If you are choosing to write about this poem in an exam situation, you are most likely going to be looking to answer a question which requires you to:
Write about a poem you found interesting/striking/challenging/enjoyable/thought-provoking.
Write about a poem which makes you feel emotion/sympathy/admiration/ empathy/compassion for a character.
Write about a poem which made you think in a different way about an issue/ reconsider your views on an issue.
Regardless of which particular type of question it is you answer, your job will be to analyse the techniques used by the poet to make you, as the reader, feel sympathy/change your views/enjoy the poem etc.
With that in mind, you should be looking to analyse the most prominent techniques used by Edwin Morgan, including:
• Imagery (figurative language such as simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia) • Repetition
This booklet will give a brief recap of how Morgan employs each of these techniques in the poem and possible reasons for doing so. When you are writing about these techniques in the exam, you will gain far more credit if you can back up what you are saying with quotes and references from the text.
Imagery is simply the way in which the poet develops pictures in the reader’s mind through his use of descriptive and figurative (simile/metaphor) language.
Imagery plays a very important part in “In the Snack-Bar” when it comes to the poet making the reader feel sympathy for the old man. The poet’s use of imagery to make the reader feel sympathy is particularly effective when he is describing the old man’s appearance to the reader:
“Like a monstrous animal caught in a tent”
This is a powerful image as it dehumanises the man, making him appear more creature-like than human, and the word “caught” has connotations of the man being almost trapped or caged in this hideous body. This theme of the man being caught or controlled by his appearance is continued in stanza one:
“The dismal hump/looming over him forces his head down”
Again, this image creates the impression that the man is controlled by his abnormal appearance. The word ‘forces’ emphasises the weight of the hump, both in a literal and a metaphorical sense, and is effective in highlighting the physical frailty of the main character. This frailty is confirmed shortly after when the reader is told that the blind man’s white cane is:
“hanging from his right arm”
This is a significant image in evoking sympathy for the old man, as the reader learns that his physical frailty is severe enough that it prevents him from controlling the one piece of equipment that can help him manoeuvre safely in strange environments.
Remember that you will gain little credit for simply listing the examples of imagery in the poem, or for listing a number of random quotations. You will receive credit for:
P – Making your point. i.e. The poet uses figurative language to evoke sympathy for the old man when he describes his journey to the bathroom.
Q – Quoting the part of the passage that backs up your point. i.e. “a few yards of floor are like a landscape”
C – Commenting on the quote. i.e. This simile is effective in conveying the toil and painstaking effort of making even the shortest trip to the bathroom. This evokes the sympathy of the reader as, to most, such a task is an everyday occurrence and not something that involves danger or determination. Repetition
Repetition is fairly self-explanatory. It is when a poet or writer repeats a word, a phrase, an idea or a theme to create a particular effect. Usually it is used to emphasise the writer’s point or draw the reader’s attention to a particular idea or part of the story/poem/passage.
Repetition is another prominent technique in “In the Snack-bar” and serves a duel purpose. It is used...