Wednesday, 6 February 2013

One Flesh : Poetry Analysis

One Flesh by Elizabeth Jennings

Lying apart now, each in a separate bed,
He with a book, keeping the light on late,
She like a girl dreaming of childhood,
All men elsewhere - it is as if they wait
Some new event: the book he holds unread,
Her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead.

Tossed up like flotsam from a former passion,
How cool they lie. They hardly ever touch,
Or if they do, it is like a confession
Of having little feeling - or too much.
Chastity faces them, a destination
For which their whole lives were a preparation.

Strangely apart, yet strangely close together,
Silence between them like a thread to hold
And not wind in. And time itself's a feather
Touching them gently. Do they know they're old,
These two who are my father and my mother
Whose fire from which I came, has now grown cold?

My GCSE groups looked at this poem last week. Most of them liked this poem. I think it's great, there is so much within it. To help anyone who might be studying GCSE English, and to thrill the rest of you with some poetry reading, I thought I would write a quick analysis of the poem. You lucky things!
Let's start with the first stanza.
In this stanza we have a picture of a couple in their bedroom. They are 'each in a seperate bed'. This signifys a seperation between the couple- they are physically not as close as they could be. We can read into this (as is the point in poetry), and infer that emotionally the couple are also distant.
The male in the relationship is 'with a book', a usual bedtime activity. Yet in the fifth line we are told 'the book he holds unread'. He clearly isn't interested in the book. This paints for us a picture - the husband feels so awkward about the silence between them, and the lack of contact, that he is holding a book in an effort to look busy rather than to connect with his wife.

She is dreaming of childhood. Perhaps she has some regret, or missed opportunities.

The second stanza looks into the past and future of their relationship. The are tossed up like 'flotsam'- like wreckage from a ship. They are the leftovers of a former passion, floating aimlessly.

There is a sense that there is some feeling between them with the words 'or too much'. Perhaps there is something left between them, but because of the lack of communication they don't know how to express it anymore. It would be so out-of-the blue now that they don't dare show it.

The line 'chastity faces them, a destination for which their whole lives were a preperation' is the most negative in the poem. It basically tells us they will never be intimate again, never have sex, and this is the way they were always doomed to end up. We can infer that Jennings thinks this is the way we will all end up.

In the last stanza we see a similie, 'Silence between them like a thread to hold and not wind in'. Both the man and woman are aware of the silence. They are holding onto it- standing seperately. The act of winding in that thread would be having a conversation, and they are both too scared to do that, as that may result in them having to admit that their relationship has gone wrong and there isn't anything left to salvage.

In the last two lines we learn that the poem has been written from the point of view of a daughter. This tells us although she may have a good idea of the relationship between her parents, she is not an omnipotent narrator, but her view may be affected by her relationship to the parents. I would imagine that she would be writing this poem in her late teens or early twenties. She also suggests the couple has a passionate relationship, 'whose fire from which I came has now grown cold'. This looks at her as a product of fire, or passion and love, which has now dissapeared and only the loveless shells of her parents remain.

The poem is a negative view of couples who have been together for a number of years. It looks at relationships as doomed to fade and love to be an entity that disappears.

Do you think this is an accurate view of marriages? Can you relate to Jenning's view of her parents?


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

A fair analysis - but PLEASE, before posting, check your spellings. This does not help the cause of professionalism in teaching.

Anonymous said...

really helpful, thanks

Anonymous said...

Really really useful as it totally explores the poem giving valid thoughts and using embended quotations to support your analysis with evidence. Plz continue to post things as such as it is once again very useful:-)

wolverine(kshmya) said...

Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

thanks this was really helpful! Going to be using it in my GCSE

Anonymous said...

damn daniel

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm here for reasons... Don't put tea in teachers kids! They don't seem to like it.

Anonymous said...

oh they do

Anonymous said...

aint nobody got time for that

Anonymous said...

Because. BOOBS.

Anonymous said...

Aside from the spelling mistakes, this is an excellent and detailed analysis.