Compare the ways old age is treated in the poems ‘Old man, old man’ and ‘Warning’. ‘Warning’ is poem by the poet Jenny Joseph. This poem deals with adulthood and old age. The poem defies society’s view of old age; this is prefigured in the title of the poem. Similarly, ‘Old man, old man’ is poem by U A Fanthorpe; this poem explores the changes of adulthood and the changes brought by old age. The theme of the poems is quite different, ‘Old man, old man’ explores the changing relationship between father and daughter in the past and present and how old age affects their relationship.
Contrasting to the theme of ‘Warning’ which challenges society’ view of old age and her rebellion against society’s expectation of her to settle down and lead a quiet life. Evidently, both poems highlight the outlook of old age. ‘Warning’ views old age as a time to rejoice and have fun during this time we are to ‘gobble up samples in shops’ and ‘learn to spit’, conflicting with the representation of old age in ‘old man, old man’. This narrator tells us that the old man was the ‘connoisseur of nuts’ but now has become ‘obdurate in his contracted world’.
Likewise the tone of two poems are drastically different as the tone of ‘Old man, old man’ is presented in two era’s, past and present, in the past the poem deals with, grief due to the failed relationship between father and daughter. Similarly, in the present the tone is quite similar due to the sadness, the daughter interprets from her father in his helpless situation. Consequently, this differs in ‘Warning’ as the tone is very much rebellious as the narrator tries to assert her rights in life while she is an old woman.
The tone of ‘warning’ is also full of excitement at the vision of experiencing the freedom of old age and the loss of any responsibility that enables us to become youths once again. Jenny Joseph creates this impact by making her character sound rebellious and assertive with the use of strong forceful language such ‘When I am old, I will… ‘ The character of the poem conveys that the old woman will do as she intends to and will be insubordinate.
The frequent use of ‘and’ as well as the childish language reflects the fact that the poet views old age as a chance to lose responsibility and blame any of life’s problems on old age. The poem deals with the inner feelings of the character that believes that when she is old she will be an opposite to the stereotypical versions of old women. She declares this by saying that she will ‘learn to spit’. However, “Old man, old man”, a poem by U A Fanthorpe explores the changing relationship between a daughter (the narrator) and father.
The poem is a story of a man portrayed through his memories of what he was like through his world. The poem can be broken into two definitions; firstly, it is described in both the past and future tense of the man’s life. In the past tense of he poem the old man is referred to as a man of authority, ‘world authority’ and ‘connoisseur of nut and bolts’. In the past, the old man is also referred to as a ‘man who did it himself’. Where as in the present the old man is described as weak and facile, this contrasts to his independence and turgidity, as he is now frail and dependent.
He is ashamed to admit defeat to old age so he keeps to himself not asking for help. He is portrayed as a man who has lost control of his freedom he once had, as he became ‘self-demoted in his nineties to washing up’ and now is weak. The small things such as losing a hammer distress him to frustration of his old agedness. The narrator, who the reader assumes is the old man’s daughter, wants to help him and let him rely on her. Nevertheless, as he is stubborn and unwilling he does not allow her in.
The ego of the old man is shutting out the narrator. The narrator loves the old man and his ‘helplessness’ and wants to help him. Willingly the narrator wants to walk the old man to ‘Drury Lane’ and find his ‘hammer’. The narrator is attempting to help him with little things and is willing to be invisible but be there for him. The old man conspicuously hides his emotions and feelings away from his daughter. The narrator pleads to help the old man and reassures him she will only be ‘a cloud’.
Contrasting, the character of Jenny Joseph’s poem is looking forward to becoming old she makes it eloquent that she will be asserting her rights and desires as an old woman. The woman intends on breaking the stereotypical outlook of old people; she stresses her point that she will be independent and a shocking old woman. The old woman observes old age as a time for becoming free and having no responsibility, as she says that she will, ‘go out in my slippers in the rain and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens’.
The poem also sounds amusing and makes you want to smile but is also is provoking the inner thoughts and feelings of the old woman who believes society has striped her of her individuality and opportunity to express herself. The style of “Warning” and “Old man, old man” contrast slightly between the three tenses of the past, present and future. In “Old man, old man”, the words and adjectives are conveyed through authority are associated mainly with the man in his past unlike his weaknesses which are associated with the man in his present. In the past of the old man, he is recognized as the ‘lifelong adjuster’ and has ‘world authority’.
Phrases associated with the man’s weakness located in the present, as ‘now his life is shambles among clues’. The contrast between the past and present represent the changes the old man has undergone. Stanza three of ‘Warning’ relates to the woman’s adulthood, now (in the present) she must conform and behave in a responsible and reliable fashion. In comparison to ‘Warning’, ‘Old man, old man’ uses irregular line length the enjambment of sentences mirrors the shambles and disorder of the old man’s life enlightening the reader of the old man’s troubles.
The tone in stanzas one and two of “Old man, old man” have a sad tone as they look at the changes in the old man and his life. The old man was an expert in DIY, he was a handyman. The tone of stanza one and two change into a more pleasant tone whereas in stanza three and four as they are praising the man of his independence. Additionally, stanza nine and ten turn to a more personal aspect as it focuses on the daughter and her feelings with her father, as the old man is independent and wants to stay independent.
Stanza eleven completes and sums up the whole poem and rounds up the daughter’s feeling. In “Warning”, the poem has a comical and mocking tone. In stanza one, the tone is rebellious, humorous, and surprising. The tone has a sense of excitement as the old woman is awaiting the future prospect of experiencing freedom of old age and the independence. Jenny Joseph talks about how people view wear terrible shirts’ and eat ‘thee pounds of sausages at a go’ a terrible lifestyle. Stanza three has a unique tone, which differs to stanza one and two.
It has a more mature response from the woman speaking. The theme of ‘Warning’ is a look toward adulthood and old age. The challenge of overcoming society’s stereotypical view of old people and rebellion to against society’s expectations of old people. The poem is amusing and merges humour, bitterness and frustration. The theme portrayed from “Old man, old man” are the changes brought by old age between a father and daughter conveyed through Fanthorpe’s use of oppositions.
The is also based on the difficulty of one trying to adapt to the results and outcomes of old age and being able to have shame to rely on someone to help you to re-enact your usual day. By comparing both poems personally, my outcome is that I considerably prefer “Warning” by Jenny Joseph because this poem is very humorous and does not give in to stereotypes. The poem is rebellious and does have key moments of fun and naivety as it compare society’s view of a stereotypical old women to a personal opinion that some people do not enjoy being inflicted with rules of responsibility throughout life.
When reading “Old man, old man” I concluded that poem was dealing more with emotions of old age than with the physical attributes of being old. For example “Warning” dealt personal opinions on how to be like when you are old, whereas “Old man, old man” deals with the struggles of being old and dependant. Old man, old man is a very heart warming poem of a man struggling to overcome old age by himself but then his daughter realises this and wants to help him overcome his struggle but only be a cloud.