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Norman MacCaigs Assisi is an intriguing poem, in which a contrast is used to create an intense feeling of irony and sympathy. Discuss.

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Introduction

Assisi Norman MacCaig's "Assisi" is an intriguing poem, in which a contrast is used to create an intense feeling of irony and sympathy. From the outset MacCaig uses shocking images to create sympathy for the beggar. The first image occurs at the beginning of the first line, which induces a feeling of shock within the reader. The beggar is described as a "dwarf", and goes on to say his "hands [were] on backward", which is at the end of the same line. He is also said to have "tiny twisted legs". Perhaps the best description of the beggar is the simile on line two, in which MacCaig compares him to a "half filled sack". The word "slumped" implies the shape of the beggar's back is like the arch of the sack. The leaky bag of sawdust could resemble the energy and life draining from him, and could also indicate that he was physically damaged. The common letter "S" in the alliteration of this image is onomatopoeic, and suggests the running of the sawdust. ...read more.

Middle

To contrast the description of the church, directly after it we are told about social injustice in the church's neglect of it's duty. MacCaig ironically tells us that it was built "in honour of St. Francis". As the church was dedicated to a saint, you would expect it's main purpose to be continuing the work of that particular saint. We are then told the Saint Francis was a "brother of the poor" indicating that he helped those who needed it most. This forces us to reflect on the position of the beggar, who was suffering outside the church, cleverly showing that the church was not continuing the work of Saint Francis and therefore if failing to fulfil it's duty. The beggar didn't have many things going for him. His only advantage over Saint Francis was "not being dead yet". This implies that he is close to death by the use of the term "yet", and indicates that he is desperate and pathetic. The sympathy we feel for him is built up, through the use of very black ironic humour. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is described as a "ruined temple", which brings Saint Francis and the beggar even closer together, indicating that the beggar is worthy of worship and salvation, as he has coped with harsh conditions when the people who are supposed to be helping him, are ignoring him. After these harsh terms, there is a change in tone showing MacCaig's attitude towards the beggar. He is said to have "a voice as sweet as a child's", indicating that MacCaig took the time to help him, which the beggar is grateful for emphasising the beggar's purity and innocence. This is well placed to contrast with the harsh conditions, thus enhancing the sense of innocence and vulnerability. The poem makes us feel sympathetic towards the beggar right up until the end. We are reminded of the beginning of the poem by the reference back to Saint Francis talking with birds. At this time at the beginning we are told that the beggar doesn't have long to live, leaving us feeling helpless, as it is too late to help him, and we can't change it. Assisi is a very moving poem, which allows us to reflect upon ourselves as well as the poem at the end. Claire Cuthbert ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

**** 4 STARS

A well written essay which uses accurate literary terminology and uses appropriately selected quotes to support statements throughout. Analysis is accurate, detailed and
perceptive. A slightly longer intro and conclusion are necessary.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 24/09/2013

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