“Long distance” and “My Grandmother” are poems that explore the feelings and emotions of the main characters as a consequence of someone they knew dying. “Long distance” written by Tony Harrison describes the affect of death of a mother on the father. “My Grandmother” explores the relationship between the grandmother and speaker, focusing on the feelings between the grandmother and the speaker. Both these poems are interesting from the fact that the main characters can only be distinguished from personal perception. Consequently, the poets portray different impressions of the main characters.
Initially, it can be argued that the main characters of the two poems, are the son and granddaughter from “Long distance” and “My Grandmother” respectively. The basis for this perception is that Tony Harrison utilised his poems to explore his working class childhood and family life. Also, Elizabeth Jennings exercised her poems to reflect the difficult personal experiences in her life. However, it can also be argued that the main characters of the two poems are the father and grandmother from “Long distance” and “My Grandmother” respectively.
The reason for this is that although the poets are the speakers in their poems, the poems focus on the grandmother in “My Grandmother” and father in “Long distance. ” Therefore, the impressions of both versions of main characters will be illustrated. It is evident that in “My Grandmother” there are themes of guilt and remorse, whilst in “Long distance” there are themes of love and grief. In “My Grandmother” the granddaughter is attempting to come to terms with her guilt as she “could still feel the guilt of that refusal. The guilt she feels plagues her and it is all she feels. Alternatively, in “Long distance” the father still has a “raw love” for the mother. He is obsessed with his loss as he “kept her slippers warming by the fire” and could not risk his sons “blight of disbelief. ”
Furthermore, it is evident that the two main characters of the poems, the son and granddaughter, are both emotionally detached from the deceased, that they attempt to come to terms with. In My Grandmother” the grandmother “kept an antique shop – or it kept her. This illustrates how isolated the grandmother was, not only from her granddaughter but the whole world. Similarly in “Long distance” the son calls his father “dad” whilst he calls his mother “mother,” portraying how disconnected he was from his mother and that he did not have strong emotional ties with her. Thus, the impression created of the main character is that they are isolated, not portraying the emotions they should have, in a situation as such. Moreover, the poems uses of language are very different. “Long distance” uses colloquial language.
The colloquialism that Long distance” uses such as “slippers warming by the gas” and “renew her transport pass” emphasises the working class environment in which the family lives in. Consequently, as the poem has a conversational tone it becomes much more welcoming to the reader, allowing the reader to relate to the poem better. On the other hand, in the first stanza of “My Grandmother” there are repeated ‘s’ sounds which create an unwelcoming tone, such as “brass,” “glass” and “slivers. ” Also, in “My Grandmother” the language used creates imagery of loneliness and death.
The grandmother “watched her own reflection,” this projects an image of loneliness to the reader. Furthermore, the granddaughter walked into the grandmother’s room “among tall sideboards and cupboards,” these words provide the reader with imagery of a coffin; consequently, this leads to images of death. Alternatively, the language used in “Long distance” portrays imagery of death, disease and also emphasises the father’s attempts to keep the memory of the mother alive. The father “still went to renew her transport pass” and “put hot water bottles her side of the bed,” these words illustrate imagery of a working class family.
As the father is attempting to preserve the memory of the mother the imagery creates a stronger impact on the reader, making the text more poignant. In addition to this, the father could not risk his son’s “blight of disbelief” and he was sure that he would hear his wife’s key “scrape in the rusted lock. ” The word “blight” creates imagery of death in the reader and the words “rusted lock” reinforces the imagery of disease and it forces the notion that disease has spread. Consequently, the reader will have more empathy towards the father and almost feel the grief of the father, in the tone of the poem, as the imagery is associated with death.
Moreover, regarding the main characters as the grandmother and father, both of them attempt to preserve something. In “Long distance” the father would “put hot water bottles her side of the bed” and “renew her transport pass,” evidently he is attempting to preserve the memory of his beloved wife emphasising the “raw love” he has for her. Alternatively, in “My Grandmother” the grandmother “put all her best things in one room,” as the grandmother’s life was dedicated to her antiques she has preserved herself by maintaining them.
In this way, the main characters appear to have an unconditional love towards something. This creates the impression that they do have some importance in their lives and have feelings. Also, as the father and grandmother attempt to preserve something it can infuse impressions of desperation to the reader. In addition to this, the grandmother and father have both veered from reality and have obsessed themselves with only one thing. In “My Grandmother” the grandmother “kept an antique shop – or it kept her,” this illustrates how the grandmother was obsessed with her antiques and she never awoke socially.
In the same way, in “Long distance” the father could not risk his sons “blight of disbelief,” this signifies that the father became absorbed in preserving his wife’s memories, unable to move on. In an analytical sense, this illustrates that the main characters both had obsessions that absorbed their lives, perhaps creating sympathy in the reader for them. Also, it appears that the grandmother and father do not need human company, as they attempt to preserve what is dear to them. This paints a desolate image of them to the reader, Furthermore, both the grandmother and father seem to be vulnerable at some point.
In “My Grandmother” the grandmother becomes “too frail to keep a shop,” this illustrates her susceptibility as she can no longer maintain her beloved possessions. Similarly, in “Long distance” could not risk the son’s “blight of disbelief,” this illustrates that the father’s feelings were vulnerable and he does not want his son to shatter his hopes, ending his grief. Thus, the main characters draw sympathy from the reader due to their vulnerability, also making the reader more susceptible to the deaths in the poems. Additionally, the main characters experience loss in both poems that affect them emotionally.
In “My Grandmother,” when the grandmother becomes “too frail to keep a shop” “there was nothing then to give her own reflection back again. ” This signifies that the grandmother has lost control over her life as the antiques “can’t be polished. ” Thus, as the antique shop “kept her,” the grandmother has lost not only control over her life, but her adored antiques. Similarly, in “Long distance” the father endures a loss of “raw love,” consequently, he cannot move on in life as he “still went to renew her transport pass. ” Therefore, the father is deprived of affection and the grandmother is deprived of her cherished antiques.
Thus, creating impressions of struggle and need that the main characters strive to overcome. Moreover, the titles of both poems differ, in the relation they have to the actual poem. In “Long distance” the title reflects deep within the poem, as it personifies the emotional distance between the mother and father, as the mother “was already two years dead. ” Also, the emotional distance between the mother and son is personified in the title. This is reinforced by the fact that he calls his mother “mother,” while he calls his father “dad. Alternatively, in “My Grandmother” the title summarises, possibly, one of the main characters of the poem.
The poem is concerned and centred around the grandmother. However, the title “My Grandmother” is possessive and signifies that the poet will be commenting on her grandmother. Also, there is a contrast between the types of love represented in the poems. In “My Grandmother,” when the grandmother asked to “go out” with the granddaughter, the granddaughter thought “it was perhaps a wish not to be used like antique objects. ” This illustrates the superficial love that the grandmother would portray to the granddaughter.
The granddaughter had observed how the grandmother has treated the antiques and she did not want to be treated on a superficial level. On the other hand, in “Long distance” the father possesses a “raw love” towards the mother. The “raw love” is a metaphor that has a strong and vivid affect of the reader, illustrating the true and genuine love the father has for the mother. Furthermore, concerning the main characters as the granddaughter and son, regarding the structure of the poems, the main characters reflect on their lives in the last stanzas of the poems.
In “My Grandmother” when the grandmother died the granddaughter “felt no grief at all. Only the guilt of what I once refused. ” Undoubtedly the granddaughter is expressing her feelings, summarising her stance in the matter. In the same way, the son reflects on his feelings in “Long distance,” he believes “life ends with death and that is all. ” Evidently, the son has contemplated his feelings, and a resolute impression is built of the characters as they have summarised their feelings. However, in one of the poems the exploration of feelings is honest, alternatively, one of them change focus.
In “My Grandmother,” the granddaughter is honest throughout the poem clearly stating that when her grandmother died she “felt no grief at all. Only the guilt of what I once refused. ” This is reinforced as the poem does not change focus; this is shown in the rhyming pattern, A-B-A-B-C-D. Also, the rhyming pattern does not change, nor does the tense. In contrast, the son in “Long distance” does not express his feelings honestly throughout the poem. The poem changes focus in the last stanza; this can be recognised from two qualities.
Initially, the poems rhyming pattern is A-B-A-B, until the fourth stanza. In the fourth stanza the rhyming pattern changes to A-B-B-A. Also, the tense of the poem changes from past in the first three stanzas to present in the fourth stanza. Therefore, it reinforces the poems change of focus and how the son’s “blight of disbelief” has changed as his phone book contains his father’s “name and the disconnected number I still call. ” Evidently, the son has changed his perception and has ironically inherited his father’s denial.
In this way, a desolate and cold hearted impression is built of the granddaughter, whilst sympathy is ignited in the reader for the son. In addition to this, the poems differ with their themes. In “My Grandmother,” there is no of grief as the granddaughter “felt no grief at all. ” This cements the impression that the granddaughter is callous. Alternatively, in “Long distance” feelings of empathy are aroused as the desired an “end to his grief” and to share the “raw love” he once shared with the mother.
Lastly, it is evident that the main characters have disapprovals towards the father and grandmother. In “Long distance” the son illustrates his disapproval of the father’s denial as the father “knew she’d just popped out to get the tea. ” The word “knew” is written in italic and the sentence is almost sarcastic. This portrays the son’s disapproval towards the father denial. Similarly, in “My Grandmother” the granddaughter “once refused to go out” with the grandmother and the grandmother’s “wish was not to be used like antique objects.
This shows that the granddaughter rejected the grandmother, because she disapproved of the way the grandmother treated everything a on a superficial level, like the antiques. The impression created of the son is that he could be inconsiderate towards his father feelings. The impression that is associated with the granddaughter is that she was “afraid,” arousing sympathy and consideration in the reader. In conclusion, both poems follow individuals who cannot come to terms with something.
In these two cases, it is guilt, in the poem “My Grandmother” and grief in the poem “Long distance. ” The different versions of main characters both ignite different impressions in the reader. Furthermore, the poems use a variation of different and similar themes to create a certain affect on the reader. Impressions of the main characters such as sympathy and callousness are exposed to the reader. Therefore, the poems can be perceived as a person’s movement towards closure and the method in which they handle their suffering, creating different impressions as their struggle progresses.