Compare and Contrast ‘Old Man Old Man’ and ‘Leaving School’ Discussing How each Poet Conveys their Character’s Retreat from the Capable Adult World ‘Old Man, Old Man’ and ‘Leaving School’ are both about the crossroads in someone’s life and both illustrate the transformation from being one type of person to another. The title of the Fanthorpe poem is lament and modestly conveys that the character is not in the adult world but has retreated from it into old age.
The title of the William’s poem, however, is ambiguous and misguides the reader into thinking that the character is eighteen and just entering the adult world. Nevertheless this is not true as the boy is retreating from the adult world not entering it. While reading the poem the title keeps reminding the reader of the character’s situation and evokes the pity of the reader as it makes it apparent that the boy is leaving school, but only in his mind, because he cannot cope in the adult environment.Order now
Both poems have a fairly regular verse form with a relatively formal structure showing that both the boy and the old man are heading in a continuous but gradual course away from the adult world. In Williams’ poem the three verses gradually get shorter starting with eleven lines and decreasing to nine. Also the sentences are very short at the start, for example “I had my own suitcase”, “I wasn’t listening” and “I thought it was going to be fun”, but gradually get longer throughout the poem.
This illustrates the boy’s gradual relapse from a normal child of his age as he slowly recoils from the adult world and growing up, to his childhood. The number of lines in each verse also conveys the fact that instead of maturing as you do when you go to school, the boy is declining in mental age and he can’t cope with anything new like the “Beacon Series”. In the Fanthorpe poem however, the verses are all three lines long except for the last verse which indicates that the old man’s life is a regular “timetabled” event that has to be planned for him like a child’s is at school.
This displays the old man’s seclusion from adulthood as he, like the boy, deteriorates into a second childhood. “Leaving School” and “Old Man, Old Man” are both about the ongoing circle of life that causes you to commence life dependent on others and finish life relying on others. In the Williams’ poem, the boy is ending his dependent stage at the start of life by going to boarding school and ceasing his reliance on his family. However, he is afraid to enter this stage of life, as it is new and not “fun” so he is mainly just looking into the adult world but he is also trying to enter it at the same time.
His backward state of mind leads him to forget things like getting “undressed”, a simple part of life learnt in the dependent stage. All of this guides him into regressing into his childhood and eventually leaving him shying away from the adult independent world and in his mind he is “miles away, with my suitcase, leaving school. ” Fanthorpe’s poem is very similar but at the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of a boy recoiling from the adult world it is an old man.
This poem is about the old man’s independent life turning into a dependent one as he enters his dotage. It illustrates how, as you grow old, you have to have a regular routine like a timetable that you get when you’re a child because it is what you know. For instance the old man has a “timetabled cigarette”. The poem conveys how when you are old you forget everything you once knew, like “The jokes you no longer tell”, and how you “ramble” and “shamble” and fret at things you don’t comprehend or recollect.
This is parallel to the boy in the other poem who can’t survive with what he doesn’t know like the “Beacon Series” and he gradually forgets what he used to know because of his lack of survival in this new world of growing up. Both poems resemble “The Seven Ages of Man” speech in Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” which talks about the first stage being infancy which leads to “the whining schoolboy”, and the last two going from the old man to a “second childishness”. Both the boy and the old man are incapable people in the poems as they cannot easily enter or remain in the adult world.
However, the old man used to be competent and now has forgotten everything he knew and is dependent on someone else, whereas the boy has to learn how to cope in the adult world and be independent. Both the boy and the old man cannot survive in an alien environment. The boy cannot survive in the new environment at school, and the old man cannot survive outside the familiar environment of adulthood. As well as having this in common, both the boy and the old man feel that they have failed in the adult world and both decide to draw back from it.
In the boy’s case he goes back to his childhood and only reads the “Billy Goat Gruff books”, and in the old man’s case he grows old and lets go of the adult life. This is shown in the line, “I’ve lost the hammer”, which implies he has lost his talent to do DIY. We can see this happening in the poems as the boy once “said ‘I don’t know,’ and then he “started saying nothing”, and the old man has “clues he left for himself when he saw better. ” This also implies the reason for the old man’s failure in the adult world as it suggests that the character is going blind and that is why he recoils.
Overall the poems show that being young and being old are the most helpless and dependent ages of life. The tone of the title “Leaving School” is matter of fact and doesn’t use emphatic words to convey that the boy is recoiling into a second childhood. This tone and the fact that the poem is told in first person demonstrate that the poem is a report of the boy’s time at school and how while at school, he began to deteriorate. This is proved by lines like “I thought it was going to be fun” and “I was so far away from home”.
The tone of Fanthorpe’s poem however, is lamentful and gives the impression of a slow and regretful decline into old age but the old man doesn’t want to go back to the adult world because it is too distant in his memory and that is why he laments it. It also connotes that the poem is an assembly of thoughts and memories that the old man used to own but doesn’t posses anymore because he has left that era behind and cannot return to it, for example, the phrase “World authority on twelve different sorts of glue, connoisseur of nuts and bolts” that lists what he was once proficient at.
This is supported by the poem varying from third person to second and finally first person. As the poem starts by using “He” and then “You” and finally “I” we can infer that the old man is slowly drifting away from his adult life, through old age and finally to his final helpless form, similar to a child. The tones in each poem evoke pity and sadness in the reader, which shows that the old man and the boy can’t face the adult world anymore. The tone allows people to relate to the characters and they feel heart-rendered, as there is a feeling that these situations are inescapable, especially the old man’s situation.