Friday, April 20, 2012


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After reading ‘Bookends’ by Tony Harrison I have decided to analyse the poem by using Marxist reading as I think the poem has a lot of readings about class. Though it is not clear straight away if you go beneath the depth it becomes clearer. The first introduction to class comes in the seventh line

“The ‘scholar’ me, you worn out on poor pay, only our silence made us seem a pair”. The word ‘scholar’ is written as though it has been said which indicates to me that the father said this to the boy. He could have said it in an envious voice like ‘Oh look at you the scholar, higher than everybody else’

The fact that the son has more education may annoy the father as he is ‘worn out on poor pay’. The father has to struggle but the son has it easier.

The son has more education, which causes a division between the father and son. They are in two different classes, the son being in a higher class than the father because he has education behind him. Education is what caused the rift so therefore mass education is portrayed as a bad thing, because if the son didn’t have more education than father and son may have been closer. “Not the thirty or so years, but books, books, books”. The last line tells me that the age between the father and son isn’t a problem its more the books, and the use of ‘books, books, books’ means all those years of education for the son is between them.

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There are two views on mass education in the poem. One being a negative view, which is against education because if education weren’t there the Son and Father would have more in common because they would both, be of a lower class. The other view is portraying education in a positive light. The son has education so he can now articulate. He can see clearly what is happening between him and his father. He can only do this because he has been educated. The son understands that the father’s life is as good as destroyed, as he has nothing to live for anymore. “Your life’s all shattered into smithereens”. If the father had education than he would have a better life and career like his son.

My personal opinion is that the poem is portraying mass education in a positive light because it is written from the sons view. This tells me that education is a good thing because the son is aware of what is happening between them. “Back in our silences & sullen looks”. “We never could talk much, & now don’t try”. Without education he would not be able to figure this out just like his father cannot. From reading the poem I gather that the father may even be jealous that his son has done so well in life. That is a big part of the problem. Before the mother passed away they never needed to talk. The mother talked for them, now the mother is gone they are forced to make light of the dysfunctional relationship between them. The relationship between them is not normal. The son understands this as he says “only our silence made us seem a pair”. The relationship is not what a ‘normal’ relationship should be like. They should talk and help each other through their grief but they ‘say nothing, sit, sleep, stare”. Though the son is aware of all this he either can’t or wont do anything to help the relationship. He feels there is too much between them as he uses the word ‘books’ three times at the end.

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