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In `Harmonium', Armitage presents an awkward relationship between a weak, aging gfather and
his embarrassed son, who finds it difficult to express his feelings. Whereas, in `Praise Son', Nichols
portrays the love an appreciation a daughter feels for her inspirational mother, suggesting that
despite physical separation, they are still as close as the you before.
Armitage presents the importance of the speaker's father and the harmonium is to him-how
closely they belong to his heart.
"But its hummed harmonics still struck a chord."
`Struck a chord' is usually a saying which usually describes an experience that has had an impact on
someone and stayed in their memory for a long time. This suggests that the harmonium has had an
impact for a long time, which is suggested by the `still'. `Still' also shows that the speaker still values it
for memories he was provided with when he was younger. `Struck a chord' is also a pun because the
harmonium cab play chords. `Struck' suggests a sudden or surprising action, so Armitage could be
showing surprise at the effect of the instrument on the speaker. In the stanza before Armitage
describes how old, weary but experienced the harmonium is; `ages the harmonium's softwood case',
which brings to mind a casket, which could be interpreted as a coffin, suggesting that the harmonium
is on the brink of death. This could be paralleled to his father-Armitage presents the father also as
old and worn-own, not being able to look after his son as he can earn a living for himself and provide
for himself, but they still have a strong bond.
Nichols, similarly to Harmonium, uses a metaphor to describe the importance of a mother to a
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming'
We cannot survive without water and it makes up around two-thirds of our body-so Nichols tries
to show that the mother of the speaker is an essential part of her daughter. `Fathoming' suggests
that her mother helped her to `fathom'-understand and work out life. This connects to the next
stanza; "You were moon's eye to me'. The moon influences tides, which is what the water could be
seen as, which implies that the speaker's mother was a big influence on her. Many of this poem's
metaphors seem to link to vital processes needed for life, comparing it to the Caribbean; Caribbean
islands are surrounded by water of which the tides are affected by the moon, and the water contains
fish which need gills in order to breathe and survive, just like how the speaker feels- breathing is a
reflex action and something you take for granted, so perhaps the narrator took her mother for
granted and didn't realise how vital her mother was before she left. `You were' implies that her
mother is dead.. `The crab's leg/fried plantain smell' is another Caribbean- a Caribbean speciality.
Nichols shows that her mother was like the `fried plantain smell' to her. Food is also important to
sustain life. Nichols simply shows how important the mother was the speaker.
In Harmonium, Armitage describes the shock he feels when his father jokes about his own death;
"And I, being me, then mouth in reply some shallow or sorry phrase or word
too starved of breath to make itself heard."
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It is quite a long sentence without a pause, which means that when read out loud the reader
quickly becomes `starved of breath' too, which emphasises the speaker's feelings. Literally, it could
be because the harmonium is too heavy, or it could be the shock at the thought of losing his father.
Armitage presents a father who is very blunt, and makes it obvious that the son does not have his
father's humour, because it's `he, being him' and I.…read more