English Literature Coursework - Nostalgia

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Candidate Name: Harris Rasheed                Candidate Number: 79

Compare and contrast three poems from the English Literature Anthology where the speakers of the poems display strong nostalgic thoughts through theme, structure, language, mood and tone of the poems.

Three poems where the speakers show strong nostalgic thoughts for the past are Piano by D.H. Lawrence, Poem at Thirty-Nine by Alice Walker and Crabbit Old Woman by Phyllis McCormack. They all display the common theme of wanting to return to the past, away from the pain, loneliness and the trials and tribulations of adulthood. In this essay, I will analyse how the poets convey their feelings through their use of literary structure, theme, language, mood and tone.

The theme of nostalgia is expressed through each of the three speakers’ different experiences. In Piano, the speaker is taken “back down the vista of years” and re-calls happier memories from his childhood. This happens when he hears a piano being played which is the trigger so that his “manhood is cast/Down in the flood of remembrance”. This indicates that the poet yearns for the past and he feels less of a man when he reminisces. It also suggests that when he remembers his childhood and his memories rush towards him, reducing him to tears. In Poem at Thirty-Nine, the speaker remembers how she “learned to see bits of paper as a way to escape the life he knew”. This shows that she remembers lessons like the value of money, cooking and honesty that her father taught her about life, before his death. In Crabbit Old Woman, the old lady recollects all the main events that took place in her life in chronological order because she wants to make the nurses “look closer” and “see” her and not the “crabbit old woman”. From this analysis, I found Piano to be a more positive response to the past, making it my favourite.

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The structure of the three poems is similar in that all three poems use enjambment mainly to increase the pace of the poets’ recollection. In Piano, D.H. Lawrence uses enjambment as well as rhyming couplets throughout the poem which establishes a smooth flow to his memories and gives rhythm to the poem. This makes it appear to be like the music that is being played from the “Piano”. Poem at Thirty-Nine contains enjambment and short lines which increases the pace of the poem. It is also free verse which suits the conversational tone as the speaker flits from past memories ...

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Five stars This essay is a thorough analysis of the theme, structure, language and tone of the three poems selected. It analyses the effect of the writers' choices and the consequent effect on the reader. A personal response to the texts is included. Points are well-supported with evidence from the text.