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What I Expected by Stephen Spender

Poetry Analysis
by

Simon Fong

on 4 March 2013

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Transcript of What I Expected by Stephen Spender

by Stephen Spender S2 & 3: what he had not foreseen
life and time takes a toll on his determination
time eroded his will power
S2 is about himself, S3 is about his surrounding (other people)

S4: resolution
sense of hope
overcoming his struggles Our Process Initial Impressions internal struggles
expectations
lots of imagery and metaphor What I Expected Who does the speaker represent?
What are their struggles, what caused them?
What is the significance of the title, what was the speaker's "expectation"? Our First Questions First theme: struggles in life and the process of overcoming them
Style & Form: Each stanza is a complete thought, takes reader through his emotional journey and growth How we arrived at this S1: about his personal expectations
use of diction: thunder, fighting, struggles, straining
rhyme pattern emphasized these words
negative expectations (lines 1-4)
expected outcome (lines 5-8) What I expected, was
Thunder, fighting,
Long struggles with men
And climbing.
After continual straining
I should grow strong:
Then the rocks would shake,
And I rest long.

What I had not foreseen
Was the gradual day
Weakening the will
Leaking the brightness away,
The lack of good to touch,
The fading of body and soul
--Smoke before wind,
Corrupt, unsubstantial

The wearing of Time,
And the watching of cripples pass
With limbs shaped like questions
In their odd twist,
The pulverous grief
Melting the bones with pity,
The sick falling from earth--
These, I could not foresee.

Expecting always
Some brightness to hold in trust,
Some final innocence
Exempt from dust,
That, hanging solid,
Would dangle through all,
Like the created poem,
Or faceted crystal. Revised Understanding Background Information & Research The author is bisexual and during his time, this was considered to be scandalous Spender concentrated on the theme of social injustice in most of his literature He was part of a group of writers who did not believe in esoteric ideas, but instead wrote to the understanding of all. How Our Understanding Developed Initial understanding was with struggles, now we believe that his sexuality was the main cause of his struggles. He was faced with possible discrimination. perspectives on "Then the rocks would shake"

"weakening of the will"; "lack of good to touch"
perspectives on "--Smoke before wind"
use of punctuation (--)

notion of "Time"
perspectives on "cripples"
"Limbs shaped like questions, odd twist"; "Melting the bones with pity"; "The sick falling from earth"

"Some brightness to hold"; "final innocence"; "exempt from dust" etc
"faceted crystal" (in contrast with the notion of "rocks" in S1) What expectations did you have entering into high school?

What aspects of high school were you able to foresee and what were you not able to foresee?

What are your hopes for the future? Social and Cultural Influence our Understanding Western society has become more accepting of different sexual orientations, therefore we can empathize with the author's struggles

We have become more open minded towards individuality and freedom of choice Influences from Media and Politics Celebrities are openly supportive of the LGBT community
Role models Some political platforms which support individual rights Revised Theme Second theme: struggles in life, specific to sexuality, and the process of defying social norms. Further Revision Research Points One of his poems was unjustly censored: "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have a boy, a railway fare, or a revolution." was later revised to read: "Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have an affair, a railway fare, or a revolution." Our Reaction used this poem as an expression of frustration due to struggles of discrimination
poem written to allow more diverse interpretations by using universal symbols of struggles (time period: 1930's) Class Discussion Since this poem allowed for a wide range of interpretations, what was YOUR interpretation and/or connection to this poem? Connection to Other Texts Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow) common theme of change Conclusion Various struggles in various aspects of life, and the process of overcoming them. The Swimmer's Moment (Margaret Avison) common theme of overcoming challenges Although our theme has not changed drastically, our research has allowed us to develop a better sense of the purpose of the poem. That is, the opportunity for multiple interpretation of this piece. Given the time period of this literature, the author was not allowed to express sexuality explicitly and was forced to disguise his writing in a socially acceptable manner. This allowed the reader to interpret it in various ways, while allowing the author to express his true frustration and sorrow.
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