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'Visiting Hour' recorded lecture notes

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James McEnaney

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of 'Visiting Hour' recorded lecture notes

by Norman MacCaig Visiting Hour explores the experiences of a speaker visiting a gravely ill loved-one in hospital General information word choice / metaphor 'combs my nostrils' imagery 'vanishes heavenward' enjambment 'I will not...' A quick guide to... the speaker tries - in vain - to control his feelings as he gets closer and closer to his loved one, but finally has to confront reality when finally forced to leave the ward, the speaker is even more distressed than he was at the beginning of the experience the vast majority of readers will be able to relate to this text on some level 'combs' is highly physical, and much more effective than 'fills' marks the first point at which the speaker seeks to make non-physical aspects of the experience seem physical shows the intensity of the experience, even at this early stage literally the 'corpse' is going upwards in the lift also suggestions of the speaker's pre-occupation with death he is unable to disassociate his own state of mind from the environment that he is in, hence the combination of 'heaven' (related to death) and 'ward' the speaker is clearly chanting under his breath, trying to convince himself rather than anyone else line placement shows that he is stuttering over his words the apparent determination of the first line ("I will not feel, I will not") gives way to reluctant acceptance of the reality ("I have to.") all of this helps to make clear how much the speaker is struggling with his emotions 'so much pain...' repetitition/structure
(sibilance) repetition of 'so' throughout the stanza emphasises the pain and suffering witnessed by the nurses slow pace of the stanza adds to this this combines to give the impression that the speaker is overwhelmed by the individual suffering that he is experiencing 'Ward 7.' structure / turning point short non-sentence at the start of a stanza draws the reader's attention also marks the turning point of the poem where the focus of the text changes the full stop puts us in the position of the speaker - we too stop at the sign for the ward and pause for breath the speaker is clearly distressed 'distance of pain' imagery the couple are unable to communicate across this 'distance of pain' the patient is at the mercy of physical pain, whilst the speaker is suffering from emotional pain though the actual distance between them is almost non-existent, they are completely separated from one another 'round swimming waves...' these 'waves' are literally the sound waves from the bell that marks the end of 'visiting hour' metaphorically, the suggestion is that the speaker can feel each of these waves as they hit him another effect of this is to give the impression that time has slowed down for the speaker as he faces losing his loved one forever this makes clear the deteriorating emotional state of the speaker imagery 'fruitless fruits' word choice/metaphor the final words of the poem are exceptionally pessimistic taking books and fruit to the patient has not made her any better, and crucially has failed to achieve the desired effect for the speaker the visit has, therefore, been unsuccessful (NOTE: NOT POINTLESS)
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