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Transcript of Parents
We sense however, that this is nor ordinary sleep, that this particular child may well be very ill. After all, the parents seem to be highly anxious and concerned about their child. They stay up all night watching over her: 'And through the night, stranded, they stare'. As they watch they are open mouthed in fear and suspense. Their foreheads are 'furrowed' with lines of worry. According to Durcan their clenched and puckered foreheads are like mouths of fish: 'Pursed-up orifices of fearful fish'.
Durcan compares sleep to an ocean. When we fall asleep we slip beneath this ocean's surface and 'drown' in its depths. He depicts parents looking down on thier child who is lost in these swirling reaches of unconsciousness: 'A child's face is a drowned face:/ Her parents stare down at her asleep'.
Aim: To analyse Parents
Could you compare sleep to an ocean?
Is it an obvious comparison?
Name and define the types of comparisons used in poetry.
The parents long to connect with their child, but the impassable barrier of sleep prevents them from doing so.
What image is created of the parents do you think?
The ocean of sleep separates or 'estranges' those who slumber form those who are awake. Sleepers remain on one side of the ocean's surface, waking people on the other. The surface of this ocean then, is like a barrier seperating parents from child. Durcan uses repetition in this poem to reinforce the point.
The parents long to connect with their child but the impassable barrier of sleep prevents them from doing so. They are 'stranded' on one side of this divide and cannot cross over. Durcan uses a wonderful simile to describe this, suggesting that the parents resemble people who have been 'locked out of their own home'.
Sleep is like a pane of glass separating the parents from their child: 'Their big ears are fins behind glass'. But it is a twisted or distorting pane that makes the parents' ears resemble huge fish like fins. It seems to suggest that even if the sleeping child could somehow sense what was happening around her it would seem bizarre, distorted and incomprehensible. This is a strange but powerful image that reinforces our sense of the great divide between the waking and the sleeping worlds.
We sense too, that the child is experiencing some kind of fever that brings vivid, unpleasant and chaotic dreams. Even though she's unconscious she realises something is wrong. And in her dreams she longs to connect with her parents: 'And in her sleep she is calling out to them/Father, Father/ Mother, Mother'. But of course her parents can't hear what she shouts out in her dreams. If she woke she would see her parents standing there watching over her: 'If she looked up she would see them'. But she is lost in her fevered sleep and cannot do so. The repetition of the word 'drowned' in the poem's last line reinforces our impression that the child is sick and perhaps even dangerously so: 'At the drowned, drowned face of their child'.
The poem highlights how far away our loved ones and family members seem while they are sleeping. Sleep is liked to a barrier or a pane of glass that leaves us 'locked out' or 'stranded'. When our loved ones sleep beside us we experience a strange kind of loneliness. For they are lost in another world, adrift deep within the ocean of their slumber where we cannot reach them.
'The Difficulty that is Marriage' is another poem that touches on this topic, depicting how the poet lies beside his sleeping wife and contemplates the ups and downs of their relationship.
Durcan is a poet who presents an honest and rounded view of family life, celebrating the joys of family life but also its difficulties. This poem seems to deal with the agony of having a sick and feverish child, highlighting the stress and worry experienced by parents in that terrible situation. We sense the tension as they stay up all night watching over their child, their foreheads 'furrowed' with worry.
Metaphor and Simile
This poem turns on a 'conceit' or
that compares sleep to an ocean. Sleepers slide into this ocean and 'drown' its depths while waking people remain 'stranded' above its surface; 'She is inside the sea/ And they are outside the sea'. The ocean's surface, as we've seen is presented as some unreachable barrier between sleeping and waking.
Other metaphors are used to describe the parents' faces as they watch their sleeping child. Their ears are compared to fins. And in an especially bizarre comparison their clenched brows are likened to the mouths of fish. A fine simile, meanwhile, is u describe the distance between the waking parents and the sleeping child, with the parents compared to people who have been locked out of their home.
Although many of Durcan's poems are composed in a 'loose' style like 'Sport', featuring long lines and irregular stanzas, 'Parents' is more regular and restrained. However, it does not have a formal structure or rhyming scheme.
Describe the subject matter of the poem.
What is the main message communicated by the poet?
Describe the imagery used in the poem.
Look at the language, what techniques are used?
Describe the emotions created in the poem and in the reader.
What is the structure of the poem.