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These three poems examine the experiences of victims in society. Give a detailed account of each poem showing how the people suffer in their lives.

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October 2001

GCES Coursework                                                                          

Poetry Assignment

Victims Poetry

These three poems examine the experiences of victims in society. Give a detailed account of each poem showing how the people suffer in their lives.

A victim is a person injured or killed or made to suffer. In each poem I have read there has been a victim. Roger McGough has described an unattractive man boarding a bus in the poem, “Hippopotamusman”. He then explains the repulsed reactions of the passengers. By the way they responded to the man, they were making him a victim because of his appearance.  The Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka talks about a man who is trying to obtain some accommodation over the phone. But the landlady is very concerned about having him as a tenant because of the colour of his skin. He is black, and the landlady is victimising him because of it. In the third poem “Tramps on Waterloo Station” Robert Morgan illustrates men who are victims of circumstance. They are without homes and suffer poverty and are cold alone on a London railway station in the early hours of the morning.

Roger McGough uses several different writing techniques in the “Hippopotamusman”, similes, metaphors, coined words and enjambment. In the first section of the poem there are only three lines.

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In the last stanza of the poem McGough opens it with his final coined word, “Limpinggropingly”. This is a combination of the words “limping” and “gropingly”. McGough applies this coined word here to describe the man’s motion as he is looking for a seat on the travelling bus. The poet then insults the unsightly man by portraying him as “substandard”. We are surprised that he uses this portrayal because we only use the word “substandard” to describe inanimate objects. Things that can’t breathe and we only use this description to say that they are below standard or below average. Therefore to label an actual person as “substandard” is a very rude comment. Straight from McGough’s comment he try’s to prove that the “Hippopotamusman” is no different from everybody just because of his appearance. He does this by saying, “The Hippopotamusman wondered whether it was Wednesday”. I think that is definitely sent his point across by saying this because, sometime in everybody daily lives people ask themselves that very same question. What day is it?

Throughout the poem “Hippopotamusman” Roger McGough has used a very important writing technique. Enjambment, enjambment means the run on lines and in this poem McGough has not used any punctuation. This suggests the progress of the man of the boarding on the bus is a continued movement. Like the bus journey.

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The poet now goes on to talk about the comparisons between him and the tramps. “My clean, modern clothes and full stomach remind me of my sanity”. He has written the opposite of what he had said about the tramp. He wasn’t dirty or out of fashion, but instead he was “clean” and “modern”. There’s a contrast between the homeless and the poet. Antithesis. Robert Morgan points to the antithesis between the lifestyles of the homeless on Waterloo station and his own privileges. At the end of the poem Morgan states that he and the tramps do have something in common. Death. “We are all moving towards the freedom of nonentity”. But then he goes on to say “And they are the nearest to it”. What the poet is trying to say is, that because they are tramps therefore they will obviously die before him. This is because of their state of living, sanity and health. The complete opposite to himself.

Ebonni Chabala 10R

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