A poem in which the narrators feelings are uncovered is Visiting Hour by Norman MacCaig.

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Aniqa Aslam

“Visiting Hour” by Norman MacCaig

A poem in which the narrator’s feelings are uncovered is “Visiting Hour” by Norman MacCaig.

The narrator is visiting a dying friend or relative in hospital, and tries to evade his emotions on his way to the ward. When he arrives, he is overcome by grief and anguish, and leaves the visit feeling it has been pointless.

The poem is composed in free verse using a stream of consciousness style and it exposes perplexity in the narrator’s mind and his feelings. This gains our sympathy as we are placed into the same state of affairs as him.

As MacCaig enters the hospital, he feels repulsed by his surroundings and seems to be detached from himself.

“The hospital smell

combs my nostril”.

This unusual metaphor suggests that the antiseptic, potent smell of the disinfected hospital is so strong that it even reaches beyond the roots of the hairs in his nostrils; it shows his discomfort. It hits the narrator straight away more than anything else. He then goes on to say:

 “As they go bobbing along”

This implies that the nostrils are disembodied from him and they are floating along on their own. It suggests he is detached from the experience and shows he is struggling to cope with the situation. This idea is reinforced in stanza three:

“I will not feel, I will not

feel, until

I have to”.

The narrator is trying to reassure himself that he is strong enough to deal with the disturbing visit and the repetition creates a worried and tense atmosphere. “Until I have to” tells the reader that death is inevitable. The staccato rhythm caused by the single syllable words and enjambment in this verse heightens the tension felt by the narrator. This emphasises his finality as well as his confused state of mind.

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“Green and yellow corridors”.

The description of the colours of the wall has connotations of disease, infections and vomit. This shows us once again that he is finding the visit discomforting and uneasy.

As the narrator watches the nurses in the hospital, he can’t help but think highly of them and considers them to possess an angelic quality:

“Nurses walk lightly, swiftly,

here and up and down and there.”

This lexical choice deliberately emphasises the way he thinks that they are remarkable as they are so efficient and seem to be everywhere at once due to their tremendous ...

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