Babysitting by Gillian Clarke

Notes on Babysitting by Gillian Clarke

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  • Created on: 27-04-11 19:08
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Babysitting by Gillian Clarke
Main Ideas
Tells of when she was babysitting and how as the baby is not her own she cannot love her,
and how she cannot replace her mother, as the baby will still feel abandoned
The powerful tie between a mother and child which cannot be replaced
Fear for this child with whom she cannot bond with, and the feelings of abandonment which
the babysitter cannot prevent
Sympathy with a baby who will not be able to understand her suffering, making it worse
Two stanzas, first tells of babysitters feelings, second of baby's.
Relaxed rhythm, some iambic pentameter e.g. lines 17-18 gives thoughtful sound, adds to
emotions in the poem.
Told in first person, and present tense, so reader feels as if they are there, and gives a sense
of panic as it is a current situation, the ending is unknown
Repetition of "wrong" emphasises how strange the situation is, and that there is a right baby
Enjambment over lines 2 & 3 suggest she doesn't love at all, then next line reveals it is just
this baby she does not love
Alliteration of "s" sounds soft and loving, showing a knowledge of babies and general
acceptance of them
Caesura after statement "I am afraid of her." Allows reader to pause and reflect on this
strange statement, following a gentle description
Long sentence (enjambment) over lines 7-10 gives a panicked sound, like the poet trying to
deal with the screaming baby she does not love
"Perfume/ of her breath will fail to enchant me" suggests something pleasant she wants to
but cannot appreciate, not that it is horrible. Implies Clarke knows the experience of being
enchanted by a baby's breath
Enjambment over lines 11-12 means "Abandonment" comes as a shock to the reader.
Alliteration of "absolute / Abandonment" shows a complete feeling of loss
Comparison to adult experiences of loss, perhaps suggesting that the confused pain of the
baby is worse than the knowing pain she may experience as an adult.
Repetition of "It will not come. It will not come." Shows how the baby will find neither milk nor
comfort as Clarke is not her mother


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