In Mrs. Tilschers Class by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem in which she explores the themes of childhood and the transition to adulthood.

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In Mrs Tilscher’s Class

‘In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem from her collection, ‘The Other Country’, in which she explores the themes of childhood and the transition to adulthood. The poem is a autobiographical monologue published in 1990. It is based however on her childhood during about 1967. The language she uses is particularly striking in conveying the process of maturing to the turmoil of adulthood.

The poem is structured into 4 stanzas with the first two being octets and the last two being septets. There is no rhyme scheme. Overall, the structure is unconventional and haphazard which could be suggestive of the changes and chaos that occur in the change from childhood to adulthood.

Duffy uses the second person all throughout the poem, which signifies the universality of the theme and opens up to responses from readers. It also insinuates that Duffy is now a different person than she was when she was a child- she is writing from a different perspective about past events. She also uses a lot of evocative imagery and personification to draw comparisons to natural elements. For example, she describes the ‘inky tadpoles’ which are symbols of the innocent children and later depicts the ‘croaking’ frogs, all grown up. It represents the unpleasant transformation. She personifies the sky and the air as well which is ‘feverish’ and ‘untidy’, indicative of the unrest and turbulence of growing to adolescence.

Another noteworthy feature she uses in her language is the caesuras and enjambment. In the first line, for instance, she says ‘You can travel up the Blue Nile’, and in the next line,  ‘with your finger’. The pause adds and element of awe in travelling the Nile. This is abruptly let down by the disclosure that it is simply on a map in a classroom. This brings out the notion of the disillusionment of childhood which is further elaborated on in the rest of the poem. The caesuras used in the phrases ‘This was better than home. Enthralling books.’ and ‘Sugar paper. Coloured shapes.’ show the decisiveness of Duffy’s love of school. The full stops give a finality to her statements. From these three major features of her language, one can see the effect it has on the development of the poem.

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The first stanza describes Duffy’s experience in her teacher, Mrs Tilscher’s, class. This was when she was about 11. The poem begins with the line ‘You could travel up the line’. This shows the immense possibility and lack of physical limitation in the classroom setting. This travelling happens which ‘Mrs Tilscher chanted’. The word ‘chanted’ implies the hypnotic, spellbinding effect Mrs. Tilscher’s narration has on the children. It takes them into a world of imagination and blinds them from reality. The words ‘Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswan.’ Are separated by full stops which create long caesuras. This auditory imagery recounts ...

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