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Lang/Lit: ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’

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Paul Hanson

on 14 April 2017

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Transcript of Lang/Lit: ‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’

‘The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team’
First Reading
People and Relationships
Who is the subject of the poem?

Who is the speaker?

What relationships are presented?
What events are referred to in the poem?
Stanza One
The poem is written from the perspective of a middle-aged man who is recalling his schooldays in the 1960s. This was a time of hope in Great Britain as the country experienced a cultural and economic resurgence after the years of post-war austerity. The man remembers the popular songs from his youth, his first feelings of sexual attraction and the excitement of those years.
Stanzas Two and Three
Stanza One Questions
What type of
is conveyed through the titles of the songs in the opening line?
Give two examples of
and comment on the effect these words create.
Find words and
that suggest the purity and innocence of youth.
How is the sense of a speaker’s voice created in this stanza and why do you think that Duffy has used this
conversational tone
Find a
that is used to portray the boy’s sexual awakening.
Give an example of
from the stanza and explain its effect.

The Songs
Stanza Three
What is implied about the
poetic persona
’s relationship with his parents when he was younger?
How is the boy’s pride of his achievements conveyed in this stanza?
Find examples of how
colour imagery
is used in this stanza and elsewhere in the poem and discuss its impact.
How are the
’s feelings of security and sense of belonging in the past portrayed here?

Stanza Four
The speaker seems compelled to relive these memories of his successful past, feeling that he belongs more in that ordered, predictable world than in his present life. He wants to regain the feeling of being successful and admired. He is portrayed as disappointed by his family and lacking feelings of affection for them. Rather than being powerful and victorious as he once used to be, the speaker now has a ‘boss’ who is more important than him.
Stanza Four
How does Duffy create a change (the
) of tone and perspective in this stanza?
How is
used to convey the idea that the
poetic persona
has completely changed over time?14. What
are used to illustrate the persona’s contempt for his family?
is used to portray the fact that his family are embarrassed by him? How does this compare to his parents’ attitude to him as a child in stanza three?
What do you think the persona’s former title as ‘captain’ might symbolise’?
Why do you think that the
minor sentence
‘My Country’ is repeated here?
What is the effect of the
of quiz questions in this stanza?

Links to Other Poems
Compare the presentation of childhood experiences in this poem to the way such events are portrayed in ‘Litany’ and ’Stafford Afternoons’.
How are attitudes towards the past presented here in comparison to ‘Never Go Back’ and ‘Nostalgia’?
In what ways are the destructive effects of the passage of time also conveyed in
‘Mean Time’?
What are the similarities and differences between the poetic persona of this poem and that of ‘The Biographer’?

Cultural and Historical Allusion
Sixties pop stars and bands
Vimto, a popular fizzy drink
'How can we know the dancer from the dance?' from 'Among School Children' by WB Yeats
Rhodesia was the imperial name for Zimbabwe (the then Prime Ministers were Winston Field and Ian Smith)
A florin was 'two bob', so there were ten in an old pound
Thinking about the four main foci (see below), what is this poem about?

People and relationships
What sense of time is there in the poem?
What sense of place is there?
Stanzas Two and Three
The man is particularly intent on dwelling on his time in the classroom, where he was captain of the quiz team. His childhood is presented as a time of potential and energy, while the young boy is portrayed as full of optimism. He felt confident as he could answer all the questions as part of his quiz team at school. All the answers to the questions are phrased in the present tense (‘The Nile rises in April’), suggesting that the past feels very real to the speaker and also that these facts are reassuring to him because they will never alter, unlike the rest of his life, which has changed dramatically over the years. The poet uses proper nouns such as ‘Dyke Hill’, ‘Churchill Way’ and ‘Nelson Drive’ to create the sense of the speaker feeling at ease in a familiar place. Perhaps the names of Churchill and Nelson, two important leaders, are used ironically as a reminder of his feelings of power and achievement during this time.
Find examples of how the following features are used in stanza two to indicate the boy’s youthful confidence and energy:
minor sentence
direct speech
two important
a word emphasised by
at the beginning or end of the line
use of
Full transcript