University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
How Ian Mcmillan Conveys His Attitudes Towards the Death of His Mother
McMillan uses harsh words throughout the poem to show his grief and remorse at his mothers death. Words like “shatters” link with how he is feeling, like everything is broken and cannot be repaired. This word makes us imagine something broken into lots of tiny pieces which can’t be put back together again, and it helps us to understand how broken and jumbled up he is feeling. The word “slap” when talking about “the tears (that) slap my torn face” insinuates the idea that he is in physical pain, that the emotional pain he feels is is so strong that he physically hurts.
In the first stanza, we find out about his mothers death. Enjambment is used to speed up the pace of the poem, and show how quickly someone’s whole live can change, like in the phrase“In the moment it takes a life to pass/ from waking to sleeping” The phrase “from waking to sleeping” highlights the opposites in what he and his mother are doing, as she passes from life to death. The word ‘sleeping’ creates quiet a gentle image, and suggests that her death was not unexpected, and perhaps was drawn out and painful. Sleep is a very relaxed and calm time, the only time when the human mind can escape from problems in the day, so perhaps the idea of his mother falling asleep is comforting, like she has now stopped suffering and can rest happy.
The second stanza uses a lot of words relating to the senses, to help us understand how McMillan is feeling. The sentence “outside a milk float chinks and shines” shows that the world is carrying on as normal, despite the fact that McMillan’s world has personally just stopped. The rhyming pattern throughout this poem is abab, but in this stanza the words “mine” and “shines” are meant to rhyme, but the fact that they don;t fully rhyme represents the disorientation he is feeling upon finding out about his mothers death, and perhaps also shows how nothing is quite right any more. Also, the word ‘drones’ when describing a plane has been used to represent the deep grief he is feeling, and makes us feel like he has completely given up.
In the third stanza McMillan seems to be describing a state of shock that he has fallen in to, which is quite a normal reaction when a loved one dies. McMillan describes his tears to ‘slap’ his ‘torn face’; as well as ‘slap’ being a raw and aggressive word, the way he describes his face as ‘torn’ perhaps suggests that it was his mother who held him together, and now, without her, he is broken.
This helps us to realise how important his mother was to him, which makes us sympathise for him a lot and evokes a feeling of empathy when we put ourselves in his position. McMillan says he feels ‘trapped’, like he is trapped by his own emotion and although it’s up to him to find a way out of this dark place, he can’t see an escape. This shows how alone and scared he is feeling knowing his motherr is no longer around and also makes us think how panicked he must be feeling, as we would be if we were trapped somewhere. The word ‘float’ makes us think that McMillan is no longer in control of his emotions, that what he is feeling is unstoppable, but also it instigates the sense that nothing seems quite normal around him, and that he is detached from reality.
The final stanza is a rhyming couplet that summarises the grief and emptiness and the lack of will to go on without his mother. “Feeling that the story ends just here” conveys the idea that there isn’t a story to continue without his mother, showing how depressed McMillan is feeling, like he has reached a dead end in his life.