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Warren Pryor by Alden Nowlan

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Erica Nangle

on 20 January 2015

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Transcript of Warren Pryor by Alden Nowlan

Alden Nowlan
Alden Nowlan’s family discouraged education and thought it was a waste of time. He dropped out of school in the fourth grade and went on to work at a sawmill at the age of fourteen. However Nowlan had a longing for education and began to secretly educate himself at the age of 16 when he discovered the regional library. In Nowlan’s poem “Warren Pryor” the young man’s parents strongly believed in education and wanted more for their son than just working in the fields. They wanted him to be a professional and work in the city although the boy didn’t want this. He wanted to work in the fields. Both Nowlan and the boy did what their parents wanted to please them contrary to their personal wants.
“Warren Pryor” by Alden Nowlan
What is the meaning behind the opening line, “When every pencil made a sacrifice” ?
Where does the poem most likely take place?
Identify two shifts in the poem.
Find a simile.
Provide four words or phrases that relate to freedom. (For or against).
What is the protagonist feeling at the end and why?
Do you agree or disagree with the feelings of the protagonist? Why or why not?

1.) The Pryor family was very poor.
2.)Rural area / farm / later a city. In the maritimes. (red dirt)
3.)Line 5 and Line 13.
4.)“Hard and serious like a young bear”. (13-14)
5.)“boarded”, “free”, “bore them down”, “passport from”, “saved”, “cage”.
6.)Angry, trapped, resentful, weak. His parents worked so hard to get him out so that he wouldn’t have to stay on the farm that “bore them down”. He only wanted to stay on the farm, not go to to this new life where he feels trapped. Answers may vary for the “why” portion.
7.)Answers may vary.

T- Title
P- Paraphrase
C- Connotation
A- Attitude
S- Shift
T- Title
T- Theme
"Warren Pryor" by Alden Nowlan (Canadian poet, 1933-83)
When every pencil meant a sacrifice
his parents boarded him at school in town,
slaving to free him from the stony fields,
the meagre acreage that bore them down.

They blushed with pride when, at his graduation,
they watched him picking up the slender scroll,
his passport from the years of brutal toil
and lonely patience in a barren hole.

When he went in the Bank their cups ran over.
They marvelled how he wore a milk-white shirt
work days and jeans on Sundays. He was saved
from their thistle-strewn farm and its red dirt.

And he said nothing. Hard and serious
like a young bear inside his teller's cage,
his axe-hewn hands upon the paper bills
aching with empty strength and throttled rage.

Warren Pryor by Alden Nowlan
The title foreshadows that the poem will be about someone named Warren Pryor.
A boy is sent to a boarding school in town by his parents, who are working extremely hard to get him through school. Their top priority is to get their son through school so that he can get a job to support himself, and they are prideful at his graduation. As an adult however, he appears to be angry, feeling like he is trapped in the town, but is forced to obey the demands of the working class.
The poem uses forms of figurative language, the most common being imagery, which can be seen throughout the poem. In the first line, "When every pencil meant a sacrifice" (1), Nowlan starts off the poem with a strong image that the boy finds school exhausting, having to sacrifice his free time. It also represents his parents struggle trying to put him through school. Also in the quotation "Like a young bear inside a teller's cage" (14) uses strong imagery to show how Warren feels trapped in his job as a bank teller. Not only does this line use imagery, but it is also a metaphor, comparing Warren to a young bear.
The author's tone is serious, not making any jokes. A serious tone emphasizes the man that is Warren Pryor.
The shift happens after he graduates, when he becomes a part of the working class. The poem then reflects his frustration, rather than his parents' pride.
After reading the poem, the title takes on a new meaning. It goes from just being about Warren Pryor to having a deeper meaning. The name Warren means enclosure, and Warren Pryor feels like he is enclosed in his job when he could rather be on the farm.
Alden Nowlan is trying to tell the reader that success does not always bring happiness. One can work hard, but if the goal is primarily for money, the job can feel more like a burden and a prison rather than a place of opportunity.
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