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Gillian Clarke's

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Introduction

CATRIN Gillian Clarke's "Catrin" tackles one of the well-considered themes in feminist writing - the mother-daughter relationship. The aspect of the relationship that Clarke explores here is the bond ("rope") that ties them together and from which they try to free themselves from the very beginning, even before birth. Freeing yourself as an individual within a relationship must result in conflict on both sides, which is what the mother and daughter in "Catrin" are experiencing now. The question we ask ourselves here is, when does the struggle begin? Notice how the speaker uses monosyllables to describe the 'tight, red rope'. The effect of this is to make a tight sound and to perhaps simulate the mother's breathing patterns during birth, which are short breaths outwards. There is a striking contrast between the white, sterile room and the red rope, which is literally red, as it is covered with blood. ...read more.

Middle

Their actions were shouting. A 'tank' reminds us of a fish tank, and of the idea that it contains everything to do with its occupants. In the speaker's case, the tank contains and holds in complete focus the confrontation, which the participants neither won nor lost. yet we find that it is only another manifestation of the same confrontation, this battle of wills, the need for autonomy. The first stanza is longer because it deals with the defining experience of the two characters' lives. * 'taking/Turn at the traffic lights' (lines 4-5) emphasises the 't' sound providing the rhythmic effect of cars going one by one. But I think we can also see the rhythmic and regular moment of the speaker's labour in the phrase. * 'first/Fierce' (lines 6-7) uses the initial 'f' sound in words whose monosyllabic effects suggest the pushing movements of birth. ...read more.

Conclusion

Monosyllabic effects are also seen in lines 2-3, with the words 'hot, white /Room', where the emphatic effect enhances the intensity of the hot surroundings. * There is an interesting and effective use of repetition in line 17, where the words are '(we want) To be two, to be ourselves'. This is an involved expression, repetitive, reflecting the involved and circular nature of such a desire in a mother/child relationship. * Look at lines 26-27, where the initial words of the lines are 'Tightening'/'Trailing', indicating the effects of the rope in the speaker's life. The words are opposite in meaning, so they suggest the contrary experiences and feelings in the relationship. The speaker again We can end this discussion by considering the speaker's point of view: * Is the poem autobiographical? If so, then the poet is recording an intensely personal experience. The title is 'Catrin', suggesting that this is a real child, and the poem is addressed to her. * If this is an invented speaker and situation, the poet could be speculating on the mother/daughter relationship in general. ...read more.

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