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'My Grandmother'

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Introduction

Elizabeth Jennings, 'My Grandmother' This poem explores the relationship between the speaker and her grandmother. It focuses on the remorse and guilt she felt - and perhaps does still feel - about the way she behaved towards her on one occasion, and can be seen as an attempt to exorcise this. The poem is divided into four parts: the first stanza describes her grandmother working in the shop; the second the incident which causes her guilt; the third stanza shows her in retirement. In the final stanza, after her grandmother has died, the speaker reflects on herself and her grandmother's life. The first stanza sets the scene - the antique shop reflects the character and life of the grandmother. The words 'it kept her' suggest that it seems, to the speaker, her only reason for living; the grandmother's concern is with surface appearance ('polish was all') not with deep human feelings ('there was no need of love'). Her solitariness is suggested in the fact that it is only 'her own reflection' she sees reflected in the antiques; it is these she lives 'among', not people. ...read more.

Middle

This imagery sums up the lfe of a person who has been defined by her antiques - 'the smell of absences' suggests the memories that the grandmother attaches to these objects, but it also hints at an unfulfilled existence, while 'the shadows.../ That can't be polished' suggest the grandmother's loss of her habitual control as she nears death (a state itself often associated with shadow), and are a disturbingly vague image. In the poem's final image, 'the new dust falling through the air', Jennings economically suggests the grandmother's joining of the antiques she devoted her life to. But this image simultaneously reminds us of her absence from the room she once haunted - there is new dust there where once there would only have been polish. The speaker recalls, in this final stanza, her feelings about the death - not grief but guilt. The poem as a whole is characterized by the honesty of its attempt to look back, as an adult, on a relationship that, as a child, was bound up with feelings of fear and guilt. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that she was afraid of her grandmother, perhaps of her coldness. Although you can see this in the stanza I still believe that the child was right to refuse because I think that the women is treating the girl like she was an antique; "It was perhaps I think a wish not to be used like antique objects ...." In stanza three I think that you can see all the memories actually being revealed to the grandchild; "All her best things in one tong narrow room" It gives us the sense that after she had passed away now the guilt is just kicking in and the old women's life has just began to open. In the very last stanza I think that the very last chapter in the old women's life is beginning to come to an end. Nothing is left in memory of her: "..and no finger marks were there" I think that now her life is over and that her family have been excluded, their lives have had a fundamental change and new dust had just began to settle over the rather cold possessions she seemd to value over her children and grandchildren. ...read more.

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