Revision: The field mouse by Gillian Clarke

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The Field Mouse by Gillian Clarke
Themes: Politics, Danger, Imagery
Main Ideas:
Set at harvest time in the early 90's; there's a war going on in the former-Yugoslavia.
Throughout the poem Clarke feels guilty because the UK didn't help with the war.
Stanza 1: Describes a peaceful summer's day, the poet's family are cutting hay on a farm
Stanza 2: A child comes over holding a dying mouse this makes the poet thing about the
innocent victims of the war who are often children, weak and vulnerable.
Stanza 3: The poet has a nightmare about her neighbour attacking her and her children;
this is like the situation in Yugoslavia where people turned on their friends.
Thought and feelings:
o "We know it will die..." ­ Clarke is worried about the children in Yugoslavia. Also
suggests helplessness as Clarke can't save the mouse or prevent events in
o "Summer in Europe, the field's hurt, and the children kneel in long grass, staring at
what we have crushed." ­ Use of the word "We" suggests that the war is our joint
responsibility but the UK didn't help. The adults feel guilt which is played up by the
children's innocence. These lines also compare the chopping of hay to the bombs
in Yugoslavia.
o "The field lies bleeding" ­ Damaging the earth hinders the children's future.
o "We can't face the newspapers" ­ The people can't face finding out about the full
horror of the war.
o "All night I dream the children dance in grasses..."- Clarke is scared that her own
children will suffer like the children in Yugoslavia.
Varying line lengths ­ To suggest that there is no order in a war-torn country.
No set rhythm ­ pattern of natural speech as if Clarke was talking to the reader.
Irony: "Far from the radio's horrible news" ­ The farmers believe they have escaped the
horrors of the war; but "The air hums with jets" reminding them that they can't escape it.
Euphemism: "Finish it off" ­ Clarke avoids using `kill' or `murder' as she feels guilty for
causing its death.
Onomatopoeia: "The air stammering with gunfire" ­ This creates the sound of a gun firing.
Simile: "Their bones brittle as mouse-ribs." ­ The children are weak and vulnerable like the
mouse in the field.

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The long grass is a snare drum" ­ Double meaning => "Snare" means trap. Also, the
"Drum" reminds the reader of troops marching into battle.
o "Two sparks burning...the star goes out in its eye." ­ The mouse's death is a
metaphor for the innocent children dying in the war. The "Star" in the mouse's eye
suggests a loss of beauty and innocent which Yugoslavia has also lost.
o "His hands a nest" ­ Suggests a desire to care and protect.…read more


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