“On a Portrait of a Deaf Man” Analysis Using SMILE: Poetry (English Literature)


On A Portrait of a Deaf Man
Analysis Using SMILE – AQA Poetry (GCSE English Literature) Hello! If you are getting little questions
on if I have done this or if I have done that, there are two things I would like to point
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on Facebook page, if you like and share, that will be very much appreciated. Here then to the video. So we look now on
“On a Portrait of a Deaf Man”; an excellent poem, very simple but very sad. There is actually
a lot to analyze after the surface. When I say simple here, I’m referring to the language
used. If flows very easily. So we start with the structure. As always,
you’ve got even stanzas all the way through which kind of shows respect, again, like he
really thought about it and put this together as well as he could because he is remembering
so many good things about his dad and all things that shock him and in turn, shock us.
You can see each stanza is four lines and they’re always evenly length. Apart from
when you could see in the last line when he says, “I only see decay.” That’s very
short but that’s again for that line to be very, very striking. That isn’t really
about his father. That one’s his reference and his arguing with God. The fact is that it rhymes all the way through.
Very simple rhymes scheme, A-B, A-B, C-D, C-D, etc. As you go in through, basically
what we got there is it gives us the form of something like a ballad. A ballad is always
like a poem that kind of told a story, something for people to actually learn from. The story
there is sort of his father and while we originally think it’s just simply about his father
and the way his father was, it’s actually by the time we get to this last structure
point here, it’s actually all about an argumentation with God or basically, him explaining to God
why he doesn’t believe in Him. That’s actually interesting structural way
of putting a poem together because we follow all these feelings and we actually see and
we empathize with a lot of the things that he actually says, his pain and the things
that he dislikes about his father and they shock us. Then the entity he blames for all that; we’re
invited to blame too at the end or at least to see his point of view. If he started with
saying to God that he doesn’t believe Him, straight away, that would have kind of set
a lot of people off against the poem. Just kind of a lot of people would say, “Well,
death is a natural part of life, etc.” But he shocks us and then invites us to take his
side. It is really an interesting way that he actually realizes that the audience, the
person he is talking to, at least in the second person there is actually revealed. We have in here the last structure point.
I want to say is there are several shocking descriptions versus the pleasant ones which
again keeps us off our toes. The food that he actually used to like to eat and then we
have the idea of him with his mouth being filled with mud in the ground. Again, that’s
what he is eating now. We have the idea of the look that he used
to get him smiling and then we got the idea of the maggots that are now on those eyes.
So again, it’s just kind of all these shocking descriptions which give us a real feeling
about death. I suppose it could remind us of our loved ones who are dead and then thinking
of them like that. Then maybe join the man in his disbelieving position. I don’t want
to say bitter because the bitterness isn’t really what comes through, especially you
don’t know how long after the person has died, after his father has died that he had
written this, so there is a lot of grief that can be expected. What it has actually gets us thinking about?
Well, it has us thinking about the memory of the man, of his father obviously. This
portrait of him: the way he actually was; the simple things that he actually liked to
eat; the simple things he liked to do; the walks; the kind of disability that he had
in his life; of not being able to hear the songs of the birds that are actually singing;
and then still having this great relationship with his son. Also, what he didn’t like is also fear.
The fear of death was always on his mind and perhaps, that’s another thing that actually
made a big impression on the boy. He has a fear of death or at least other people’s
death on his mind. We got the horrors and fears of death the
whole way through with all the descriptions. Again, like the maggots in the eyes and then,
the fact that just the amount of death, “Of the soaked Carrara (marble)-covered earth.”
That’s with gravestones there. “For Londoners to fill.” He is basically
saying ultimately that’s where everyone ends up. It is just saying that’s all Londoners
are going to do. They’re just ultimately going to fill this bit of ground. Again, it
talks about the fears of death and horrors in the descriptions. This one is quite an
excellent contrast to this. He would have liked to shake people’s hands, but now he
just got his finger-bones sticking through finger-ends. It is just skin with it. When
you imagine the hand going out for handshake while it is under the grave, it is very grim. The last meaning we have is obviously perhaps
atheism or agnosticism or maybe losing religion because we have this last stanza where he
directly challenges God, “You God, you treated him like this. You have done all this to him.
You made him deaf. You made him die. You got him rotting in the ground.” Then you say,
“Save his soul and pray.” It is in speech modes here; it could be taken
two ways. It could be taken, first of all, that he is just saying it or he is just quoting
something, but also at the same time, it could be that he is adding it to different voice
with the speech modes. He could be mocking it and obviously being sarcastic about it. Afterwards he says, “You ask me to believe
but all I see is decay.” Basically not only decaying in terms of the body and people dying
but he doesn’t actually see any reason to believe. In that way, his belief is decayed
as well. That’s where we get our idea of losing religion. The images then, there are tons of them. I
really like this one, of the Carrara-soaked covered Earth. I remember actually going once
to a graveyard where there had been a mass movement of the graves. They had actually
taken all the graveyards from one space; it was in Switzerland and actually piled them
into one area just because they wanted to save space. Believe or not, graveyards are
premium in Switzerland. So they just thrown all the headstones on top of this one patch
and basically, it looked like someone has thrown matchsticks just all over. Box and
box of matchsticks in one little area and they’re all just kind of standing up and
on top of each other. That image comes straight to my head when I think of this; the tons
of gravestones there. You got the grave just above and you got the grave down below with
the maggots going in his eyes and his fingers coming out his skin. Again, that’s really,
really strong. We also got the image of the father’s personality.
We can kind of like he is very kind of proud, in the best of sense. Someone you will be
proud of, just in that kind of sign on walls, maybe stoic to some extent. He likes simple
things. He wasn’t over the top and even with his tie they had, which is discretely
loud. I think that’s really interesting because you know, it just shows that this
man was full of confidence but he didn’t need to show it all the time. The oxymoron there kind of helps us to see
both these kinds of characteristics wherein the father, and straight away, the kind and
old face. Even when the boy was young, his dad looked like he had an old face and ages
are always kind of associated with wisdom and the way people grow. There is a lot you
can take from the father’s personality. Then, you could actually look at this idea
of the image of nature because it is referenced quite a few times. Sing with the birds, ran
in those walks and the fact that he liked the rain-washed Cornish air. All these simple
things that’s just about nature and the things that are always around us and in the
same way, it’s going to point that death is always around us. This person has actually
become part of nature even in the most horrible way by becoming worm food in a way. It is
still an image even if it not the most pleasant one. Looking at the language then, we’ve got
this oxymoron at the top and that’s really interesting because it sets up the oxymorons
the whole way through. This really pleasant feeling in the contrast to suffer with the
really pleasant things and the really harsh images in the grave which actually we have
touched a little early on talking about this in structure. Also, we know that we are going
to have these kind things where it would be a little disjointed but obviously, things
are going to change from what we expect and how we are going to be seeing on how things
are going to have kind of two layers. That’s especially true when we kind of hear all these
ideas about the father and this attack or the blaming of God in this last stanza. We also got the second person voice being
used here when he refers to God. Again, that’s been taken as – even though he refers to
Him, always written with a capital “G” and the “You” there is written a capital
“Y”, which denotes how God should be referred to grammatically and perhaps, it is respect
as well. I think the fact that he is using the second
person is just like talking to him like anyone else. So that’s clearly showing us that
he doesn’t think God is as high and almighty and deserving of belief as perhaps someone
who is really religious because he actually refers to Him directly. He doesn’t give
Him the grandeur of His distance and just being called God or the Lord or the One Above.
He talks to Him like you; literally kind of pointing at you. “You are the one to blame
for this.” It is really important that he is actually referring to him as You and you
refer to Him in the second person. Then we got the repetition of “liked”.
That was really worth pointing out simply because it shows the father’s taste and
it is not over the top. He isn’t like he loved, he died for, and he longed for it.
It is just what he actually He liked. We see that here. We’ve got the “he liked here”.
You’ve got a lot of feeling coming through there about the father from the repetition;
just imagining that the man seems very stable and very loving despite his own disability. Then we move on then to the effects to us.
Well, it gets us thinking about death and our time and people’s time and when people
go and who deserves to go and who doesn’t to go and why God protects people. That’s
where this poem, even though it is really simple in terms of the words. I don’t’
think there are many words over three syllables in there but it’s amazingly wide and vast
when it can actually get us thinking about because it touches upon a subject that scares
or actually make every one think. We move on as well to the effect on us. It
is shocking; you know that this is kind of long-lasting images the reaction mentions
here. It is not something that will be easily passed by and this reminds us of people or
loved ones we have, all love ones, in future on how we might end up. So it’s not always
positive role or friendly of feelings and so it leaves a lot of shock. Also, it invites us on how we would be remembered
when we are looking at portraits of ourselves and how we are going to be remembered; what
kind of elegies and poems, etc. will people be writing about us. There is a lot to think about in that poem,
but I think the overall idea if you wanted high grades on this because it does this quite
simplistic in a way. You look at the contradictions. Look at the way the poem is set up which is
to shock us which shows the writer’s feelings and shows his anger and resentment. Obviously,
in that, you could talk about how much he is not being able to deal with it. But as
I said, all of those we picked up through there, but I would want a way to think that
death was a main, main idea or the main, main theme here because it is more to do with how
he is dealing with it, than just death itself. [End of audio – 13:09]
On A Portrait of a Deaf Man Analysis Using SMILE – AQA Poetry (GCSE
English Literature) Page…1

1 thought on ““On a Portrait of a Deaf Man” Analysis Using SMILE: Poetry (English Literature)

  1. what poem in the same cluster would you recommend comparing it to?

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