The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan
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'The Cockroach' by Kevin Halligan is a poem about reflection on life through watching the movement of a cockroach. Through the use of structure, detailed description of cockroach as an extended metaphor of the persona, the theme of confusion and realization of life is well conveyed. Halligan describes a frantic movement of the cockroach throughout the poem. The title foreshadows and reveals that the poem is about a small and trifle insect- a cockroach. However, the poem opens with the exaggeration of it 'a giant cockroach'. This highlights that he is observing it very closely feeling as if it is a 'giant'. The word 'giant' also conveys that it is not only an insect but also a device to reflect on life giving it great importance with the repetition of word 'cockroach' in the title and first line. The movement of the cockroach is closely described. The detailed description draws an image of the cockroach in the readers' minds and this allows them to engage in the poem.
The sense of confusion continues to be expressed through dictions 'restlessness' 'flipping right over' 'victim for a mild attack'. The line 'flipping right over' symbolizes the change in tone and change in the way that poem develops; from the description of a cockroach to realization of life. The word 'circling' suggests that life is cycling and there must be a moment of confusion and restlessness in every living creature's life including the life of a cockroach as well as that of human being. The cockroach 'climbed an open shelf' but soon it 'stopped'. This short sentence 'And stopped.' creates a tone of confusion. The ending of the poem is twisted with last few lines revealing that the persona is the subject of the poem. As the cockroach 'looked uncertain where to go', the persona expresses feeling of pity for it as well as his uncertainty and confusion on his life indicating that he has been through a traumatic phase in his life 'I don't know'.
Especially, there is no break in the poem with very few pauses. This might suggest that life is continuous without a pause and imply the cycle of life. The line 8 seems short in length comparing with other lines. This makes it stand out among the lines to suggest the change in the way the poem develops. The shortest line in one stanza separates the poem into two. The first 8 lines including the shortest line have regular alternating rhyme at the end of each line with rhyme scheme of ababcdcd 'pace' and 'trace', 'floor' and 'door', 'ring' and 'wing', 'back' and 'attack'. However the rhyme scheme is irregular in the last six lines. This shift in rhyme scheme emphasizes a sense of confusion in the poem. In 'The Cockroach', Kevin Halligan suggests the readers to live in life with responsibility in every action because the payment will come back to us eventually like the cockroach pays 'for a crime a former life had led to'. Halligan involves the readers until the last line to empathise for the cockroach through the structure, dictions, and detailed description.
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