verb to sing

3 voices ->Singh, his wife & customers

Customers represent th conventional traditional community ->they intrude to remind him of his failures

Wife is unpredictable and subversive ->seems dangerous 'eyes of a gun' ->she doesnt talk of her love for him ->she is not a dutiful daughter-in-law ->drawing Singh away from his heritage

Singh is blinded by his love for her ->constantly thinking of her ->reptition of 'my bride' shows devotion

Nagra explores the meeting of three cultures ->traditonal Indian culture, western culture, modern indian culture -> don't seem to fit together -> represented by wife

The poet structures the stanzas in different shapes to reflect the different voices

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Checking Out Me History - John Agrad

Title: 'checking out' -> a library book - researching his history ->alternating black and white checkers - alternating black and white history. 'Me' reflects carrabian accent

'Dem tell me' -.establishes an accusatory tone -> 'dem' is impersonal with a hard 'D' sound-> bitterness-> 'tell' is forceful not educational

The use of accent & dialect throughout emphasizes that Agard is th representative voice for his people.

By talkinking about **** whittington and King Cole he shows *** absurd it is that we've prioritised apocryphal stories over black history                                                                                                   3 black figures each get their own vers -> uses short lines to give the prominence & power

Only uses poetic devises (metaphors) in these verses -> they have a rythmic carribean lilt to it

Creole dialect and phonetic links with reciting poetry and telling stpries out loud -> how black history was passed on.

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Brendaon Gallacher - Jackie Kay

The peoms themes show the death of innocence and the fragility of dreams.

Kay uses a lot of repitition -> 'his', 'he', 'Brendon Gallacher' and 'my' -> this suggests the insistent repitition of a child and her devotion to this imaginary friend ->Even her mother refers to 'your Brendon'

Simplistic childlike style of speech ->'then one day', 'and then'

The force of half rhyme-> children often force ryhme into poems BUT also ~Gallacher only half fits into this world

The picture she invents is a romantic & slightly dangerous one

'Oh' is an intensifier of emotion

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Casehistory: Alison (head injury) - U.A. Fanthorpe

Title: gives valuable medical information ->medical recored<-dehumanizing ALSO 'history' is ironic as Alsion has few details of her past

Structure ->simple and no ryhme -> like Alison who is an amnesiac and her life with no enjoyment ALSO dramatic monologue -> enjambment and caesura help to give the rhythm of ordinary speech -> Alison doesn't have intellectual capabilities for more than this

'/Hardley.' <- caesura for a pause -> conveys her emotion of what has happened -> pause for us to reflect on this

The word 'I' is repeated to seperate the voice of Alsion from the past Alsion who is refered to as 'she' ->contrasts present & past ->seems like different people

Her sentences and vocab/diction is simple and uncomplicated ->all amnesiac Alison can manage

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