Exploration of Family Relationships in The Sick Equation, Looking For Dad, and Long Distance
Analysing the poems "The Sick Equation" and "Looking for Dad" by Brian
Patten, it can be observed that both texts share the theme of loss,
family relationships and separation. Another poem with this theme is
"Long Distance " by Tony Harrison.
In these poems, the writers' feelings and emotions are similarly
conveyed through their use of linguistic devices and techniques.
Although the poems are alike in theme and meaning, the situations,
language, style and structure are very different.
The poem "The Sick Equation" relates how the poet missed out on so
many opportunities with love in his life, as a result of the influence
that his parents' crumbling relationship has had on him. After
experiencing his parents' unhappy marriage as a child, he became
convinced that every relationship would end up in conflict, misery and
hurt. He therefore denies and rejects any love that comes his way.
The poem is written in free verse and every alternate line rhymes.
Gaps between verses are used to emphasise the passing of time. This
reflects how the poet's feeling change in each verse. This particular
structure is effective, because it allows it to be more emotional; if
it were to rhyme, the emphasis would be more on the words, thought and
feelings of the poet.
In the first line, Patten states the obvious: "In school I learned
that one and one make two". The poet is saying that as a child, you
learn the basic rules of love: that one person and another make up a
relationship. However, he then says: "Parental hate is where I learned
that one and one stayed one". He is remarking that his observation at
home, surrounded by "parental hate", was that his parents had not
become a couple; they remained individuals, separate and at war with
each other. The poet's feelings are subtly conveyed here, hinting at
the misery he felt as a child watching his parents' unhappiness.
Pattern uses a metaphor in the title-"sick", referring to the equation
he had been taught in school that one person and another makes two.
His irony is evident. It shows how his own childhood experience led
him to the conclusion that love is something that is doomed to fail,
because it is intrinsically sick and will never develop healthily. He
indicates that he believes it is "sick" because it has a bad effect on
the people involved in a love relationship. He has become bitter and
cynical about love and has no trust or faith in love, either for
himself or for any of his friends.
Patten shows all his hurt and pain that he experiences in his
childhood, with a strong metaphor: "In that raw cocoon of parental
hate is where I learned that one and one stayed one." He reveals how
vulnerable he felt as a child - instead of being in a home of being...