Show how Edwin Morgan's 'In the Snack Bar' gives an insight into a less pleasant side to life through its use of interesting language
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In the Snack Bar "In the Snack Bar," by Edwin Morgan, is a poem which, through interesting use of language, gives the reader a degree of insight into the less pleasant side of life. This darker side to life is depicted through the character of a disabled, blind and hunchbacked old man. The reader is introduced to the old man firstly from the detached perspective of a spectator who is watching him struggle to his feet from a distance. However, as the poem progresses, Morgan leads the reader to empathise with the man's plight by illustrating - in great detail - his relentless struggle of endurance through life, despite finding the most simple, basic human functions an unspeakable effort. Through clever use of language the poet reveals the painstaking difficulties that the man has to negotiate because of his deformity and disabilities before going on to make a wider comment about humanity at large. The first stanza introduces the old man to the reader from the perspective of an outsider watching him in the snack bar.
The speaker brings the reader a glimpse of some of the more unpleasant, bleaker aspects of human life by first offering a view of the man from a detached perspective: "he stands in his stained beltless garberdine/like a monstrous animal caught in a tent/in some story." The comparison to an animal highlights the extent of his deformity by suggesting that he in some way seems inhuman and without an identity: he is identified by the speaker and, the reader can assume, by the other spectators in the snack-bar, by his hunchbacked appearance alone. The word "monstrous" further adds to this description by suggesting that he is abhorrent and frightening to other people, instilling a sense of horror in them. Indeed, the word brings to mind images of ogres from faerytales "in some story" as though his appearance is so terrible it cannot possibly be real and upholding the notion that he is without a human identity. Furthermore, the image of an animal being caught in a tent gives the reader insight into the man's situation, highlighting the loss
In the final stanza Morgan moves on to comment more widely about disability and human reaction to it. He invites the reader to consider the "embarrassment" and "shame" which accompany such a disability and the reaction which the public will have towards him, regardless. The words "no one sees his face" echo hauntingly. While on a literal level, the poet is merely commenting that the man's deformity is so large that is physically obscures his face. However, he is also implying that to others the old man has no identity: he is only seen by others by his deformity and disability, not as a person. Morgan finishes the poem with "Dear Christ, to be born for this!" which hints at the futileness of living a life with such a poor quality of living; living in a world amongst people who cannot see past the surface to the true person within. In the case of the old man, the true person within has an inner strength and humility that, ironically, contradict the final sentiment about the human condition.
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