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The poem "Visiting hour" by Norman McCaig - review

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Visiting Hour - Norman MacCaig The poem "Visiting hour" by Norman McCaig is about the poet visiting someone (possibly his mother) who is terminally ill in hospital. It is about human suffering and how helpless a person can feel when faced with a loved one dying, knowing that there is nothing you can really do to help. The poem has a tone that makes things seem strange and threatening. It is full of distortion and strange ways of saying things to show us that what the visitor is faced with is almost nightmarish and that they are extremely uncomfortable in this environment. In the first stanza it is not the visitor that is described as walking along the corridor, just his "nostrils", "bobbing along" with the "hospital smell" combing them in the "green and yellow corridors". It is almost as if the smells and the nostrils have a life of their own and the visitor cant control either of them. ...read more.


It is not her anymore just a shell that she is using. I think the last stanza is written from the patients "dizzy" perspective but it also describes the visitors feelings too. While what she sees appears to be "clumsy" and "dizzy" due to her deterioration and possibly the drugs that are preventing her feel pain, I think the visitor is disorientated and feels apart from what is happening too. He actually points this out to us in the 3rd stanza where he uses repetition to make the point even more prominent. "I will not feel, I will not feel, until I have to". Here he is speaking for himself, simply and plainly and it explains why he is so disorientated and dislocated from the scene as he is forbidding himself to let emotions overtake what he has unwillingly and uncomfortably to witness. The "black figure" in the "white cave" appears to be him leaving because the bell has rung to signal visiting hour is over but it is also alluding to the grim reaper who has come to take the patient away. ...read more.


There is nothing he or she can do about it and the pain of loss will inevitably come even if he doesn't want it to. The poem is written in 6 stanzas of unequal length, in free verse and also uses enjambment. Some of the techniques used that I have already mentioned are metaphor, repetition, tone, allusion, imagery and juxtaposition. I think there is also juxtaposition in the way that he describes the nurses who "walk lightly" with "slender waists" but that are also weighed down by "their burden of so much pain". I find this poem very depressing yet so true in its portrayal of the disjointed feeling a person has when losing someone they love. The confusion of the poets own feeling's and his uncomfortable ness with them really do show the kind of bitter-sweet pain a person feels when it is a relief that the person dying will no longer be in pain but that the ones left living have the pain of loss to carry with them instead. ...read more.

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