"Breathless" Poetry Analysis (Wilfrid Noyce)

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Wilfred Noyce                                Breathless

In the poem ‘Breathless’, Noyce expresses the great difficulty and exhaustion he faces while attempting to climb a mountain. The poem shows the long distance and steepness of the hike that Noyce has trouble conquering. However, this poem does not focus the physical difficulty, instead opting to show his emotional turmoil, and the conflict within himself.

The poem is not aligned properly, but is narrow and tall to resemble the steepness and shape of the mountain Noyce is facing. By turning the poem to the side, we can see a very rough path with many upwards and downwards slopes. This can also shows that Noyce’s road ahead is not smooth, and he will have to face many difficulties. ‘Breathless’ is a free-verse poem, with no actual pattern. The lack of structure shows how exhausted the poet is while climbing the 21,200 feet. There are also no stanzas in the poem, and the poet opts for one unbroken unit, resembling the long and seemingly endless journey that he is currently facing. In the poem, Noyce mostly uses short sentences and monosyllabic words. It shows that he is winded because of the long journey that he is currently facing, leaving him breathing in short, ragged gasps. The short sentences can also be used to conserve space, just like the poet is trying to conserve his breath when scaling the mountain, as there is ‘hardly enough breath’ (scant, line 4). The full-stops can also be seen as indications of when the poet stops to take a breath. Finally, the poem has a circular structure, with the first and last four sentences being repetitive, which shows that Noyce’s journey seems never-ending.

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The tone of the poem is conflicting. For one, the use of imperatives throughout the poem shows the poet’s determination to succeed in climbing the mountain. The phrase ‘don’t look up’ in line 19 is one example of Noyce’s use of imperatives, ordering himself not to look up so as to keep his morale up. On the other hand, the poet also seems hopeless and exhausted. In line 6, the question ‘why at all?’ is rhetorical. It implies that the poet’s attempts to climb the mountain are futile, and that he will never succeed. The poem clearly shows both the ...

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