Comparing Relationships With Mothers In Two Novels English Literature Essay

2314 words - 10 pages

Sam Graham
Compare how relationships with mothers are presented in ‘On Her Blindness’ and one other poem from the collection.
For this essay I will be comparing ‘On Her Blindness’ by Adam Thorpe, to ‘Effects’ by Alan Jenkins; exploring the emotional and physical portrayals of the relationships between the narrator and their mothers.
At the beginning of the poem ‘Effects’ Jenkins instantly uses violent, visual imagery to abruptly introduce the reader to the setting and atmosphere, he does this by saying that the mother “was raw , the knuckles reddened, rough from scrubbing hard”. This violent, almost gruesome description can go to show the state the narrator’s mother was in, as well as possibly her internal struggle. This quote’s ambiguity could lead to the readers suggesting that she is physically working herself ‘raw’, with her ‘knuckles reddened’ showing she’s pushing herself and could be the victim to an over encumbering lifestyle. However, this could also be viewed as the mother is emotionally ‘raw’, where her lies or outer layer of protection have been ‘scrubbed hard’, leading to her being in an emotionally vulnerable state where she feels like she is open to pain. However despite her being in pain and “scarred”, the narrator still “held her hand” which would have been hard to see as a child; the narrator clearly loves their mother and is pained by her suffering. Alongside this idea of ‘open to pain’ could also be supported when Jenkins uses personification of the knives, “the knives that lay in wait”, making the readers see the knives as a threat, a possible predator, waiting for its prey.
On the contrary, in ‘On Her Blindness’ Thorpe never once presents the narrator’s mother as weak or vulnerable. Throughout the poem Thorpe describes the mother as “like a Roman” or as someone who is attempting to “find joy in the fight”. From this we can see the mother being presented as a warrior, someone who is strong and capable and is showing no fear. This could possibly be the narrator showing their respect for their mother, presenting her as a strong character who is not scared of death. This is further supported when the mother states that her current condition “is a living hell”, which is then followed by her also saying “If I gave up hope of a cure, I’d bump myself off”. This general motif of death in the poem is constantly lingering, despite this the mother still finds a way to lighten the mood, by using comic relief in “I’d bump myself off” right after talking of hell we can see how the narrator views their mother as strong even in the face in death, as well as the narrator also clearly has a positive view on their mother in order to look back on her as a warrior. This strongly contrasts with ‘Effects’ when the mother is described to the reader as ‘raw’ and ‘scarred’, making the reader see her as injured and provoking sympathy.
However, after the first five lines in ‘Effects’ the narrator’s tone of their mother seems to change, going fro...


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