Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hi, thanks for all your suggestions, I've made some changes. Sorry but I don't really understand what to do with the end of para 1 because Mr S seemed positve that I have stated the three features I am concentrating on but I do feel that it is very clumsy and something must be done to improve it.

Critical Essay
“You lived in Glasgow”

Choose a poem which explores either the significance of the past or the importance of family relationships.
Show how the poet treats the subject, and explain to what extent you find the treatment convincing.
In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to at least two of: theme, imagery, rhyme, tone, or any other appropriate feature.

“You lived in Glasgow”, by Iain Crichton Smith, is a poem in which the poet describes his fruitless search for traces of his deceased mother which takes place in Glasgow. By embarking on this search the poet wishes to achieve a sense of closure due to the guilt he feels because of his rejection of her culture and beliefs. The poem revolves around the central theme of how “the past’s an experience that we cannot share” and in doing so presents how significant the past is. This is achieved by the use of theme, imagery and also tone.

The poet develops this theme by an early shift in tense from past to present as he embarks on the search for the past. This quick change to present tense shows that the poet’s search has been initiated. There is a reference to the great depression-a major aspect of Glasgow’s past, which occurred due to the Wall Street crash. The “dregs” that the poet mentions represent the unemployed in Glasgow as the useless leftovers, unwanted by society and a nuisance that must be dealt with. Here imagery of cigarette ends are produced to create the impression of the ‘dregs of society’, this of course is a reference to The Depression Glasgow was experiencing at this time, which therefore creates a dreary, depressed tone. The image conjured up by the words "dregs" and "fag-ends" is of poverty and hopelessness, of people rejected by society and struggling to survive on what little they have, the “fag ends” also show the use of a colloquial tone. Through the imagery and tone here, the poet shows that aspects of the past still remain in his mind. “A maxi-skirted girl strolls by” and causes memories of the poet’s mother to be stirred. These long skirts obviously remind the poet of his mother who, presumably , never diverted to wearing mini-skirts which preceded longer skirts as a fashion. This shows that the past can still be seen in Glasgow.

One of the main themes of the poem is of the contrast between continuity and change. For example there is a contrast between the “Stone remains” the statues that have remained from the past (and are therefore permanent) and humans who are temporary. These statues are a significant part of the past as they cause this realisation of the temporariness of human life; this is what the poet is attempting to come to terms with during his search. Another symbol of the past which is used are the trams which are “invisible now but to the mind”-showing that their past presence is still remembered. Also, the significance of their past is that they will probably return at some point as part of life’s cycle. The poet remembers that in the past buildings were lit by gaslight and therefore everything was darker, however “now everything is brighter” as lights are powered by electricity – this is also representative of the poet’s new outlook in life which has become more positive. Also, the “pale ghosts” show the importance of past people as their presence can still be felt; this is shown through the suggestion made to the temporary nature of life, which is another theme of this poem.

In the past the poet rejected his mother’s faith and now, years later, he still feels guilty; therefore it must be significant to him. He sees Calvinism as a “black figure” which was devoid of pleasure. The imagery of “the gaslit blue” is that of the dim light of the past, which contrasts with the “fiercer voltage” of today now that we have electricity. This shows the significance of the past as this image of the “gaslit blue” has remained with the poet throughout the years. The poet feels that “The past’s an experience that we cannot share”, an important theme of the poem, perhaps because he feels the past is so important that full recognition cannot possibly be given to it.

In the third stanza imagery of Glasgow’s past is used. The poet remembers the “Flat-capped Glaswegians and the Music Hall”. Images of working-class male Glaswegians are portrayed and of course a reference is made to the previous forms of entertainment which have now vanished, perhaps due to improvements in living standards and changes in technology. These past sights are clearly significant, as they have remained with the poet over the years. Nowadays commercial supermarkets have ruined the personal relationships Glaswegians had with the street traders who sold “apples and oranges on an open stall”. Through this use of the theme of change it can be seen that in the past the stall sellers were a significant part of everyday life. The poet’s memories are “opening and shutting like a parasol” as these memories come and go as things stimulate his mind. This establishes that aspects of the past can still be found in the city of Glasgow.

The poet feels that his mother is a “constant tenant of my tenement”. The harsh tone used by this alliteration suggests the harsh fact that his mother’s presence still exists; this shows the importance of her past. The theme of change is continued through the use of the “pleasant Wildes” which “have now gone in the building programme”. The poet is almost mourning the past sense of community spirit which was destroyed by the changing of the suburban landscape. This reference made to the theme of change shows the significance of Glasgow’s past. The poet stands “in a cleaner city, better fed”, which shows the city’s progress. Another reference is being made to the significance of the past through the poem’s theme of change. Glasgow’s past will always be remembered, as comparisons will always be made with its present state.

The poet is wearing a tweed, “diced coat” and is therefore a Lewis boy in city clothes. This use of imagery shows that his Calvinist past is so significant, that although he can attempt to forget it through changing his clothes, it will always be a part of him and will always be remembered. The “latest book” he carries is another example of imagery-this shows the significance of his Calvinist past as it was another failing attempt for him to forget his rejection of his mother’s faith.

The poet directly addresses the “dear ghosts” which reinforces the theme of the temporary nature of life that he is attempting to accept. The past of these people is important as their presence can still be felt. Also, the use of “dear” introduces a tender tone – his mother is one of the ghosts therefore he feels incredibly warm towards these past figures. The poet sees Glasgow as a “divided city of green and blue”. This is representative of the divisions that have been made in the city due to the contrasts between Catholic and Protestant and of course the contrast the poet experienced of his mother’s Calvinist religion with his more liberal outlook on life. The theme of continuity is being used as this unpleasant dichotomy still remains in Glasgow to this day and is therefore a vital part of the city’s history. During his search for his mother the poet looks “for her in you” showing his longing and that he is pleading for a sense of closure-another theme of the poem. He still feels guilt for the previous rejection that he made of his mother’s culture showing it is very significant to him. The poet’s “constant aim to find a ghost within a close who speaks in highland Gaelic” is fading. This can be seen through the use of imagery, as the line is fading away with the poet’s hope. The poet is experiencing difficulty to forget his mother’s past and gain a sense of closure, as he will always remember her.

The poet uses a harsh tone when he tells us that “the bulldozer breaks raw bricks to powder”. The resurrection of the city during the building programme was not achieved without pain, which comes out in the use of the word "raw". Glasgow’s previous state is clearly significant as it will always be missed by the inhabitants of the city. Towards the end of the poem Iain Crichton Smith finally accepts that “buildings sail into the future”, and the tone becomes more upbeat showing he has finally accepted that things change. The use of the word “sail” shows confidence and therefore also establishes the optimistic tone. The poet remembers the “old songs you sang”, a symbol of Gaelic culture, which shows that although trends change, the past will always be remembered. In the last line of the poem, the poet reflects on the changes music has experienced over the years, “scale on dizzying scale”. This line is a pun as it reflects on both the pop music that is around at the moment due to the changes music has been through during the years, and also the sheer scale of changes that have occurred. The poet is accepting the changes Glasgow has experienced over the years, and how significant this has been.

In conclusion, “You lived in Glasgow” successfully presents to the reader how significant the past is to everyday life through the poem’s many themes (especially the theme of change and the poet’s struggle to accept this), imagery, and in some aspects, tone. The poet creates a very convincing argument of the importance of the past to readers who cannot help but realise its sheer significance.

1 comment:

Chris said...

"This is achieved by the use of theme, imagery and also tone."
PLEASE find another way to deal with this - I commented on it already! Every poem uses theme, imagery and tone to some degree - it's not worth saying just so as to have it there.
I'll look at the rest when I come home - it's time for bed!