“Brendon Gallacher” Analysis using SMILE: Poetry (English Literature)


BRENDON GALLACHER ANALYSIS So we’re looking then at another poem from
the AQA Anthology and this time we’re looking at Brendan Gallacher and to start off with
we have five standards that are quite equal in length and this actually shows that this
is all carefully pieced together which is important because it shows that it’s put
together with respect and some kind of obituary written or some kind of eulogy being read
for a dead person, and this shows how important this person was to us; not just a childhood
memory that she mocks herself for actually, remembering her imaginary childhood friend
that she mocks herself for remembering; in this way she actually celebrates it and refers
to the importance that he played in her life at that point. Again, the use of another voice is really
important in the structure because here we have the girl talking to us all the way through
and we have the mother talking her, in that she’s talking to Miss Moir and obviously
inviting this person round – Brendan Gallacher around – which is actually really interesting.
It’s also really interesting because we learn a lot from the mum in there because
I don’t think this name is accidentally used. The Moir name is quite a common one,
quite a powerful one, quite a prestigious one in Scotland, but moreover it links to
bravery and it says a lot about the mum in terms of maybe she knew for a long time that
Brendan Gallacher wasn’t real and that was kind of a preamble to busting her daughter’s
myth, etc. and maybe this is a mother being cruel to be kind, trying to get her out of
this imaginary friend idea to actually go and make new and real friends, etc. We’ve got the refrain for the elements where
she’s talking about ‘my Brendan Gallacher’, again which shows her possessiveness and how
much she cares about this person and how her ownership of him, which kind of gives us first
of all how he important he was and second of all the fact that she’s just made him
up, because literally there is no Brendan Gallacher. We’ve got that in that section
and we’ve got it in that section of ‘my Brendan Gallacher’ and we’ve got it in
the last section of ‘my Brendan Gallacher’, and that’s really important that it’s
missing in the two standards where the mother really gets involved. So here where the mother
asks first time, we don’t have any reference to him again because it’s almost like a
drop into reality here, she can’t have him in the same place where her mum starts talking
to her, and again here. And even though the mother’s conversation kind of flows onto
this one, the only time he’s talking about them is when he’s dead, so it’s a different
reference to ‘my Brendan Gallacher’ to ‘my Brendan Gallacher’ up here, because
this one is more of a lament of loss, whereas this one is actually a kind of proud ownership.
So it’s interesting to know that there is a refrain and also that the refrain actually
comes across in different ways. Structurally as well we’ve got enjambment;
the moving on from here ‘then one day after we’d been two friends for two years, one
day when it was…’ and it’s really interesting that we got the enjambment going on across
there, obviously because it kind of makes us pause before we actually go into it and
if it was one day with a capital, obviously we’d have a link to something grand or important
happening but here the enjambment allows us to start with a small ‘o’ that just kind
of shows that everything here’s going to be quite low key and quite sad and that’s
actually echoed straight afterwards when it says ‘when it was pouring and I was indoors’,
which is interesting because maybe at that point her mum’s actually hearing her talking
or whispering to Brendan as that’s going on, because the child is no longer outside,
kind of living this fantasy that she used to have with Brendan when they actually used
to go and play outside. Maybe her mum’s caught her there and then she has to burst
the bubble so to speak in the most nice and painless way that she can think of. So meanings then. What does it get us thinking
about? Well it gets us thinking about the importance of childhood friends, obviously
Brendan Gallacher has been created here because the girl needs someone to talk to or wants
someone to talk to, etc. Obviously it’s a point of pride for her as well, that she
tells her mum about it and ‘we talk’, etc. etc. and he’s got a more interesting
life from her and maybe that’s something she needs, maybe she’s quite bored or maybe
she just hasn’t got many friends and obviously she needs to actually create him. The power of the imagination that she has
– she gives him a whole kind of world and back story – his father was in prison because
he was a cat burglar, he had six brothers, etc. etc. etc. Talk about his mum and getting
her out of Glasgow, so in the end there’s the power of imagination and maybe just honed
ambition in a different way. Maybe that’s what this girl wants to do but she’s putting
it through to this other person, this other person isn’t lonely like her, this person
has six brothers; again it could be sub-conscious reflection on what she wants. We’ve got the meaning or the idea of parents
bringing us back to reality because obviously her mum in the stanzas as mentioned earlier
where Brendan Gallacher isn’t mentioned in terms of the ownership that she actually
states over him there, it is really important that her mum brings her back to reality and
just saying ‘why don’t you bring this person round to dinner?’ and obviously because
he’s not real he can’t and obviously she jumps into a huge defensive with the repetition
of ‘no, no, I’d say it again’, which indicates that she’s trying to hide something
because she over defends that. Parents bringing us to reality obviously in the fact that she
says ‘there have never been any Gallachers next door’ – the girl said Brendan lived
there – that’s really important because at that point her mum has found her out and
the imaginary friend who’s there died and maybe that’s not just about imaginary friends;
you could stretch that and say maybe that’s about dreams, hopes and ambitions and ridiculousness,
because parents sometimes just, sometimes we might feel that they limit us in some ways
but a lot of the time they’re just doing what’s best for us and I can tell you this,
even though it’s irrelevant to the poem, after I had my first child I realised how
right my mum was about so much. So take from that what you will, I don’t mean to put
that parent that’s bringing us to reality in a negative way but put it in a positive
light as well. Maybe one of the meanings as well is the need
to rebel and again, maybe this ‘he’d hold my hand and take me by the river’, maybe
that’s like an expression of freedom, being close to someone else, or maybe that’s an
expression of the kind of security, the comfort, that’s what she needed at the time, someone
to understand and hold her hand, etc. so you can take it as a need to rebel perhaps and
that’s why I’ve put a question mark after it because it could be taken both ways. And
obviously all the ideas in terms of the fact that he’s actually going to get away, he’s
going to leave Glasgow and maybe that’s what she wants to do as well, she doesn’t
just want to stay in a town where she might see already that her options are going to
be limited or she’s going to be the same as everyone else, she wants to rebel against
that and become something different. So the images we get then. We’ve got these
fantastical images as mentioned, of Brendan’s family, that he’s got six brothers, that’s
quite big for the time, quite big actually just by today’s standards should I say.
His father’s in prison, his mum drinks, etc. etc. so he’s got all that. And then
after death – actually I’ll come to that in a second. We’ve also got the caring connection in
terms of her mum speaking to her, etc. etc. and then how they’d go down by the river
– a very secluded, safe spot – again it’s just kind of I suppose it’d be quite a serene
area where they’re actually the only ones there, etc. We’ve got the image of – I
think it’s a really interesting image actually – of this happy Brendan. The happy Brendan
obviously we don’t have any kind of physical description of Brendan at the beginning, so
again it’s kind of more the purpose he served, rather than how he looks, but when he’s
dead we get a clear look at what he was shaped like and we find out there that he had ‘spiky
hair, an impish grin and he had a funny flapping ear’ and in all that it’s actually very
positive. We don’t normally see people, or images of people at all, of people who
die in that kind of like grinning sense. Obviously that’s kind of – the impish part – obviously
is like a fairy tale creature so it kind of gives us the idea that this was all imagination
anyway but moreover, we’ve just got this kind of lively dead person that’s still
finding this spiky and impish grin, you know, imagine them all on his face. And that’s
interesting because when we look at the idea of him dying there, he doesn’t die because
he was never alive and obviously in her writing this about him, he’s as alive as he ever
was, etc. Or maybe then he just died in kind of the purpose that he served her. So it’s
obviously quite interesting and you can look at analysing the word ‘died’ there, what
it really means, obviously if it’s relevant to your essay as well. So we look at some of the language. We find
that again we’ve got the ownership, the use of the word ‘my’. We’ve got the
childlikeness in the use of the word ‘daddy’, etc. and obviously in the way that she has
to answer to her mum. Her mum’s still giving her advice, and you know ‘oh have him round
for dinner’, you know, it’s a very childlike thing, it’s not really turned 40 and your
parents say that to you. The alliteration a little later on here when we have the funny
flapping ear, again not only is it alliteration itself, which obviously kind of gives it a
smooth move off the tongue but also a very vivid image, but it’s also really at odds
with death, so it’s a wonderful kind of contrasting image actually being presented
to us; this dead, happy person that obviously for all intents and purposes still feels very
alive and again, I think it’s very important that the only physical description we have
of him is far later than the purpose descriptions are actually served to us earlier on. So again, what does this make us think of?
Well, it makes us think about the effect on us is perhaps thinking about childhood and
the stuff we made up and the stuff people do make up and why we make them up. Is it
because we want attention or is it because we’re trying to fulfil a need of something
that’s missing for us? And you could ask yourself this – are the parents mentioned
of Brendan Gallacher’s, are they just reflections of our own parents and that’s why they connect
and they talk the whole time, because it’s what she wants to talk about? You can ask
yourself that. It could be the idea of a need for drama in
her life, just growing up in certain places might not be as fun as one would wish and
obviously then people actually start creating ideas in their head, although I wouldn’t
kind of use that in a very forceful way, just always mention it as it could be because obviously
children have imagination and they should have imagination, far more imagination some
would say than adults and that allows her to make this world where Brendan exists. So
that need for drama – I’m not using drama there in a bad sense necessarily. And also
that idea of parents’ care, which is a really interesting flip on it, because her mum first
of all could just be worried about her thinking that this Brendan Gallacher person is real
and therefore goes to speak with the neighbours and actually find out what these people are
like, so she makes sure that her daughter’s hanging around with someone who’s good for
her, or it could be completely in the fact that her mum knows that this is all made up
and again she just wants to bring her back to reality and finding real friends.

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