Analysis of Long Distance by Tony Harrison, I Shall Return and The Barrier by Claude McKay
These poems will be compared by the theme, Poetic devices and
structure of the poems.
Harrison's Long Distance explores the theme of death of loved ones
within a family triangle. Most of Harrison's poetry focuses on his
life, such as his working class childhood and family life.
Similarly, in Claude McKay's The Barrier, the theme of the poem is
love for another person, but here it is for someone of the opposite
race. The similarity between this poem and Harrison's Long Distance is
that both people in the poem cannot be with the person they want.
However, in I Shall Return the theme is, again of love but not for a
person, but for McKay's homeland. Claude McKay left Jamaica in 1912.
He moved to America to study farming but instead of studying farming,
he started to support Black working class movements. As a poet, he
became a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
The vast majority of Claude McKay's poetry is written in West Indian
dialect, he also wrote poems in English like 'I Shall Return'.
The themes for all three poems are about love. Long Distance, by Tony
Harrison portrays the love for lost ones within a family triangle.
This is expressed by Harrison when he describes his fathers actions
and how his father still carries out the daily routine even though his
wife is two years dead.
'Though my mother was already two years dead'.
This line shows the reader that this poem is based around the death of
a loved one. Harrison may have tried to portray that something
unordinary may be explained throughout the poem. The love is always
portrayed throughout the poem by the constant emphasis on the actions
of the father.
'Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.'
This line portrays that even after two years; the death of his wife
has not made any impact on his life at all, as well as showing to the
reader the son's disbelief at his father's actions.
Harrison's concentration on his father's actions then continues, when
he expresses how his father clears away his wife's things when people
come round to visit. The reader is given reason to believe that he
does this just to make it look like he has stopped grieving for her
when he really has not.
'You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone...
to clear away her things and look alone.'
The reader is now aware that the father knows that she is dead but he
does not want to stop grieving for her, he therefore clears away her
belongings to look alone. Harrison then adds the last line of what he
thinks his father is thinking.
'as though raw love were such a crime.'
The third quatrain expresses the father's actions while in the...