This poem, “Dinner Party 1940”, was written by Philip Sherlock in 1986. From the title, it is obvious that the setting of this poem is in 1940s, which is in the beginning of the Second World War, amidst the violent and tolling battles. Sherlock employs stark contrasts, dark humour and mockery to highlight the selfishness and ignorance of the upper class in society, whilst also stressing the brutalities of war. Sherlock employs lots of comparisons in this poem to emphasise the carelessness of the nobilities and highlights the unequal nature between the difference social positions.
In the beginning, the author creates a sumptuous environment for the riches’ dinner party with the background sound from the pantry and video. In this poem, he symbolises the radio to the death as the radio was playing the news from the wars. Also, in lines 6 and 7, it written “not silencing/augmenting”, this rhyme give a knowing about these contrasting sounds and voices between “sounds from the pantry” and “the well-bred voice from the Daventry” has combined their dialogue.
Moreover, the specific words used in this poem, such as “bridge”, “cock-tails”, reveals the luxurious life of the nobility, and later the repetition of this description: “The show of wit which never fails/thanks to 7. 30 cock-tails” implies the repeated daily life, further highlighting their carelessness, idleness and selfishness. This ironic contrast is presented again in the final three lines.
This last stanza (the final three lines) is considered as a cliche of this poem as it uses a repetition (“cold”, “mutton” and “guava-jelly”) and a rhyme (“jelly” and “belly”) to stress the most significant contrast in this poem – “cold mutton” and “cold lead”. This gives the audience a serious shock as the food is compared to death. In addition, the author uses an ironic simile in this sentence, the “cold mutton” “does not seriously incommode/Like cold lead in the belly”. This creates a sense that while the riches were having their luxurious party, the soldiers in the frontline haven been killed by the bullets in their belly.
This unusual comparison mocks the selfish thoughts of the nobility and their arbitrary attitude to the death in wars. The structure of the poem is presented as stage-by-stage, which reinforces the contrasts between those two. In this poem, the latter stanzas could be considered an amplification of the pervious ones. For example, the first stanza is composed of several “inessential” dialogues between the riches, also, the background sound form the kitchen and the radio, however, the second stanza uses one declarative sentence to describe the senses that are presented in the first stanza.
The way in which the poem is presented changes significantly: initially it begins unstructured and messy, however, by the end, the poem is short, concise and to the point, representative of the chilling nature of society during war-years. In the “Dinner Party 1940”, Sherlock critiques the carelessness and selfishness of the upper class through a series of contrasts and his continuous mocking of the palpable difference in social positions. Furthermore, he hides his anger and sorrow inside the words of poem. However, these feelings are finally exposed in the last stanza, which alerts the audience and further stresses the themes of the poem.