In class we have been reading a provocative, emotional and in-sightful poem set in modern day times. The poem is about a cop who works in Brooklyn, New York which is known to be a rather violent society, thus making the job of a cop there even tougher than being a cop anywhere else. The fact that every day working is a life threatening situation for him is continual throughout the poem, as is the fierce, tough and scary characteristics of this Brooklyn cop. The poet, Norman MacCaig, expresses the subject’s personality and gradually reveals this which allows the reader a greater appreciation. I think this poem is very effective and shows how the cop deals with his work and his home life.
Firstly, in the verse one MacCaig begins with a simile. This is used in an effective way to compare a cop with a gorilla which clearly sends across the message that the cop is big built, but he also adds a bit of humour in this part of the poem – making out that the cop is tougher than a gorilla. The poet as states the gorilla is “thick fleshed” to emphasis yet again that the cop is big built, large, muscly, tough and has a thick outer shell.
“Built like a gorilla but less timid” I found this interesting because the joke provides a light-hearted opening. It’s not a very flattering image as it compares the man to a gorilla which I find odd because gorillas are naturally wild animals that you wouldn’t expect a police officer upholding law and order to be compared to. It provides an image suggesting more brawn than brains. Next, the poet uses a metaphor to describe the cop’s eyes.
“With two hieroglyphs in his face that mean trouble” By using the expression “hieroglyphs” it shows his eyes are mysterious and makes it very hard for other people to read him. He’s a very complicated man inside because he hides all of his feelings as the word hieroglyphs show that no-one can understand him because hieroglyphs were an Egyptian way of writing but they used pictures thus showing the complication. Furthermore MacCaig describes the violent behaviour out on the streets of Brooklyn.
“Thin tissue over violence” Clearly this metaphor shows that there is a very fragile layer between safety and crime in the streets and that it lurks just below the surface. By using a tissue as an example to show how precarious this layer is. It also helps to clarify violence can erupt at any moment and the cop has to be on a constant state of alert. Also, concluding verse one is a phrase in which MacCaig shows that the cop has a different side to him when he is at home around the people he loves and cares for and when he is on his line of duty.
Evidently, this gives us an insight into the cop’s home life. It oozes affection and shows the love he has for his wife. The poem reveals the danger his wife also faces, the fear of her husband not returning home safely at night. We genuinely would think of this phrase as a typical clichï¿½ but the cop actually feels this sense of happiness when he returns home from work seeing as he works in a formidable, possible fatal profession. Moving on, MacCaig uses a rhetorical question to reveal to the reader yet another different side to this “gorilla” character.
“Who would be him, gorilla with a nightstick?” The poet extends the gorilla metaphor to the point where the cop becomes an animal but this time he is dangerous and has a weapon. He is portrayed as a thug rather than a figure who delivers justice and safety, the poet also asks us to consider his role in dealing with the violence in his patrolling neighbourhood, with the poet continually referring to the cop as the “gorilla” its showing more violence because of the dangers his job involves, he needs to be prepared for it and someone has to do it. The poet makes the reader feel a lot more sympathetic towards the cop.
Furthermore, MacCaig extends his rhetorical question to portray to the reader how dangerous his job actually is. The poet utilises parenthesis during this verse to fully illustrate this point. “Whose home is a place he might, this time, never get back to?” Apart from the fact that he is perceived as an animal on the job, he goes into more depth and reveals the cop’s final emotion before the poem is brought to a close. The reader is given a feeling of sadness because everyday he is in danger and his tragic death could affect the rest of his family. The last verse consists of only two lines and finishes with a question and asks the reader if they would consider enrolling in his line of work.
In conclusion, “Brooklyn Cop” by Norman MacCaig has displayed a varied amount of emotion and this escalates to the point where he is turning dangerous and his responsibilities are being jeopardised. At the beginning of the poem the cop is made laughable through the comparison to a wild animal, but as the poem ends the reader begins to feel sympathy for him as his safety and the risk of losing his family is a daily fear. It is MacCaig’s successful use of imagery that makes the poem alive.