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Homecoming AQA CourseworkThis poem is a puzzle for the reader - there are some things the poet has not told us

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Introduction

Rakesh Chambers Homecoming AQA Coursework This poem is a puzzle for the reader - there are some things the poet has not told us, and without them, our reading of the poem relies on guesswork. This seems deliberate, as the first thing the poem invites us to do is to look at two things separately, then put them together. The poem is written mostly in the second person, addressed to "you". This may at first seem to be the general reader, but later in the poem, Armitage writes "I" and "we" - and it seems that here he speaks to a particular individual. The context and other clues suggest this is a lover or friend (someone he meets "sixteen years" after the incident he describes in the second section of the poem). Perhaps he wants the reader not so see this as something that happened once to another person, but as something all of us can, and maybe should, do. The first stanza - after the opening line - is quite easy to follow. The poet invites us think of a trust game. ...read more.

Middle

(So we may suppose that the two people here are very close - lovers or friends - and that she has told him about this family row, many years later. In fact the poet does not even indicate the sex of either character, so the incident here could have happened to a boy or girl, and the "I" of the poem could be male or female. The "cotton jacket" may be a clue to its owner, however. What follows may be what happened but seems more like what should have happened (but didn't) or what should happen now. The poet uses an imperative verb and tells the "you" character to go back home - "Retrace that walk towards the garden gate." What happens next seems to be an idealized act of reconciliation - the embrace of welcome is likened to putting on a garment, which becomes the "same canary-yellow cotton jacket". And, magically, it still fits - though years have passed. The point of the title becomes clear now. The "you" character can only come home (emotionally and psychologically) ...read more.

Conclusion

Stepping "backwards" suggests not only the spatial direction of the movement, but also a going back in time, to put right an old wrong. And "it still fits" suggests that the love of the father (or the "father figure") is something out of which the child never grows. This is a very tender poem - it seems that the poet writes from the heart and his own experience, and that the "you" is someone he knows and loves. (But it is quite possible that he writes of an imagined experience - poetry does not need to be literally true to tell the truth about human nature.) It is also a fair poem - the "I" character does not take sides, but sees how parents, even the "model of a model", let down their children, yet this does not mean that they love them the less. The poem, on the page, is broken into four sections. But its structure comes more from its argument and from indications of time. The introduction of the "I" character, waiting by a phone that doesn't ring, is a dividing point between then and now, between the damage done and the remedy, or between what did happen (once) and what should happen (now and for the future). ...read more.

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