Essay: “In Westminster Abbey”
“In Westminster Abbey” by John Betjeman is a poem that tells the story of a woman in a famous church in London and her prayer to the Lord. Each stanza in the poem contains something that the speaker wants from the Lord. And as one reads through the poem, a more keen understanding of the woman praying is formed, and it is likely drastically different from the original perception gained in the first two stanzas. In “In Westminster Abbey,” John Betjeman uses the speaker’s prayer and flaws in Christianity to illustrate to the reader that an individual is not always how they appear. Considering the length of the poem, there is quite a bit of information told about the speaker’s identity and personality. Firstly, the speaker is likely a female. She states that she will “Join the Women’s Army Corps,” which footnote number six on pg. 122 of The Norton Introduction To Poetry says was the old World War One name for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a primarily female organization specializing in domestic defense. The usage of the WWI name for the organization would suggest that the speaker would be at least in her mid to upper thirties. The footnotes note as well that the address she tells the Lord to “put beneath Thy special care” (24) belongs to a “fashionable” part of London, which indeed implies wealth. Another bit of personality that shows up quite frequently within the poem is the speaker’s demanding tone. She doesn’t ever ask the lord for the favors listed, she simply demands them. Lines like “[l]isten to a lady’s cry” (6), “[d]on’t let anyone bomb me” (12), and of course the last two lines where she demands the Lord answer her right then because she has other plans, “And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait/Because I have a luncheon date”(41 - 42). One of the more prominent details about the speaker that really shapes the latter half of the poem is that the speaker is not a true Christian. She provides incentives to the Lord by telling...
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