Old Woman

Topics: Death, Life, Calvinism Pages: 3 (648 words) Published: September 28, 2010
Speech Situation: The poet recalls a visit to an old couple; the old woman is helpless, and dying slowly. It is clear from the description that she has no quality of life. She is cared for by her husband who prays for her release from this life.

Significance of the title: no definite article emphasises the universal nature of the experience

Degradation of the old woman as this suggests she needs help. Simply eating to stay alive.
Animal connotations.

Simile – like an old horse. Useless, fit only to be put down. Implicit introduction to the idea of euthanasia.

Hypallage/Transferred epithet.
Food mashed not plate – like animal feed?
Concision of statement suggests lack of interest in food.

Old Woman
Negative word. Grey/depressing/dark world – no part of this life of any interest to her.

‘Its’ not her – dehumanises her

For her death
And she, being old, fed from a mashed plate
as an old mare might droop across a fence
Tone: ironic/critical of Calvinist faith.
Poet questions what the woman could possibly have done to deserve such suffering. to the dull pastures of its ignorance.
Enjambment suggests prayers are repeated yet they go unanswered – uncaring god. Her husband held her upright while he prayed

to God who is all-forgiving to send down
‘Foreign’ – angel of mercy an alien concept to Calvinists who believe people are born to suffer. some angel somewhere who might land perhaps
Underlined are unspecific to suggest scepticism on poet’s part Underlines the old man’s respect for god – he doesn’t make demands of him. in his foreign wings among the gradual crops.
Noisily/animal like
She munched, half dead, blindly searching the spoon.

Life takes its time
Outside, the grass was raging. There I sat
imprisoned in my pity and my shame
Incapable like baby being fed
that men and women having suffered time
Trapped – like island life. Shame that he was once part of this culture. Contrasts with the lifelessness inside.
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