'Compare the Different Moods, Themes and Ideas Created in the 'Childhood'


Main Point 1 - The idea of contrast between the vibrancy, naivety, and excitement of childhood as in poems such as “Half Past Two” and “Hide and Seek”.

Sub point A:     The excitement, childishness and naivety portrayed by ‘playing the game’ and ‘losing yourself’ in the moment, there is a sense that time ‘flies’ when a  child is enjoying themselves.

Evidence:         “She said he’d done Something Very Wrong”

Explain:           Fanthrope’s capitalization of “She” in addition to “Something Very Wrong” a hyperbolic sense that the persona is in of what the young boy had done and that even though the persona has forgotten – the act must have been really bad as “Very” and “Wrong” are capitalized to emphasize this. Furthermore the inclusion of simplistic language for instance “Something Very Wrong” accentuates the simplicity of the boy further showing his youth but additionally this also shows that the persona also maintains the particular theme of innocence and naivety through the free indirect discourse in which the persona describes the boy being punished as “Something Very Wrong” rather than describing what the boy had this, which makes the boy and the persona seem more innocent and naïve as well as indicating that the persona himself is also young. The free indirect discourse of the persona also enables the persona to take on the point of view of the child and converse through the child’s language.


Evidence:         ”Beyond onceupona,out of reach of all the timefors,”

Explain:           Fanthrope utilizes made-up childish language to emphasize a sense of childishness and youth. By having the persona mention that the boy had waited “beyond onceupona” makes the readers recall an image of a fairytale or childhood stories and lore this therefore reaffirms the sense of childishness as story-telling was a common part of childhood which the reader can then relate to. Fanthrope reinforces the sense that time races away through the fact that the boy is “beyond” time and the “onceupona” as well as being “out of reach of all the timefors” which therefore creates a ephemeral sense of eternal childishness and enjoyment through being lost in his imagination.


Evidence:         Gettinguptime, timeyouwereofftime, Timetogohomenowtime, Tvtime”

Explain:           Fanthrope applies these clustered words into phrases to portray a sense of naivety by which the persona cannot differentiate between ‘real’ and ‘proper' time and time that is an everyday routine act.  This signifies to the naivety and the innocence that the persona and other children has. By clustering the words this also puts emphasis on the childishness and that the persona and the boy have some sense of excitement towards the different “times” to do things. This also emphasizes childishness as the Childs time is opposed to adult time which is exact and based on a clock, because the child’s time is broken down by events show that he has not yet learned to tell time in the correct way.


Evidence:         “I’m ready! Come and find me!”

Explain:           The short phrases “I’m ready!” and “Come and find me!” consist of two to four words showing excitement with the addition of exclamation marks to signify the anticipation of a young child playing hide and seek.  The words are also very simple and are what young children say when they play the game.



Sub point B:     Childhood is full of life and vibrancy, the children are not aware of the real world and are therefore naïve.

Evidence:         “I’ve won!”

Explain:           Throughout the poem, we assume that the third person persona is a mature adult looking back at the young boy and sometimes using a first person voice to recollect or rather reminisce the memories and the excitements by using free indirect discourse allowing the persona to take on the perspective of the excited child at times for example in “I’ve won” which shows his naivety as well as his excitement thinking that he had won the game. The free indirect discourse helps the persona portray to the readers the naivety, innocence, simplicity as well as the excitement more vibrantly.


Evidence:         “Here I am! Come and own up I’ve caught you!”

Explain:           This in another example of how Scannell uses exclamation marks as punctuation to stress out the excitement after thinking that he has won the game. Moreover the simple language: “I’ve caught you” and “Here I am” signifies to the simplicity of the young persona. This is the climax where the persona has built up all their excitement.



Main Point 2 - The more duplicitous, and corrupted present/ reality in the poems, “Piano”, “Once upon a time” and “A mother in a Refugee Camp”, which gives the persona a sense of nostalgia and longing for the past and their childhood as a source of hope.

Sub point A:     A need for a chance to change and go back to how things used to be and the fact that in a sense the children or childhood is hope.

Evidence:         “So show me, son how to laugh; show me how I used to laugh and smile once upon a time when I was like you”

Explain:           This is somewhat a plea for help in which the persona has realized that he/she has become corrupted and through the use of numerous pronouns the poet – Okara expresses how the persona is wants to feel his past strongly and is desperate to become who he used to be. The persona wants to be like “I” an individual and not the “they”; the persona longs for the re-emergence of individuality.


Evidence:         “former life – a little daily act of no consequence”

Explain:           Achebe depicts a tragic sense by comparing that prior to how life is now the things she once did were merely a routine act which was no important and had no consequences but is now contrasted with the present in which it is only a tragic memory. The phrase “daily act” suggests that before there was no fear – no consequence but now the only connection she has to the “formal life” is a memory which evokes pathos as we learn that before the woman could take care of her baby but all she could do now is to try to hold on but in vain as her child is dying. By mentioning their “formal life” also makes it seem like it was a completely different life ago that strongly contrasts to how it is now therefore intensifies the horrific image of how things of “no consequence” now means the world to the woman.


Evidence:         “In her eyes the memory of a mothers pride.”

Example:          This signifies how intense and strong a mothers mutual love for her child and because of this she yearns for her past before all the tragedy. The “memory” in her eyes is a symbolic metaphor in which people believe that eyes are the windows to our souls and her memory is her soul. There is desperation to hang on to the things they once had – she wants to hang on to her memory with her soul.


Evidence:         “Teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!””So show me, son”

Explain:           Okara depicts a strong visual image using a metaphor to bring to life an image of an animalistic reptile which connotes a two-faced, slimy creature that is violent. This can also lead to a biblical image of evil and deceit as it develops into the idea of Adam and Eve which is relevant because at first Adam and Eve were also innocent but they were mislead by the snake – in which initially Eve was fooled first and she went on to deceive Adam which shows a cycle of sinful behavior. The son in the poem is therefore like redemption for the sins – the son becomes a path to salvation.


Sub point B:     The strong sense of melancholy nostalgia in which the persona yearns for the past

Evidence:         “She would soon have to forget”

Explain:           Here there is a sense where there is no chance the ellipses used gives an idea of fading away creating a sense that things are abruptly taken away but she does not want to forget.


Evidence:         “Humming in her eyes”

Evidence:         Metaphorically speaking the women remembers the daily routines in which she used to be able to do for her child but is now doing it simply from a memory.


Evidence:         “Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see a child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings.”

Explain:           Here Lawrence reconstructs an image in which the music has taken him back through a nostalgic view, as if walking down a path in which he is actually imagining an idealized image of his home in the past – this is an romanticized picture which puts prominence on the fact that this was a pleasant memory for him where he is taken back – the tone is nostalgic and calming.


Evidence:         “Poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings

Explain:           From what we know Lawrence has a strong bond with his mother but their relationship is poignant as he had helped her overdose on sleeping pills, therefore this image of his remembrance is tinged with sadness and the tone is somewhat melancholy as he looks back on his past.


Evidence:         “insidious mastery of song”

Explain:           The fact that the Lawrence uses the adjective “insidious” to describe the way the song was played gives a subtle sense of sneaking which can be interpreted as his memories sneaking back to him, even “in spite” of himself (as though he does not want to remember) he cannot help but be nostalgic and he cannot escape the past.


Evidence:         “Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong”

Explain:           The persona “weeps to belong” showing an overwhelming nostalgia of wanting to return to the comforting past and “home” in which we therefore get an implication that his current life is lacking what he had in his childhood.


Evidence:         “So show me, son how to laugh; show me how I used to laugh and smile once upon a time when I was like you”

Explain:           By asking the son to “show” the persona how to be the person he used to be conveys a sense of nostalgia of wanting to return to a better person.


Evidence:         “The glamour of childish days upon me, my manhood is cast”

Explain:           Because the childhood memory is “glamorous” there is a sense of an attracting childhood which is almost like an illusion unlike the common connotations of “glamour” which is fancy and such. Furthermore despite the “appassionato” of the piano is loud he is so overwhelmed that the sounds have faded and for the persona the centre of attention Is the “childish days”. Furthermore the nostalgia is so strong that it unmans the persona casting away his manhood because he is drying (stereotypes of a male that they are tough and do not cry)


Evidence:         “down the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.”

Explain:           This phrase is so overwhelming as “flood” is usually a gigantic and destructive force of water and when compared to remembrance we has presented with the idea that the memories are so strong they have swept him away and bringing him to tears as Lawrence how the persona weeps “like a child” – there is an irony where the persona is weeping like a child when he is truly weeping about himself.



Main Point 3 - The essences of identity present in “Prayer before birth” “Hide and seek” and “Once upon a time” where identity itself has been challenged or in a way sullied by society and how adulthood can ruin this purity creating a world in which there is dishonesty and that childhood is threatened by this harshness.

Sub point A: The cruel, harsh, sinister reality of the real world portrayed in “Prayer before Birth” and “Once Upon a Time”

Evidence:         “Once upon a time”

Explain:           “Once upon a time” has connotations of a fairy tale as something of the past and something that does not exist anymore creating this sense that all these things “once upon a time” could not and would not exist in modern day as reality is sinister and harsh, the opening phrase foreshadows what the persona is about to say and also makes it infinite that this was something that had existed before but not anymore.


Evidence:         “Only laugh with their teeth”

Explain:           Okara uses this metaphor to apply a sense of pretense in society and that society itself is emotionless and false.  The word “only” makes it seem that the persona is disappointed, and that laughing with their teeth is not good enough. The word “teeth” also has connotations eating and tearing apart which shows an animalistic feature creating a sense that people are losing their identities and their selves by becoming increasingly savage. The “T” also has a harsh consonant emphasizing the menacing image.


Evidence:         “search behind my shadow”

Explain:           The word behind signifies to the people being duplicitous, as the word behind has connotations of being sinister or hiding. Searching his shadow also makes it seem that they are searching for his weakness.


Evidence:         “Bloodsucking bat” “Club-footed ghoul”

Explain:           These images are closely associated to childhood fears. The baby’s childish fears of supernatural horror signify how the unborn baby is innocent and oblivious to the knowing of the sinister, harsh cruel reality of the world. Moreover by beginning with the mention of the supernatural horrors, shows a relation to childhood fear while progressing chronologically through the poem.


Evidence:         “trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me”

Explain:           This part of the poem signifies to what the baby wants the world to be and this is the environment that the baby wants to grow up in and not the cruel, sinister reality. Also this part of the poem is significantly shorter than other stanza which emphasizes that the hope for a better world is pointless and that there’s very little of what the baby wants compared to the reality. Nevertheless “trees” and “sky” have connotations of nature and freedom and that is what is evidently lacking in the real world and the sinister society.


Sub point B:     The persona is becoming corrupted and tainted by those around him like dishonesty, lies etc.

Evidence:         repetition of “I have learned”

Explain:           The fact that Okara mentions that the persona has “learned many things” and to “wear many faces” shows that the persona him/herself have admitted that they have become deceiving. To say that he learned to “wear many faces” emphasizes this sense of duplicitous and that the persona is conforming, earlier on in the poem the pronouns used was “they” but has slowly progressed to “I” showing the persona is conforming and has become corrupted by society through learning how to be pretentious harboring different faces which is essentially his identity – the persona has lost himself. Using “I have learned” as a motif therefore reinforces this fact throughout.


Evidence:         homeface, officeface, streetface, hostface, cocktail face”

Explain:           This depicts a “two-faced” image but to another extreme. The persona has lost his/her identity by learning all the different faces he/she has been corrupted and cannot show a genuine face. The listing emphasizes how even in everyday situations society has corrupted the persona to such a degree that because the person’s identity is lost even at home the persona cannot show a genuine face but a fake one.


Evidence:         “I used to be” “I was like you”

Explain:           Here the persona is strongly trying to convince us that “once upon a time” he too has been sincere and genuine but has changed because of society.


Evidence:         “conforming smile”

Example:          This shows that society itself has changed, everyone wants to fit in and to do so they conform losing their individuality and identity.


Evidence:         “Fixed portrait smile”

Explain:           Okara illustrates using imagery a sense of a portrait in which as readers we can relate to the fact that a portrait is lifeless, it captures only a single moment in time and because it is manmade it is unnatural. The painting reflects the persona’s identity that is gone leaving only unnatural and forced feelings and emotions – capturing only one part of the persona which is falseness.


Evidence:         Repetition of smile

Explain:           Firstly the connotation of smile is happiness and genuine positive feelings however this is contrasted with how in the poem this is not true. The repetition of smile echoes what ‘used to be’ but because it is used a lot it has lost its meaning and is no longer meaningful or genuine.


Evidence:         “I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me”

Explain:           MacNeice uses this to depict an image of society towering this fragment of a child in which has not yet been born but is afraid of how society can corrupt them. The monosyllabic phrase “tall walls wall” shows a rhyming pattern to emphasize monotony and conforming as well as an image that the walls are overwhelming the child and restricting its freedom and identity much like how walls between people restrict their freedom and understanding.


Evidence:         “Strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me”

Explain:           The persona mentions that he/she fear that the “strong drugs” will dope him/her which displays an image of inescapable and overwhelming negative sides of society which once again restricts and corrupts. Because it is “strong” also makes it seem harder to avoid creating a sense of impending forces trying to strip the persona of his/her identity. Furthermore the mention of “wise lies” that lure the persona also reinforces this cunning and sly image of society that wants people to conform and as a result infinitely losing their identities to these “lies”.


Evidence:         “would dragoon me into a lethal automation”

Explain:           The metaphor suggests being forced to do something, by comparing the persona to a “lethal automation” further reinforces how there is a lack of life and vibrancy, to compare the persona to a machine connotes lifelessness, and monotony and to mention “lethal” also means emotionless and lifeless in addition to lacking mercy and is deadly.


Evidence:         “old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me”

Explain:           this creates a sense that society and all things around persona are pressurizing him/her and forcing the persona to in a sense become one of them – to become corrupted by their “lectures” and if not so to “hector” the persona creating a sense of misery.


Sub Point C:    A sense of longing to find oneself in poems such as “once upon a time”, “prayer before birth” and “hide and seek”.

Evidence:         “I am not born yet”

Explain:           MacNeice expresses the sense of longing to find oneself by having the persona constantly mention throughout the extract “I am not born yet” to indicate that because the persona is not born yet the persona needs to somewhat find themselves and their identity. Each stanza in the poem starts off with “I am not born yet” and is followed by requests such as “O hear me”, “provide me”. “forgive me” and as such to depict a sense that the persona is pleading for society to listen and to show the persona’s true identity without having the world around him/her corrupt the persona.


Evidence:         “rehearse me”

Explain:           The persona is crying out for a plea to help him/her find themselves, to “rehearse” and learn of society “in the parts” that the persona “must play and “cues” that the persona must take showing that the persona is seeking for a place and purpose for when the persona is born. There is a sense of yearning to “play” a part in society but more significantly the persona is actually appealing to us as readers to help him/her to fend themselves against the oppressors in society (old men, bureaucrats).


Evidence:         “I want to unlearn”

Explain:           In ‘once upon a time’ the persona mentions that he wants to “unlearn” all the “muting things” the things that had: corrupted him; changed him for the worse and is once again seeking for his true and sincere self that he used to be.


Evidence:         “come and find me”

Explain:           In the game of hide and seek the fundamentals are that the seeker has to seek out each of the players of the game, in the poem ‘Hide and Seek’ the persona is very devoted towards the game and is waiting for his/her friends to come and find the persona however the truth is that one cannot expect others to find them, you have to find yourself and reveal your own personality in a sense.



Main Point 4 - Childhood maintains a sense of preciousness and purity which can easily be taken away or damages as shown in poems such as “Mother in a Refugee camp” and “Prayer before birth”.

Sub Point A:    The preciousness and purity of the bond between mother and child

Evidence:         “No Madonna and Child could touch”

Explanation:     There is a reference to Christianity which compares the mother to an iconic and caring figure. The depicts how the image is pure due to the comparison to a religious aspect as well as showing an unconditional love of mother and child


Evidence:         She took from her bundle of possessions”

Explanation:     This shows that there is scarcity in security but throughout of this the “bundle” keeps the mother and child together which portrays a sense of closeness.


Evidence:         “Rust colored hair left on his skull”

Explain:           The fact that the baby’s hair is “rust colored” gives off a sense that there is decay and that life is seeping away which creates a tragic image giving off pathos to the readers. The poet carefully chooses to use to word “skull” rather than “head” to symbolize death and that the baby is dying – there is hollowness but despite this the mother will continue to comb the hair of what is left of her child.


Evidence:         “A mother who smiles as she sings”

Explanation:     In a sense although the mood is nostalgic there is also a feeling of tender loving of a mother and child - this is similar to how in ‘A mother in a refugee camp’ in childhood the role of a mother is very significant and the mutual bond is also very strong.