Analysis of a 'A Minor Role' by UA Fanthorpe

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UA Fanthorpe

  • was known for writing 'clear-eyed humane poems'
  • born 1929
  • she became a receptionist at a psychiatric hospital
  • war-time childhood
  • on the surface her poetry seems to encapsulate those traditional, stoic English values we associate with the period
  • England and Englishness are central themes of her work- but such reading misses the wit and sly debunking of national myth which mark Fanthorpe's sensibility 
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Tile ' A Minor Role' and Verse One

  • poem's subject is ambigious , is she an ill person or suppporting someone who is ill
  • the whole poem is metaphorical
  • A Minor Role- suggest unimportance or irrelevant to actual play 
  • Poet remains reader of Shakespeare's 'All the World's a Stage' 

Verse One

  • 'I am best observed on stage,' - theatre - first person/ direct talking
  • distance , objective perspection
  • 'Propping a spear'- metaphorical , impendining weaponary
  • 'endless ( next line), Exits and entrances' - enjambment 
  • Phatic talk
  • 'These midget moments'- alliteration -idea that job is more important than people think- idea of minor or small
  • 'the monstrous fabric' -negative - people's reaction / people will notice if she makes a mistake
  • monstrous - frightening 
  • 'Shrinks to unwanted sniggers' - everyone will be horrible and judge her 
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Verse Two and Verse Three

  • 'But my heart's in the the unobtrusive'- passive/ supportive
  • 'Veteran magazines '- linking to war / a magazine for older people 
  • 'asking pointed Questions politely' - trying to make a point - her experience
  • 'Dates'- being on time
  • 'Substaining the background music of civility' - illness is starting to show , langauge shows how she has dealt with the serious illness 
  • musical stage metaphor
  • she is trying to maintain nomaility
  • covering up true meaning 

Verse Three

  • Walking fast in case anyone stops' - physicial evasion 
  • 'O getting on, getting better my formula' - lingustical evasion
  • indirectness of politness in italics covering up true meaning
  • not wanting to interact- does not want to tell the truth 
  • practising what to say - use of 'O' makes it more Shakesperean 
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Verse Four and Verse Five

  • 'Contrive meals for a hunger -striker' - symantic field of conflict- someone who is not eating 
  • 'Whimisical soft-centred happy-all -the -way through novels;' - reading to or books given to someone who is ill - of a superficial or unrealistic nature
  • 'Find the cat ( mysteriously reassuring)' - a little thing -without languate -so cannot judge her
  • 'Cancel things, tidy things ; pretend all's well,' - imperitives - giving orders to herself thoughout - ongoing list is not fluent 

Verse Five 

  • 'Learn to conjugate all the genres of misery:' - change, linguistical change
  • Cesura ' Tears, torpor , boredome , lassitude ( weariness )'
  • this is the reality of her dellusion 
  • she is accepting what is happening
  • For a simpler illness, like a broken leg.' - ironic also as maybe it is easier to portray a broken leg on stage and also the theatre saying 'don't break a leg' e.g a lucky break
  • suggests the illness is either mental or terminal
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Verse 5 and Verse 6

  • Enduring ceremonial delays.' - sense of ongoing state -things which are expected to be done - which are all meaningless
  • 'saying Thank You' -very english trait ( to say it just for the sake of politeness )- civility- cynical
  • 'For anything and everything' - suggests unsatisfactory- like playing a part -direct
  • 'Not the star part.' - discarded
  • 'I jettison the spear' - theatre props- war terminology 
  • 'the terrible drone of Chorus' - part of play - narrator in Greek plays 
  • 'Yet to my thinking this act was ill-advised it would have been better to die'-  quoted from Oedipus Rex 
  • 'No it wouldn't!' - overall the person wants to live despite the repetative nature of the illness/situation they are in
  • the poet is rejecting the quotation 
  • Final Line ' I am here to make you believe in life '- poet's thoughts on life suggests they have a purpose - they may be a helper 
  • on its own it is a direct statement that contrasts to the euphemistic politeness seen elsewhere in the poem 
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Thoughts on poem's ending

  • Odedipus Rex is a Greek play / a Freudian concept -of the mother/son relationship called the  Odedipus Complex
  • the Chorus in this play laments that even a great man can be settled by fate and that it is better to die than to live in a physical or metaphorical blindness 
  • the end of this play suggests the the women has a reason for being there and that life is a stage ( just like the Shakespeare text)
  • metaphorically the idea of not wanting to see the truth ( prophesy) can be interpreted from this poem 
  •  or that life is not literature or a metaphor to be lived 
  • the concept of speaking truthfully instead of thorugh euphemisms - employing language to hid what is really happening 
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