On a Portrait of a Deaf Man Notes

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Nabilah Chowdhury, 11Ra _ 1
On a portrait of a deaf man [John Betjeman]
Structure and form
Jaunty rhythm though verses move from life to death e.g. "loud" to "shroud"
Stanza's switch from past to present
Poet is preoccupied with ongoing process of decomposition
Attempting to come to terms with it - evident through juxtapositions
Uncomplicated, straightforward language
Indicates that he thinks that his father was undeserving of such a fate
Lack of euphemisms (avoiding unpleasant words) shows him as being more direct about the nature
of death e.g. "finger bones sticking on end"
5 senses: Stanza's-
1st ­ Visual 2nd ­Taste 3rd ­ Sound, "silent walk" 5th ­ Smell, "ploughed soil" 6/7th ­ Touch
Audience gains full appreciation through senses
Sensory detail makes grotesque thoughts of death seem even more horrific
"Egg shaped head"
Fragile + vulnerable BUT also empty + hollow nothing left inside of him b/c dead
"Discreetly loud"
Inner life/hidden depth
Oxymoron implies father's fashion was only noticeable by loved ones
"London clay come in"
Poets disillusionment (disappointment)of God to surface obliquely (indirectly)
"Hangs on Highgate Hill"
Alliteration adds to the fear
Conjures up macabre images of executions
"I only see decay"
Obsessed with the finality of death
No longer gains nostalgic comfort from fond memories of father
His happy memories of his father indicates that one should cherish the time they have left because there is
nothing left after death, only "decay".
Extremes of moods created. A pattern develop from happy images, "Kind old face", and is then brutally undermined
by the death imagery which bordering on horror, "maggots in his eyes".
Case history: Alison (Head Injury)-
GCSE English Literature: Poetry Ms

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Nabilah Chowdhury, 11Ra _ 2
Present Alison is entirely different to past Alison. Betjeman shows difference between past and present
versions of his father.…read more


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