Using ‘Ruins of a Great House’ and One Other Poem

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Using ‘Ruins of a Great House’ and one other poem, which you have studied, compare and contrast how poets present a sense of place.

A sense of place can be defined and can be used in many different ways by various different people. To some, it is a characteristic that some places have and some do not, while to others it is a feeling or perception held by people and not by the place itself. It is often used in relation to those characteristics that make a place special or unique, as well as to those that adopt a sense of dependable human attachment and belonging. Homes are often regarded as a place where people get attached and build relationships with their homes. They are often where most feel a sense of place. It is why most regard their home not as a house, but as a home where they have built memories, but not always good ones.

We can see that in ‘Ruins of a Great House’ and ‘The House’ already there isn’t a sense of place that the poet is giving to the reader in the title. The fact that both poems are regarded as houses and not homes already tells the reader that these buildings are not full of fond and happy memories and also shows detachment. We see this detachment in ‘The House’ where Matthew Sweeney uses many techniques such as alliteration, tone, certain sounds and a specific choice of words. However, throughout the poem, the poet never tells us his opinion of the house. He only describes it as it is. The poet never tells us whether he likes the house or whether he simply hated the house. He only tells us what it had, what it looked like and that he grew up there. In a way, this is good for the reader because it allows the reader to use his/her imagination and to read the poem carefully and form his/her own opinions on what the boy thought of the house. For example, "The house had a dozen bedrooms, each of them cold and the wind battered the windows..." Again the poet is telling us about the house, not his opinion of the house and this creates an emotionless attachment to the house. We see this similar sense of detachment in ‘Ruins of a Great House’ where Walcott uses the Latin translation of scattered fragments, which is ‘disjecta membra’ in the poem, and this scattering of fragments links into to the title of ruins of a great house where everything is destroyed and broken up. This describes how not only the house is crumbling but also how the relationship of the house and the poet is crumbling and the sense of place is lost.

In contrast to this ‘Ruins of a Great House’ Walcott describes what the house is like and memories in it about slavery and colonisation; in colonised areas, the colonisers have defined the aspects of home and this creates a unique sense of place. But also in ‘Ruins of a Great House’ Walcott says goodbye to nature, and romantic poets were well know for using nature as a way to connect with God, love and also themselves, which we see mostly occur in ‘The Hill Wife’, but seeing as this poem lacks all of those, we can see why Walcott says ‘farewell, green fields.’ Because he could be saying that he wants to say goodbye to these bad memories of this crumbling house which has ‘fallen from evil days, from evil times’, so rather than wanting to have a sense of place in the house, he wants to distance himself. Nature in ‘The House’ is something that is trying to get into the house and be close to it and almost ruins ‘the House’ with ‘cockroaches’ under the cupboard and when Sweeney finally says that he ‘did grow up there’ we see how he has embraced nature and that he can survive it, where Walcott just dismisses nature. Also unlike ‘Ruins of a Great House’ there is no human contact in most of the poem. There are mentions of slaves in this great house, and if it was once so great, many people must have known it. Whereas ‘The House’ is deemed to be an ordinary house that has had no human contact apart from at the end when the narrative becomes clear and we find out that Sweeney ‘did grow up...
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