Through Close Analysis of a Single Poem, Discuss the Ways Which Harrison Explores the Theme of Education and Its Impact on His Life By Lockhart Through close analysis of a single poem, discuss the ways which Harrison explores the theme of education and its impact on his life Education is a key theme within Harridan’s poetry as the impact it had upon his own life was fundamental to making him the person and poet he is today.
This was mainly due to the fact he attended a middle class grammar school, the culture of which clashed dramatically with the working class environment he was brought up in. Many of Harridan’s poems express a reluctance to overlook his roots and a rebellious urge to ‘beat the system’. However, they also recognize that in order to succeed in any literary career, he must succumb to the middle class way. This duality affected all aspects of his life and inevitably distanced him from his family and friends in many ways, radically changing him as a person.
In his poem ‘Them and Lug] I ; II’ Harrison discusses his sense of cultural otherness at his grammar school and how he aimed to defy them to stay true to his identity. The fact that the poem is a stretched sonnet immediately conveys how he wanted to do things his own way, even if it meant breaking the rules. One way Harrison explores how education impacted upon his life in this work is through the theme of conformity. The poem expresses Harridan’s reluctance to conform to middle class social principles, yet also the necessity.
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This pressure is articulated primarily through the voice of his grammar school teacher. ‘Poetry is the speech of kings’ and We say [ z] not Lug]’ shows that the teacher strongly associates poetry and literature tit ‘Received Pronunciation’ (RPR) and the middle/upper classes and does not approve of Harridan’s ‘inferior’ background. The irregular rhythm throughout the first stanza reflects the ‘stuttered Dementedness’ but also sets an aggressive, dramatic tone mirroring his past feelings towards his teacher.
This is reinforced further after Harrison reads the first line of ‘Ode too nightingale’ by John Keats in his Leeds accent when the teacher calls him a ‘barbarian’. The use of dialogue illustrates the conflict between the young Tony and the teacher and highlights their different attitudes awards literature. Together with this, Harrison uses a mixed diction, for example ‘glorious heritage’ vs.. ‘hawk up and spit out’ which dramatists the gap between the classes even more and also reflects Harridan’s inner conflict regarding which class he claims as his own.
In addition to the necessity to conform, Harrison refers also to the sacrifices he made throughout his childhood because of his education. In the third stanza Harrison realizes his speech to be ‘in the hands of the Receivers’ and through several metaphors en conveys the change trot en begins to change to become ‘conventional’ which he conveys through several metaphors. ‘l doffed my flat ass’ refers to the old fashioned custom to ‘doff your hat’ to elders and betters as a sign of respect; Harrison is metaphorically ‘doffing his hat’ to the middle classes by switching to RPR.
Another poem – ‘Me Tarzan’ – reflects similar notions of sacrifice, showing Harrison as a young boy who has to tell friends who didn’t get into grammar school ‘Ah bloody can’t aware gray Latin prose’ meaning he can’t go out t’ fishily’ because he has to do his Latin homework. Additionally, after the Volta in both ‘Them and Lug] I & II’ and ‘Me Tarzan’ Harrison makes a conscious decision to stick by his school. The metaphor ‘my mouth all stuffed with glottal great’ also shows his willingness to change his accent no matter the pain, but the word ‘stuffed’ also suggests restraint.
This could simply mean he doesn’t want to change himself and he does so bitterly. However, it also alludes to the idea he is a better person and poet without a forced identity, also shown in his poem ‘The Queen’s English’. The line Wassail’s they puttee rods ret I’ his mouth’ emphasizes the idea that education conditioned him to be someone he neither was nor aspired to be. The use of the pun ‘shut my trap’ in ‘Them and Lug] supports this, suggesting that conformity will be a trap’ for his poetry, as well as him having to keep quiet and change his cultural orientation.
Through doing this Harrison is effectively agreeing to the new middle class customs, which is inevitably going to have a huge impact on his life. This impact is reflected in the poem ‘A Good Read’ where Harrison talks about how education affected his legislation with his Father. Contrary to his father’s working class traditions, Harrison became a passionate and interested academic; they both inhabited different worlds. ‘A Good Read’ emphasizes this in the difference in dialogue, namely the father’s obvious Leeds accent, which is not at all mirrored by Harrison himself in the poem. Ah sometimes think you read too may books’ shows his father’s lack of understanding about his passion for literature, too many conveying the idea that he think it to be a pointless hobby – a waste of time. This emphasizes the clash of class apparent twine both of them – because of Tony’s middle class education, he was introduced to a different lifestyle to his Father’s, with contradictory interests. Though education led him to change; it also gave him the opportunity to discover who he really was.
In the second part of ‘Them and Lug]’ this is highlighted in the line ‘I’m Tony Harrison, no longer you’ and ‘l spoke the language I spoke at home’ both showing Harridan’s revolt against what he had previously accepted as inherent social values because of his education. The reputation of ‘[Uzi] [Uzi] Lug]’ heightens the ensign of doing this and sounds as if he is trying to reminding himself of his background and who he supposedly really is.
Furthermore, the rhyme scheme in ‘Them and Lug] part l’ is regular paired rhyme to reflect order, conversely in this stanza the rhyme scheme is full of half rhymes – an act of rebellion. Nevertheless, the end of the poem suggests these efforts may have been in vain, specifically through the way his first ‘mention in the Times’ is published. The upper-class, conservative newspaper ‘automatically made Tony Anthony! ‘ I. E. They refused to abbreviate his first name.
This conveys the idea that despite what Harrison wanted and tried to achieve, he had no choice; the established class structure dictated to him and to his art. In conclusion, much of Harridan’s poetry expresses his ambivalent feelings about how education affected his life. There is no doubt that his middle class education helped him become the poet he is, yet the question remains whether that is because it improved his work or because it gave him access into the world associated with it – regardless, it was a choice he had to make. Word count: 960 words