speaker in poems of frances cornford and stephen spender

The poems ‘Childhood’ by Frances Cornford and ‘My Parents’ by Stephen Spender both have a speaker looking back in time. However, they differ significantly in many areas. Such as, in form, as Childhood only has one stanza and My Parents has three, tone, Childhood having a tone of confusion and My Parents with a tone of envy, and also in theme, Childhood portraying the theme of an adult looking back at her ‘helpless’ childhood and My Parents looking at the sheltered life of a child in middle compared to the unsheltered life in working class.

The form of Childhood and My Parents is significantly different. Childhood is set out with one stanza and uses rhyming couplets, however in the last four lines the couplets are changed because of the Volta. In the poem Childhood, punctuation is very important in portraying the tone of the speaker, for example before the Volta the line is shorter than others and also has a full stop to create a dramatic pause. My Parents, however, is written in three stanzas with no rhyme.

There is also little punctuation throughout the poem and therefore creates a faster poem. Childhood and My Parents differ significantly in their tone. The speaker of Childhood, which could be assumed as an adult looking back at their childhood, begins the poem with a tone of confusion when she states ‘I used to think’. However, throughout the poem the speaker understands the idea that no matter what age, everyone is in a sense of childhood. This is shown when the speaker says ‘and I knew then that she was helplessly old, as I was helplessly young’.

My Parents, however, begins with a fearful tone, which is shown when the speaker repeats ‘I feared’. However, as the poem goes on a sense on envy appears when the speaker says ‘I longed to forgive them’. The themes of Childhood and My Parents also differ extensively. Childhood embraces the idea that no matter what age everyone is in a sense of childhood. The speaker discovers this by realising that being either old or young there is a sense of helplessness, this is implied by the image of ‘great-aunt Etty’s friend’ crawling trying to get her onyx beads, which ould signify regression back to her youth. My Parents, however, has an entirely different theme, this poem focuses on the sheltered life of a middle classed child who envies the unsheltered lives of children in working class. In the first and second stanzas of the poem the speaker describes the difference between the life working class children were living. By the third stanza, the speaker implies that he could be envious of the life that the other children have, this is shown by him stating,‘I longed’.

In conclusion, Childhood and My Parents both have a speaker looking back in time, however they differ significantly in their form, as Childhood only contains one stanza whereas My Parents has three, their tone, the speaker in Childhood implies the sense of confusion which then switches to the idea of understanding, they also differ with their themes, Childhood implies the idea that no matter what age everyone has a sense of childhood, however My Parents is about the envy of a child in the middle class, which is very sheltered and controlled, to children in the working class, which is less sheltered and controlled.

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