September 3, 2007

Int 2 Old Woman Improved essays

Here are the two "improved" mini essays. These are by no means perfect but they are a step in the right direction.
Remember you have to think about the following:

Context – makes a point and shows understanding
Evidence – relevant quotation that keeps to line of thought and argument
Analysis and Evaluation – clear explanations of techniques and how they work, detail given
Personal Response – clearly gives opinion and relates to wider experience.

Iain Crichton Smith deftly portrays the old woman’s suffering and dehumanisation in the first two stanzas of the poem through imagery and word choice. He shows how close she is to a long slow drawn out death. He builds up a vivid picture of the old woman and continually adds details to arouse the reader’s sympathy for her plight. The opening line of the poem introduces the old woman and her plight and emphasises her importance:
“And she, being…”
This quotation has echoes of a biblical verse and the tone suggests the old woman is important unlike the title of the poem which suggests a universal woman who is of no importance as there is no definitive article. Beginning with the word "And" suggess the poet is in the middle of a visit or description of the old woman. We discover that she is very frail and unable to feed herself unaided as she has to be:
“fed from a mashed plate”.
This shows she cannot feed herself and depends on her husband for food. She is simply kept alive and the word “fed” suggests she is like an animal, feeding is something done to her and she has no control over what she eats. The comparison with an animal is continued throughout the poem and contributes to the dehumanisation of the old woman. A plate cannot be “mashed” so this emphasises the fact that her food must be sloppy. “Mashed” has connotations of animal bran and adds to the details implying she is less than human and just exists like a helpless animal. I feel horror and pity at her condition and begin to wish there was some way to alleviate her suffering as it reminds me of geriatric wards in hospitals.

As the poet builds up his picture of the old woman he compares her to a:
“an old mare" that "might droop across a fence”.
This simile compares her to an old useless suffering female horse waiting to be put down. This is the first hint that the poet believes euthanasia might be an option. The word “droop” creates a picture of someone unable to sit unaided and flopping over with no energy. He continues the simile describing the old woman’s mental state:
“dull pastures of its ignorance”
which shows that her “ignorance” means her mind has gone. The word “its” makes her less than human and continues her gradual slide from humanity to a more bestial state. “Dull pastures” suggest her outlook is boring, mundane and unchanging like the fields the horse would look at. This makes me pity the old woman as I realise she cannot feed herself, sit upright and has no mind. The poet emphasises the fact she cannot support herself when he explains her husband has to hold her “upright” and this refers back to the idea suggested by the word “droop”. His final description at this point in stanza two creates a shocking picture in the reader’s mind:
“She munched, half dead, searching the spoon”
The poet uses onomatopoeia with the word “munched” to suggest she eats noisily and it makes the reader think of the way an animal eats. “Half dead” reminds the reader that is very near death and her helpless state is summed up with the description of her “blindly searching the spoon”. We realise she cannot see and the alliteration of the letter s draws attention to the mindless way she feeds like a small baby. By this point in the poem I wish there was something I could do to help the old woman and the countless old people suffering in a similar way.

Iain Crichton Smith has painted a picture of a helpless old woman who is incapable of sitting up or feeding herself without help. To make matters worse she is blind and has lost her mind. The reader fervently wishes for an end to her suffering and feels horror at the long protracted death she is enduring. She is not alive she is “half dead”

Here is the improved version of Mini Essay 2 ...

The poet’s passionate personal feelings and reactions to the old couple are very clearly expressed as are his views on death. This is shown through his effective use of language and imagery. He forcefully expresses his views on the old woman’s suffering and shows how alienated he is from his island upbringing and Calvinist religion when he suggests a solution. The focus switches from the old couple’s plight to the poet’s personal feelings at the start of stanza three as he sits and watches the old couple from a distance:
“Outside the grass was raging”
The poet is the one who is outside watching and this quotation is an effective example of personification (paathetic fallacy) used to ascribe the poet’s emotions to the grass. The reader realises that it is the poet who is “raging” and this word is a very forceful word to use and shows he is angry and distressed by what he has witnessed. The word “outside” has connotations of his role as an outsider in his community and highlights how helpless he feels and his inability to act. I think this is an excellent word to choose as it shows how strongly the poet is reacting to the old woman’s plight. We see that he is trapped by his island upbringing and faith and feels unable to act:
“imprisoned in my pity and shame”
The word “imprisoned” suggests he has no choice and is trapped and unable to act. He is not really in prison but metaphorically he feels trapped by his upbringing and Calvinism. The word “pity” shows he feels sorry for the old lady and “shame” tells us he feels ashamed that they have to suffer. This concept of unfairness is carried on in the next lines when he states the old couple should not have to suffer:
“having suffered time
should sit in such a place in such a state”
He believes they have endured much and should not have to continue with this. The alliteration on the letter “s” draws attention to his anger at their suffering and the repetition of the word “such”. It is like he is banging his fist on a desk and demanding that “such” a thing should not happen. I agree with him and feel that his own emotions are clearly understandable.

The poet wants to leave the present time and travel back to a better time where he imagines things were much better:
“and wished to away, yes, to be far away”
The word “wished” shows he is longing to get away and the repetition of “away” draws attention to the fact that it is very important to him. The structure of this line mirrors the structure of the line above and the repetition is designed to demand attention and enable he reader to link the two ideas and lines.
The central idea of the poem is contained within two lines that show the poet would rather live in a time of Classical heroes than his own restrictive island community:
“with athletes, heroes, Greek or Roman men/
who pushed their bitter spears into a vein”
He has previously hinted at Euthanasia with his comparisons to an old mare but here he directly states that it would be better to deliberately take life than suffer indignity and loss of esteem. The spears would be “bitter” as it would be difficult to end a life and there may be regret but it would be preferable to the suffering of the old woman. He is not advocating suicide but a merciful death through euthanasia. This is a very controversial suggestion as it directly opposes his Calvinist beliefs that state that you must suffer even when suffering may not lead to God’s salvation. I think this is a very harsh belief but I am not convinced Euthanasia is the answer as the old woman could not choose as she has lost her mind. However I always remember my grandmother saying we should shoot her if she became senile. Of course we could not do that and had to watch her gradual descent into madness and a total loss of dignity.

Crichton Smith’s anger at the old people’s suffering and longing for an alternative solution is clearly shown when he reminds us of the old woman’s plight:
“…with such decay”
He points out that the ancient Greeks and Romans, like himself would not accept this. The repetition of “such” echoes “such a state” and highlights the fact the old woman is in a state of decay. It makes the reader imagine her rotting and mouldering away and brings our attention back to her suffering and away from the poet.

Iain Crichton Smith has clearly expressed his strongly held views on the state of the old woman and suggested euthanasia as a solution to her problems.He does not believe she should have to endure a slow lingering death. By returning to her condition at the end of stanza four he brings the reader’s attention back to the old couple and away from himself. However he has left the reader with a moral dilemma as you cannot help but want to alleviate the old woman’s suffering but is euthanasia an option?

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