Compare and contrast the accounts of childhood in ‘Half-past Two’ and ‘Leaving School’. How successful is each poet in depicting a child’s experience of the world? ‘Half-past Two’ and ‘Leaving School’ both explore the thoughts and feelings of young boys. There is a theme of fear evident in both poems. This engages an experience endured by both children that involves the concept of not understanding certain aspects of life, especially the parts that are new and unfamiliar. ‘Half-past Two’ is set in a typical school and the central character is a young boy. The title of this poem is strongly related to its content and theme.
Time plays an important role in this poem and is emphasized when Fanthorpe uses a child-like style of language. “Timetogohomenowtime, TVtime” ‘Leaving School’ is set in a boarding school. The main character in this poem is also a young boy. Time does not play a big role in this poem but it is still an important aspect. The theme of this poem is the fear of being alone in new school. The type of language used by Williams is similar to that of ‘Half-past Two’ but there are subtle differences. ‘Leaving School’ does use a child-like style of language but tit is more formal than that of ‘Half-past Two’.
The formality of this language reflects the boy’s surroundings. “I liked all the waiting we had to do at school but I didn’t like the work” To write a poem that uses a child-like style of language it is essential that you exaggerate every small detail. When a poem is written in hindsight it helps the poet be more descriptive. Also they can select certain pieces of information they recollect and they can use a partial view of a particular event. “He did Something Very Wrong (I forget what it was)” In both poems there is an authority figure. In ‘Half-past Two’ it is the teacher and in ‘Leaving School’ the Headmasters wife.
The teacher plays a very important role in ‘Half-past Two’ as she creates the boys fear of time. “(Being cross, she’d forgotten she hadn’t taught him Time… ” The headmaster’s wife in ‘Leaving School’ is just as significant as she helps to unintentionally exacerbate the boy’s fear of being alone and making mistakes at his new school. “She had my toothbrush in her hand she wanted to know why it was dry” Capital letters are used in ‘Half-past Two’ and ‘Leaving School’ to add empathy to things that seem important to a child but insignificant and minor to an adult. “And She said he’d done Something Very Wrong’
‘Half-past Two’ has a rhythmic pattern. This pattern is constant almost throughout the poem but in the eighth stanza the pace of the poem slows down dramatically since the rhythm has stopped and the pattern is altered. “Into the air outside, into ever” There is also evidence of this in ‘Leaving School’ “I said ‘I don’t know’ then I started saying nothing” Using this technique allows the poet to give the reader time to dwell on the text, understand it better and look for a hidden meaning or moral. ‘Leaving School’ is written in free verse; it has no set rhythm or pattern.
Williams has done this intentionally, it helps make the style of language he is using more effective. The pace in ‘Leaving School’ is extremely different to that of ‘Half-past Two’. It is very slow almost persistently throughout the poem. I believe Williams has done this so it reads like a story, this effectively helps you understand it better. The pace virtually stops at the very last line of the poem. “I was miles away with my suitcase leaving school” This line is quite ambiguous, as we do not actually know whether this is reality or just a vision.
Ambiguity is also present in the central characters of both poems. From the reader’s point of view, we have limited knowledge about either of the characters. We know that both poems are written from the viewpoint of young boys but we know next to nothing about the personality, characteristics or traits of these boys. Both poems have contrasting moods and endings. ‘Leaving School’ has a melancholy mood and the poem is left unresolved, without closure. We are left wondering whether the boy did leave school or was it just a dream.
‘Half-past Two’ contrastingly is resolved, it has closure and its more is fun, almost comical. Because it reads like a nursery rhyme/fairytale story, it has a predictable, conventional happy ending. “So she slotted him back into schooltime” In conclusion’ ‘Half-past Two’ and ‘Leaving School’ have similarities but they differ a great deal more. Williams and Fanthorpe have been very successful in depicting a child’s experience of the world. The pace, styles of language and setting have all been key factures in helping to make these two poems successful and fun to read.