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ONE FLESH

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by

Phoebe Willis-Butcher

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of ONE FLESH


Elizabeth Jennings was alive in a time of extreme change for example in the 1950's the Civil Rights movement and the construction of the first atomic bomb. This seems to have had an influence on One Flesh as it focuses on the change in her parents relationship with age however her parents change is a vast contrast to the change in her world.
Elizabeth Jennings
Jennings published around 27 books of her poetry in the time period of around 50 years. She was awarded several literary prizes and the CBE in 1992. For the majority of her life she lived in Oxford. Catholicism was a huge inspiration for her work
Form
One Flesh is a very structured poem as it has a regular rhyme scheme throughout the poem, the first two stanzas end in a rhyming couplet however the last doesn't showing how things and people grow apart, largely running off iambic pentameter this structure could represent the bond that existed between her parents throughout their lives despite their loss of 'fire' and the unstructured ending shows how this was lost.
Growing apart
Old age and death
Old age and death are also dominant themes in One Flesh as Jennings' parents apartness is said to be due to age- 'tossed up like flotsam from a former passion' they are just the remains of what they and they're relationship used to be. Death is a subtle symbol in the poem as its suggested that they wait for death- 'as if they wait for some new event' this followed up with 'her eyes fixed upon the shadows overhead' confirms this, another way of looking at it is that the mention of death represents the death of their passion.
ONE FLESH
CONTEXT
One flesh features many images showing the physical and mental separation of her parents on the first line it says 'each in a separate bed' showing physical apartness. The first stanza also describes her father with a book- 'he with a book' and her mother 'dreaming of childhood' showing that mentally they are also poles apart. In the last stanza this silence is emphasized with the repeated sibilance. The mention of chastity also suggests how they have grown physically apart.
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