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Examine Betjeman's treatment of death

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Examine Betjeman's treatment of death Betjeman wrote many poems of various themes of love, women, places and age but one of his most popular themes was death. When reading a conventional poem about death you expect a certain tone of sadness and a use of language that deals with the serious issue. But in the poems of Betjeman it becomes clear that he has many different views of death and how it can be dealt with, and his style ranges from the conventional, to the personal, and even as far as comic. In Death in Leamington Betjeman deals with the conventional view of death. The first stanza declares that 'she died' and the use of the words 'lonely', 'silent', 'calm' and the repetition of 'alone' explains what sort of death has occurred: the peaceful passing-away of an elderly woman as she sat all alone in her bedroom. The tone of the poem is sad and lonely, and we feel compassion for the woman because Betjeman stresses her alienation and isolation with phrases such as 'grey decaying face' and 'the stucco is peeling...do you hear the plaster drop' which describes her shabby surroundings which makes it worse for her to have died in that sort of place alone. Betjeman uses subtle phases 'calm of a Leamington ev'ning drifted into place' and describes her run-down surroundings to show that the ...read more.


Each stanza ends with a rhyming couplet which gives the poem the feel of a limerick in its structure and pacey rhythm. Betjeman does not deal with the death of Captain Webb in the same way he dealt with the old woman's death in the previous poem. It is not written in a sad, melancholy tone, but is light, almost jokey in tone, and the implication that the ghost was 'paying a call to Dawley Bank on his way to his destination' is a pleasant image of the ghost wanting to visit the people he knew before he went on to Heaven. It makes light of the fact that when you die, your body goes up to Heaven and the cheerful pleasant tone gives you a better feeling about death. Whereas Death in Leamington Spa gives the feeling that when you die then that is the end of you and everything stops, A Shropshire Lad encourages the belief in ghosts and heaven which is a totally different, more positive viewpoint used by Betjeman. Even the repetition of 'rigid and dead, rigid and dead' is comical and not insensitive, and the fact that 'there wasn't a man in Oakengates that hadn't got hold of the tale' meant that it was an amazing, special event for the people, and what makes it more pleasurable is that it happened in a place ...read more.


Betjeman also expresses his regrets in the way that they had trouble communicating on their 'long silent walks' but now there is no possibility of talking to him and telling him everything he should have said on those walks. So the poem makes us feel sympathy and pathos for Betjeman because we can identify as we will all lose a parent, and the view of death is one of detailed physical decay and hurt for the people left behind when somebody dies. There are doubts of the existence of the soul and Heaven which is in contrast with A Shropshire Lad which deals with ghosts and destinations. But I think it is understandable that this poem would be different because it is Betjeman's personal experience so he would have been affected by the death of his own father when writing this, compared to the detached emotions when writing about a fictional death. Betjeman offers many contrasting aspects of death and deals with these aspects by using different writing styles, tones, language and structure to suit each view on death. He can be comic with death, but also sad, and when it becomes personal, he can be detailed and writes with his emotions available for all to read. I think Betjeman treats death differently each time depending on the circumstances and shows how he is an adaptable and flexible writer that is not confined by convention and tradition. ...read more.

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