The poems, ‘A frosty night’ by Robert Graves and ‘Catrin’ by Gillian Clarke both show how the poets are finding it difficult to give their children the freedom to be individuals. In ‘A Frosty Night’ we see that the mother is reluctant to release her daughter in a romantic relationship, which shows that the mother is not yet willing to let her daughter have that kind of freedom. In ‘Catrin’ we see the poets feelings change throughout the poem on how much freedom she is willing to give her daughter, as the mother first wants her child to become a separate person but is later hesitant when at the end of the poem her daughter asks her to stay out longer, which shows the mother is not yet ready to let her daughter have as much freedom as she wishes.
The main theme in ‘Catrin” is showing how a relationship between mother and daughter can change rapidly from being a loving one to a tense one. The poet seems conflicted between celebrating her child growing up and giving her child the freedom to become an individual. The mood and atmosphere of the poem starts off by being tense, as the mother is giving birth to her child and is in a lot of pain. The mother’s mood then becomes calmer as we see her having a complicated mixture of feelings as she sees her child growing up and becoming a separate person. This makes her notice more small details in her daughter ‘with your straight, strong, long brown hair and your rosy, defiant glare’ the use of many adjectives shows her daughter has become a new persona, which the mother is unfamiliar too and that she has mixed feelings about as her child is becoming increasingly separated from her.
The poem is divided into two stanzas; each stanza is set in a different time period. The first stanza Is set in the past tense as the poet remembers and describes the birth of the child. The second stanza is set in the present tense as the mother describes a few years later, when the child is older and is asking to stay outside to skate for longer. In both stanzas there is a struggle between the mother and the daughter. The reader feels there is still that same intense love from the mother to her daughter even many years after her birth, making it very hard for the mother to let her child have all the freedom she wants as the mother still feels she has to protect her child from the outer world.
In the first stanza of ‘Catrin’ we see the tense relationship between mother and daughter at birth being portrayed though the choice of harsh language such as ‘the tight red rope of love’ which is a metaphor describing the umbilical cord. This metaphor is used as it could be seen as a game of tug-of-war between the child and the mother, the mother wants to keep her close as she is fighting for affection while the child wants to break apart from their mother and become a person of their own. This metaphor shows how mother-child relationships work, in the beginning the child is helpless and depends on their mother to survive in the world, but after the rope is cut the child must be able to manage to survive and lead their own life. The ‘t’ sound in the word ‘tight’ helps to add tension to the clinical mood.
Clarke uses a lot of imagery in the first stanza to set the scene and get the point across to the reader. She describes the location as a ‘hot, white room’ this creates an uncomfortable atmosphere as it makes the location seem clinically white and incommodious. The mother describes herself in the intense situation of giving birth: ‘all over the walls with my words, colored the clean squares’ this indicates to the reader how intense the scene was as her screams stain the clean hospital walls. The word ‘colored’ is appropriate to use here, as it is a metaphor, which relates to childhood that she is about to experience with her newborn daughter. Clarke uses sibilance to portray the difficult separation between mother and daughter, ‘ tender circles of our struggle to become separate’ as the repetition of the sound ‘s’ is difficult to say it is a way to emphasize how difficult the separation of the child from the mother is at this point. The whole first stanza shows how difficult and painful the separation is at birth for both the mother and the child, suggesting the mother-child relationship is already starting to become tense.
In the second stanza the language used to describe the skating incident is less intense than in the first stanza even though she still uses a lot of imagery such as ‘in a glass tank clouded with feelings’ making it seem like the mother and daughter are trapped in a claustrophobic place surrounded by ‘feelings’ which are drowning them both, overwhelming them, as they are both confused as to what is wrong and what is right to do, in the mothers case she is unsure of how much freedom she should be giving her daughter, and in the daughters case she is unsure as to how to handle certain things as she grows up. The mother also describes her child with ‘straight, strong, long brown hair and your rosy, defiant glare’ making it seem like now her child is the one in control of the situation and she is the one who chooses what decisions she is going to make in later life, this makes the mother get a complicated mixture of feelings as she feels at the same time that she is proud her child has grown up and is now taking her own responsibilities but she is also sad and angry that it has happened so soon while she wasn’t really expecting it.
The image of the rope is brought up again in the second stanza, with the idea of the daughter tightening it ‘about my life, trailing love and conflict’ this shows the rope as being a metaphorical tie between the mother and the daughter showing that despite their differences and intense feelings they will always remain close to each other and will not be able to escape that easily. The mother will always have some control over how much freedom her child has.
The last line of the poem is of the child, catrin, asking to ‘skate in the dark, for one more hour’ this shows catrin is trying to become more separate from her mother and become her own persona by becoming more independent and asking permission to do more dangerous things as she grows up. The poets final message is one of uncertainty as she has mixed feelings about seeing her child grow up and becoming an independent person, away from her care. She is finding it difficult to give her child the freedom to be an individual however she isn’t oblivious to the fact that she must let her child become her own person.
The main theme in ‘a frost night’ by Robert Graves is the idea of the child becoming more independent in life as she tries to keep a secret away from her mother about her having found a lover, which creates tensions in the mother-child relationship, which they both have to deal with. This is different in ‘Catrin’ as the reason for the tensions in that poem are first because of the painful separation at birth and later because the mother sees her child growing up and taking her independence as she asks to skate for one more hour.
The mood and atmosphere throughout the poem is one of conflict between the mother and daughter as to know her every move and be able to know as much information as she can on her daughters love life. The mood is similar in ‘Catrin’ as there is an ongoing conflict between the mother and daughter on how much freedom the mother allows her daughter to have, however she doesn’t seem as concerned and curious as to every move her daughter does, in contrast in ‘a frosty night’ the mother is very nosy as to what her daughter has been doing outside and asks her a lot of questions.
‘A frosty night’ is written as a ballad with a simple but unbalanced rhyme scheme (ABCB), all seven stanzas are four lines long. It is written in the form of a duologue, where two characters speak in turn, this means we have both the poets opinion and her daughters opinion whereas in ‘Catrin’ readers only know the story form the mothers point of view. Readers feel like the poet of ‘a frosty night’ is more reluctant to letting her daughter have the freedom to become an individual as we can see them arguing a lot against each other as she doesn’t want to let her child go.
The first stanza shows the mother speaking and asking her daughter many questions ‘Alice, dear, what ails you, dazed and lost and shaken?’ here the mother is showing her concern towards her child who looks troubled but she asks many questions which makes the reader wonder whether she is possibly being a bit too nosy. Her extreme concern shows that she is not ready for her child to live a life of her own without telling her mother her every action yet.
The second and third stanza of the poem the daughter Alice answers her mothers questions briefly and tells her ‘mother do not hold me so’ as her mother is holding her back from becoming her own person as she realizes her daughter is growing up. This shows the mother is possibly being over protective of her daughter as she is holding her back from letting her do what she wants and is taking away a bit of her freedom. We do not see the poet of ‘Catrin’ react in the same way, she is more understanding that her child is growing up and is more willing to let her have a bit more freedom.
The next three stanzas of the poem are the mother talking as we see her become increasingly suspicious as to why her daughter was out so late. The mother uses many contrasts between cold winter imagery and joyful summer imagery ‘ay, the night was frosty, coldly gaped the moon, yet the birds seemed twittering through green boughs of June.’ This contrast echoes the tension between the mother’s worry and Alice s secretive behavior. The poet also uses pathetic fallacy to show how the emotions of the character is reflected in the surroundings in this case the feeling of danger the mother feels as Alice is growing up. Other use of contrasting metaphors are used later in the poem when the mother describes Alice ‘you looked a ghost or angel in the starlight there’ the poet uses a negative metaphor, ‘ghost’ to make it seem like she doesn’t recognize the child anymore and appositive metaphor, ‘angel’ which is a protective figure, this strong contrast is said by the mother as it shows she is not sure how to feel about her child growing up. There isn’t many uses of contrasts in ‘Catrin’ however the poets do both feel the same way about their children growing up and becoming more independent as they both feel a complicated mixture of feelings and are unsure at how to react to this sudden change.
The last stanza of ‘a frosty night’ shows the child’s final distress as she feels her mother being overprotective and not letting her have enough freedom. ‘Mother, let me go!’the child becomes angry towards her mother as she feels like she is an obstacle in her new romantic relationship and that she is chocking her by not letting her have the freedom to do what she wants. This is not the case in ‘Catrin’ as we see the mother is more willing to let her child gain more freedom little by little, meaning there are no big arguments between the mother and the child.
The poet’s final message in ‘a frosty night’ is that she is finding her child’s romantic relationship to be a disruptive change in their previous mother-child relationship and the mother is determined to not let that happen by trying to hold on to her child for as long as possible, to the point that her child insists on letting her have a bit of freedom. This contrasts with the poets final message in ‘Catrin’ as there she has mixed feelings about her child growing up but understands that she will gradually need to give her child a bit more freedom whereas in ‘a frosty night’ the mother is very much against her child having a romantic relationship and doesn’t seem prepared to let her child have this freedom.
To summarize, the idea of parents finding it difficult to give their children the freedom to be individuals, is reflected in both poems. In ‘a frosty night’ it is shown, as the mother doesn’t want to let her child be in a romantic relationship as she feels it will impact her own mother-child relationship. In ‘Catrin’ the mothers feelings towards giving her child freedom change, at first she really wants to break apart from her child when she is giving birth but she is later more reluctant to give her as much freedom when her child asks to skate for one more hour. I think these poems are an accurate representation of real life situations where mothers react in the same way to the changes in their child’s life, as mothers usually don’t like the feeling of becoming increasingly separated form their child even though they know it is an essential part of it.