Study Unit: THL8234 (Advance Theory of Poetry) Assignment Number: 02
Part 1: Textual Analysis of Poetry
Sketching a Thatcher with metaphors
It is certainly true that one of the distinguishing features of poetic texts is the use of figurative or non-literal language – this essay highlights the fact that metaphors do contribute to the understanding of a poem. Ted Hughes’ poem, Sketching a Thatcher, is loaded with vivid imagery and ample metaphorical constructions which aids to validate this fact. In order to uncover the message behind this poem, one must take a closer look at the arguments, focus expressions and tenor/vehicle constructions of at least six local metaphorical constructions of the text and how they interact with one another to form part of the global metaphor of the poem.
The first local metaphorical construction of the text can be found in line one: “Bird-bones is on the roof. Seventy eight”. One can clearly see that there is a metaphorical relationship at hand, as it is unusual to see or know of any bird-bones on a roof. Therefore, the argument/vehicle is “bird-bones”, as it is qualified by the focus expression “is on the roof”. By reading past the first few lines it is obvious that the “Thatcher” (from the title) is referred to as “bird-bones”, as there is no immediate indication of who the tenor is. Thus, the poet implies that the seventy-eight year old Thatcher is like Bird-bones. This comparison leads one to think that the old man has a skinny and feeble figure and as much as birds spend their time on rooftops, so does the old man thatching roofs.
The second local metaphorical construction for analysis can be found in line two: “And still a ladder squirrel”. The old man (thatcher) is now being compared to a squirrel. The thatcher is still considered to be the tenor to the vehicle/argument “squirrel”, and the nominal focus being the “ladder”. This implies that the old man makes use of a ladder to reach the rooftops he works on, and that he goes up and down the ladder the same way a squirrel would run up and down a tree. Although the thatcher is described as being bony and fragile like a bird, he is very energetic and active (like a squirrel running up and down a tree) for an old man, as he is still working at the age of seventy eight and climbs up and down a ladder.
The third local metaphorical construction can be found in line four: “Then crabbing out across the traverse”. After three metaphorical constructions, it is apparent that the poet makes use of animal imagery to ‘sketch’ his portrayal of the old thatcher. Although there is no clear argument or tenor in the third construction, the thatcher is still considered to be the tenor. The verbal focus of the line is the word “crabbing” – albeit there is no meaning for this word, it is obvious that the poet is connoting that the old man (tenor) is like a crab (vehicle). The adverbial focus of the line is “across the traverse”, and suggests that the old man moves sideways across the roof as he is thatching and crabs are known for walking sideways.
One does not have to look further than line five to appreciate the importance of metaphors. The fourth local metaphorical construction to be analysed is, “Cock-crows of insulting banter, liberated/ Into his old age”. Still utilizing animal imagery, the poet compares the old thatcher (tenor) to a cock/rooster (vehicle/argument) that crows – the nominal focus of the line being “insulting banter”. This construction implies that as the old thatcher ages he feels free from the restrictions of traditional social norms and feels that there is no need to hold back on his ‘banter’, the same way a rooster would not hold back as it persistently crows at the break of dawn or when predators are nearby (this ‘carelessness’ also explains the use of the word ‘insulting’ from the focus expression)
The fifth local metaphorical construction can be found in line...
References: * A KROG, Body Bereft, Umuzi, Roggebaai, 2006
* A Nel, the vocabulary of aging: image and word in Antjie Krog’s Body Bereft
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