A Critical Analysis of Carol Ann Duffy's 'In Mrs Tilscher's Class'

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A Critical Analysis of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘In Mrs Tilscher’s Class’

        In Mrs Tilscher’s Class by Carol Ann Duffy, many issues are addressed about her class that play a part in explaining the subjects of the poem. To begin with the content and subjects of the poem are based around a school year in Mrs Tilscher’s class. Her entire class is trapped and enthralled during the school day. They are taught information, into intricate detail. For example the poem begins with the line, ‘you could travel up the blue Nile with your finger’. This simply begins the world of imagination to which each and every child is subjected. Straight after that, the poem goes on to describe how the children are chanted the scenery of the world by Mrs Tilscher. She remarkably inserts images of geographical places, historical events and general knowledge firmly in the children’s brains. ‘Tana’, the great dam, ‘Ethiopia’, the last great King, Haile Selassie, ‘Khartoum’, where General Charles Gordon was assassinated on the step of the embassy and Lord Kitchener stepped in to relieve him at the siege. The great ‘Aswân’ dam was known about and also the great pyramids of Egypt. Children viewed books as enthralling, fascinating and enjoyable to read which was remarkable for children of such different backgrounds. Carol Ann Duffy often uses short, sharp sentences in this poem to get her message across quickly and clearly.  

        The children viewed their life at school as ‘better than home’. In my view this must have been something remarkably different for the children to have rather spent more time at school time than at home. But why was this the case, there must have been something remarkably different for this to be true? In the second stanza we are probably told why, ‘Mrs Tilscher loved you’, we are told. She was kind, considerate, ‘some mornings you found she’d left a good gold star by your name’. Although this is not much, it is the sentimental thought which counts, all the little things add up to the big factor that the children viewed her as another mother and she felt the same way. Surprisingly, within the second stanza Carol Ann Duffy inserts a reality with upsets the imaginary atmosphere.

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‘Brady and Hindley faded like a faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake’. This poem was clearly written in the late sixties or early seventies as we are shown by the mention of Brady and Hindley. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were convicted for abducting, sexually and mentally torturing and burying small children on the Lancashire moors. They were known as the ‘moor’s murderers’, at this stage in Britain all children were warned of such characters. Mrs Tilscher made it very clear to her children that there were such characters in the world and that they were safe within her classroom. ...

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