Commentary on Two hands Essay

Published: 2021-09-11 19:00:10
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Category: Drama

Type of paper: Essay

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The poem ‘Two hands’, by Jon Stallworthy compares the hands of the persona with those of his father. The son is the voice of the poem and he describes the difference between his father’s hand and his hand. Although these hands are physically similar, expressed in the line “hands so alike – spade palms…” the personalities of owners of the hands, are very different. The title itself, the ‘Two Hands’, represents the two different personalities of the father and the son.
The son on one hand, appears to be a poet. This is supported in the line; “dance with this pencil” where the son’s hand, similar to his father’s, dances. The difference between the hands however is that the father’s hands are described as dancing when performing operations since he is a surgeon, while the son’s hands dance when writing poems. We can already here assume that the persona is the poet himself, mainly because of some clear indications e.g. ‘my father’ and also since Stallworthy obviously is also a poet.
In this poem the son compares his hand with his father’s. The first line itself tells us that the persona’s father is a person with a job that involves a lot of research and studying. In the next two lines we come to learn that the father is a surgeon by profession. The idea of the father being a surgeon is backed up further by the medical diction; ‘scalpel’, ‘stitch’ and ‘Lancet’. Lurking beneath the simple comparing of hands one can find an underlying description of the relationship between the father and the son and their feelings towards each other. The lines “fingers with some style | on paper, elsewhere none” and “I have watched | the other save no one, serve no one, dance with this pencil” hints at resentment as if the son feels inferior to his ‘life saving’ father since he is ‘only’ a poet. He says that he is only good for writing, not for saving lives or helping people.
Also the way the father is described by the son (“thirteen times led a scalpel and intricate dance”) suggests that the son admires and looks up to his father and that he feels that he, himself, is not good enough. Furthermore the lines “Who would have though | hands so alike…would have no more in common” and “I curse | tonight, at the other end of the house” suggest a separation between the father and the son. Stallworthy has deliberately written this “other end of the house” as a metaphor to show the distance between them, not only physically but also in their behaviour.
Stallworthy makes use of several different literary techniques in order to emphasize certain parts of his poem. An example of this can be found in the line “that thirteen times” where the alliteration of the t’s accentuates these words and gives the line a somewhat ‘chatty’ feeling which contributes to the colloquial manner in which this story is told. The same technique is used in the 1st and 2nd lines to draw together the words “study, sits and stiffly” and in order to, perhaps use the word ‘stiffly’ sitting as well as the way ‘the pen nods’. We also see that the persona knows that now he would be under the influence of his father, and feels quite frustrated at being under someone’s mercy.
In his poem, Stallworthy frequently uses enjambment which then is followed by a caesura. An example of this can be found in the lines 9 and 15 where his use of the caesura allows the line’s sense to be clear and it also influences the rhythm as to give it a feeling of natural speech. The punctuation, which comes after, then creates a somewhat informal air. Metaphors are commonly used throughout Stallworthy’s poem in order to create an intricate mood.
In the line “The phone has sobbed itself to sleep” we can find personification (of the phone), assonance (of the o’s) and onomatopoeia (sobbed) which all together leaves the reader with a both magnificent visual and aural image. Another example of this can be found in the line “A spasm shakes the phone at this elbow” where the phone again is personified, this time embodied with a spasm. Once more the use of onomatopoeia (spasm) and assonance of the “o’s” creates a majestic picture. The use of the same techniques, in these two examples, draws the lines together and somewhat unifies them as if the phone at first has gone to sleep, only to wake up later with a spasm.
The poet’s rhyme scheme is a different one and contains both regular and irregular rhyme. The rhyme is regular in the form A,B,B,A – C,D,D,C; except in line 9,12 and 17 where the rhyme is broken which lays special emphasis on these words. Stallworthy has used this rhyme scheme in order to represent and enhance the suppressed and shattered feeling the boy has because of his inferiority complex to his father. Towards the end, in the lines 17-20, the poet has intentionally chosen to weaken the force of the rhyme in order to stress the words and to draw them together.
The last line in the poem creates a sense of finality in the persona’s statement as if he is sure that his father is surely going to leave as soon as he gets a call. “The pencil drops: he will be out again.” He compares his hand to his father’s to show that his hand is immature and not that capable of doing work as fast as his father does. As he is inexperienced in life and is not as skilled as his father in the job of a surgeon he says that his hand moves ‘slow’ as compared to this father’s. Over here he just describes his father’s efficiency in work whereas he is under the supervision of his father.
To conclude, I feel that it is seen how Stallworthy has captured the mood of an inadequate son, suppressed by his father’s ‘superiority’ by using several techniques. The regular rhyme which occasionally is shattered in co-operation with the diction and the various literary techniques, contributes to this atmosphere of insecurity. Stallworthy manages to create something we all can recognize; the feeling of being insufficient, not good enough, and not able to reach the expectations of our authority figures.

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