In poetry and in stories it is rarely the emotional suffering of the patient but the strain or hurt of those around them that is told. In ‘Yet Another Poem About A Dying Child’ Janet Frame attempts to make the point of view of the dying child understood to be different from that of the parent. She uses strong imagery to show the painful reality of life of the very sick child and the relief death offers from this pain. She uses metaphors of life and death, creating a contrast between the two, to help us understand this further.
Her poem is not the view of ‘Poets and parents’ who are made to seem overly romantic and unrealistic (even the connotations of the word ‘poet’ are that of romanticism). Frame shows them as in denial. ‘Poets and parents say he cannot die…’ In the first line the reader already understands this as slightly ridiculous, it is impossible not to die. ‘Their word across his mouth obscures and cures his murmuring goodbyes.’ The parents are glossing over the truth, hiding it. They do not want to face reality and so dismiss what he says. They ‘cure’ suggesting that what he is saying is crazy and wrong and that they, by replacing his words with their own, are doing what is right and helping him. It gives the impression that they feel, if they cannot cure his disease at least they can cure his words.
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The connotations of ‘murmuring’ are that of sleepiness, of tiredness and weakness and this creates the impression that he does not have the strength to argue his point. ‘murmuring’ sounds a very peaceful word, it is soft sounding and makes you think of sleepiness and being tucked up in bed but they will not let him be peaceful, they talk over the top of him, trying to ‘cure’ him. By doing this they are destroying what peace he has for the sake of their own. Frame uses these impressions she gives to the reader to highlight the ridiculousness of their attempts to help him. This helps us understand how the views of the parents are so drastically different, so unrealistic, compared to that of the child and helps us sympathise with the child’s view.
Frame helps us to understand the physical suffering of the child by describing how ‘Pain spangles him like the sun…’ ‘spangles’ is not a very poetic word, it sounds gaudy and festive, out of place in such a sombre poem. It creates the image of the pain decorating him, suggesting that he is defined by his pain. This implies that he cannot get away from it and that it is a part of him. Frame describe how his ‘blood blossoms like a pear tree.’ The image created of the blossoming pear tree contrast with the image that the reader already has of the sick and frail child, one opening up and spreading out, one closing in on itself. This creates an illustration in the readers mind of the pain growing using up the energy of the child and taking him over.
Frame helps us to understand the sick child’s impression of life a death through metaphors. Life she describes as ‘the engraved penny of light that birth put in his hand telling him to hold it tight.’ It is a burden that he has to carry yet it is only a penny, not worth very much at all. Death she describes as‘…the kind furred spider…with night-lamp eyes and soft tread to wrap him warm…’ It is something that will carry him, he does not have to do anything but allow himself to be carried. Frame uses contrast between the reader’s natural reaction to spiders, one of disgust, with the dying child’s impression which favours the spider, using words associated with comfort (night-lamp, kind, furred, soft) to show us how, when life is such a struggle, death can appear so favourable.
Janet Frame aims to show us how, while ‘Poets and parents’ may attempt to cover up this truth, life can be a burden for those in pain and death can be seen as a relief from this. She uses metaphors and strong imagery to help us understand this.