«All My Sons» – Characters List

JOE KELLER – nearing sixty, a heavy man who has a solid mind and build. He has been a business man for many years, but has an imprint of the machine-shop worker and boss still upon him. He has had two sons, Chris and Larry, he is the protagonist of the story.

KATE KELLER – she is a woman in her early 50’s, a woman who has uncontrollable inspirations, and has a never ending love. She has worked for forty years and made a decent living for herself. She is the wife of Joe Keller and a mother of her two sons, Chris and Larry. Even though her son Larry has been missing, she still hopes for his longing return. Shes a supporting character to Joe Keller.

CHRIS KELLER – He is thirty-two, he is a lot like his father when it comes to being solid and built and a good listener. He’s a man that is capable of being affectionate and loyal. He is in love with Larry’s ex girlfriend, Annie and his parents are Joe and Kate Keller. His brother is Larry and he no longer believes he is alive. He thinks the world of his father but little does he know the real truth about him. He eventually develops hatred towards him and his wrong doings.

LARRY KELLER -born in August, is twenty-seven years old, has been missing since November 25th (3 years). He is the son of Joe and Kate Keller and the brother of Chris Keller. He was in love with Annie Deveer. His parents planted a tree to symbolize that he was missing, however it collapsed. He is mentioned a lot throughout the play and his mother is affected the most since he’s been missing.

STEVEN DEEVER -is somewhere in his mid 50’s to early 60’s. He is a tiny man who is very timid and soft spoken. He is the father of Annie and George Deever and partners with Joe Keller. His connection to the story is, he took the blame for the defected plane parts that killed several people, now he is in jail in the period of time through out the play.

ANNIE DEEVER– is twenty-six years old, she is very beautiful and considered one of the best looking in the town. She use to live in the same town as Keller’s but moved to New York. She is gentle but holds on to what she knows. She was once in love with Larry Keller but she is now in love with his brother Chris, which they’re getting married. Her father is Stephen Deever and her brother is George Deever. Her connection to the play is that she is determined to find out if her father is innocent and she is Chris’s love interest.

GEORGE DEEVER -is thirty-two, he is very pale, he is on the edge of his self-restraint, he is Annie’s brother and Steven’s son. George is a highly respected lawyer and lives in New York. He believes that Mr. Keller is guilty for the deaths of several pilots and that his father isn’t. His connection to the play is that he wants to prove that Mr. Keller is guilty and that that he doesn’t want his sister to marry Chris.

DR. JIM BAYLISS– is nearing the age of forty, he is a doctor, he likes to read, he is a very self-controlled man and a very easy talker. However, he has a clench of sadness that sticks to his self-effacing humor. He is married to Sue Bayliss and is the neighbors of the Keller’s. His connection of the story is that he is close with his neighbors but he has a feeling that Joe isn’t an innocent man.

SUE BAYLISS -is rounding forty, she is an overweight woman that feels that she is obese and is very insecure from it. She is married to Jim Bayliss and their neighbors with the Keller’s also. Her connection to the play is to prove that Joe Killer is a guilty man and that Chris isn’t a good kid.

FRANK LUBEY  – is thirty-two years old, he is lossing his hair, he is very pleasant and enjoys speaking his opinions on several things, he is very uncertain of himself, and very peevishish when you cross him. However, he always wants it to be calming and neighborly. He is very intelligent and enjoys writing horoscopes. His wife is Lydia Lubey and they have three kids together. His connection to the story is he’s neighbors’ with the Keller’s and they are good family friends.

LYDIA LUBEY – is twenty-seven, she is robust laughing beautiful girl, that is great with cosmetics and hair. She is married to Frank Lubey and they have three babies together and are very happily married. Their connection to the story is that their great family friends and are neighbor’s with the Keller’s.

BERT – is an eight year old with an exquisite imagination and is very energetic. He enjoys playing cop games with Mr. Keller and loves being in charge of things. The connection he plays in the story is that he is a friendly neighbor kid that enjoys Mr. Keller’s and Chris’s company.

Summary of Prose

Here are some summaries of the proses that we studied in class that our teacher Pato prepared for us in order to understand them better and to help us study.

HER FIRST BALL – Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

Mansfield, brought up in New Zealand, was a notable writer of short stories.
As you re-read the story, explore the ways in which Mansfield presents Leila’s thoughts and feelings before and during the
ball. It would be useful to consider the way in which Leila is different from the other girls and how this affects their (and our)
impressions of her. How do you think Mansfield captures the excitement of the ball? Pay particular attention to the
contribution to the story of the two men who dance with Leila, the odious fat man and then the young man with curly hair.
Examine carefully the words Mansfield uses in the dialogue and description to guide readers’ responses to the various

Graham was a popular novelist and writer of short stories in his own lifetime. His novels have in the past featured as
examination set texts: for example, Brighton Rock, Travels with My Aunt and The Human Factor. The Destructors is a popular
choice for anthologies of short stories.
The destruction in the story is masterminded and overseen by the new boy to the gang, Trevor. He is called ‘T.’ as Trevor
sounds too middle-class a name. Explore how Greene presents the shifting power within the group as leadership passes from
Blackie to T. Explore your impressions of the various characters, and in particular T. with his adult-like appreciation of
architecture – ‘It’s a beautiful house,’ he says, using a social register that invites scorn from Blackie.
The story is told chronologically (in time order) by a third person narrator, and the references to Smarties, Woolworth’s,
bomb damage caused by the Blitz and wet Bank Holiday weekends supply a typically English backdrop of the time.
What do you make of the paradox at the heart of the story, namely, that the act of destruction is a form of creation? Explore
the ways in which Greene builds suspense. How effective do you find the ending with the driver and his convulsive laughter?

MY GREATEST AMBITION – Morris Lurie (1938)

Morris Lurie is an Australian writer of comic prose fiction and plays.
The greatest ambition of the narrator (surname Lurie) is spelled out at the start of the story: he wants to be a comic-strip
artist. From his perspective, fellow pupils wanting to become farmers, chemists, doctors and so are dreamers and romantics.
The narrator’s mocking father (‘a great scoffer’) clearly sees his son as such a dreamer. Explore the way in which the fatherson
relationship is shown. The eventual trip to the offices of Boy Magazine is full of deft comic touches, from the shortness of
the boy’s trousers to his permanent smile and the awkwardness when the men in grey suits realise that the comic-strip artist
is a mere schoolboy. Consider the effectiveness of the story’s final paragraph and the narrator’s observation: ‘The only thing
that was ever real to me I had ‘grown out of’. I had become, like everyone else, a dreamer.’

THE CUSTODY OF THE PUMPKIN – P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)

Wodehouse was a prolific British writer of comic prose fiction. His stories are populated by aristocrats like the ninth Earl of
Emsworth, and take place in upper class settings. This story was originally published in US and UK magazines in 1924.
The story begins with a loving description of the sunshine alighting on, among other things, the Castle, its ivied walls, its
green lawns, wide terraces, noble trees and three characters: the Earl, his son Freddie and Beach, the butler. Readers will
note how Lord Emsworth relies on his butler to put his hat on and to take the cap off his new telescope. Much of the story’s
humour derives from the dialogue, with even the butler given choice lines. By contrast, the head-gardener is given a comic
Scottish accent (‘She’s paying’ me twa poon’ a week’). Make a note of dialogue and descriptions you find particularly funny,
and explain why they seem amusing.
The comic figure of Lord Emsworth is central to the story. Consider the way in which he responds to his son’s courtship and
eventual marriage to Aggie Donaldson, and what it reveals about snobbery and class. You might examine, too, how
Wodehouse portrays Lord Emsworth’s comic concern for the well-being of his prize pumpkin and also consider why the latter
makes its first appearance about a third of the way through the story.

THE SON´S VETO – Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Hardy is the writer of a number of classic novels of the English Victorian era. He stopped writing novels altogether following
the outcries that greeted Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895); both were judged in their day to be
too explicit in their treatment of personal and social themes. Thereafter he concentrated on writing poetry.
In The Son’s Veto, Sophy’s character is presented to us by concentrating on a number of telling moments in her life. The story
reveals detail gradually in order to allow us to build up an impression of her. The narrator begins writing from the perspective
of a man viewing the woman’s immaculate hair from behind. We hear the exchange of dialogue between son and mother in
which the former rebukes the latter for her poor grammar ‘with an impatient fastidiousness that was almost harsh’. The
boy’s sensitivity here will eventually lead to his veto over his mother’s wish to re-marry. The vignette of the public-school
cricket match illustrates perhaps best of all the class consciousness at the heart of the story.
Consider how you are meant respond to Hardy’s depiction of the boy who eventually becomes the ‘young smooth-shaven
priest’ at the end of the story. Consider how Hardy makes us feel sorry for the mother. Look back at specific details given
about the boy and the mother.

THE FLY IN THE OINTMENT – V.S. Pritchett (1900-1997)

V.S Pritchett’s life spanned the twentieth century and he became one of its most prolific short story writers.
The Fly in the Ointment begins with a sketch of a November day in London with its overcast sky and the mention of
unemployed and beggars ‘dribbling slowly past the desert of public buildings’. This provides the social backdrop against
which is played out the reunion of a son and his father; the father has recently made bankrupt after thirty years of being a
factory boss. Their reunion brings to the surface the underlying frictions in their relationship. Consider how Pritchett
gradually reveals this lack of mutual understanding. The narrator tells us straightforwardly that the father ‘despised his son’
and charts the alarming way in which the mood changes during their talk, with at one point the father’s ‘warm voice going
dead and rancorous’. Note the hints given about the father’s shady business dealings and consider possible reasons for his
absurdly excessive disgust and fear at the fly. In this respect, the significance of the title should be explored. Finally, how do
you think Pritchett encourages us to view son and father? Think about the reference to the father at the story’s conclusion.

A HORSE AND TWO GOATS – R.K. Narayan (1906-2001)

Narayan is one of India’s most celebrated prose fiction authors writing in the English language. This story was written in 1960
and published in 1970.
The story begins with a description of Kritam, where Muni lives. The third person narrator captures the largely unemotional
way in which Muni regards the significant decline of his fortunes. In more affluent times he had ‘lorded over a flock of fleecy
sheep’ whereas now he has only two ‘miserable gawky goats’. We see events through his eyes, and are made to see why he
feels like the ‘poorest fellow in our caste’. All of the detail thus provided about Muni makes the appearance of the red-faced
New Yorker all the more odd. The dialogue between the affable New Yorker and the initially awkward Muni reveals a lot
about them, though not to each other. You should explore what makes their ‘mutual mystification’ so amusing, taking care to
examine what these two characters’ words and actions show about their respective cultures. What do you feel about the way
in which the story ends?

– opens with a clear picture of the poverty in which the protagonist Muni lives. Of the thirty houses in the village, only one, the Big House, is made of brick. The others, including Muni’s, are made of «bamboo thatch, straw, mud, and other unspecified materials.» There is no running water and no electricity and Muni’s wife cooks their typical breakfast of «a handful of millet flour» over a fire in a mud pot. NB, “drumstick” is a type of edible radish.
– Muni and the American meet by chance and their inability to understand each other results in a misunderstanding wherein Muni sells the village’s horse statue for 100 rupees, thinking he is, in fact, selling his almost worthless goats. Two very distinct lives are clearly expressed via the men’s conversation (with themselves, so to speak), however one similarity does arise (women).
– the third person omniscient narrator reports clearly and objectively on the characters’ words, actions, and memories, and does not comment or judge. This is the writer trusting the reader to notice how absurd the conversation is without having to point it out, thus ruining the humour. It can also be a reflection of the same passivity seen in Muni when it comes to him accepting his fate. The narrator does nto have to explain how foolish or ironic the conversation is, it’s stronger if we see it ourselves.
– The main conflict of the story is their inability to understand one another. The climax can be said to be “the truth dawned on the old man” – there seems to finally be understanding between the two. However, we then get the twist, which shows that there is no understanding afterall (Muni misinterprets the American’s wish as for the goats).
The American – He typifies the «Ugly American»: he speaks only English, but is surprised and a little annoyed to find that Muni can speak only Tamil. Although he is in the tiniest village in India, he expects to find a gas station and English-speaking goatherds. Once he sees the statue of the horse, he must own it for his living room, with no thought for what the statue might mean or who might value it. Even when he can’t speak the language, he knows that money talks.
Muni – Our protagonist. He was once wealthy, but is not desperately poor. He relies on his wife heavily and no longer has any shame or pride when it comes to his poverty. He is the perfect example of a good Hindu who, because of Karma’s rules, accepts his lot in life/fate without anger. He feels anger toward those “bad men” who have slighted him in the past, but it is not up to him to punish them, it is God’s will. His world is a relatively small one by our standards, but this only leads him to be contented with ‘small’ luxuries (tobacco, sheep, 100 rupees, goal of simply opening a shop, etc). Conservative values (believes the cinema has spoiled people and taught them to do bad things, etc). Lacks the materialistic ideology of the American, therefore cannot understand that he is interested in the statue, not the goats (which have survival value). He is also disciplined, religious and lonely.
Horse Statue – Forgotten on the edge of the village, just as Kiritam seems to have been forgotten by India after the highway was put in. The paint has faded and the opulant accessories are goen – just as Muni’s wealth has deteriorated. Also represents how the newer generations are becoming less religious and more liberal – no one pays attention to the Horse anymore, not even to vandalize it. No one cares for the spiritual significance of this Horse anymore.
NB: there is an overall warmth and sympathy for his characters.
Culture Clash – clash of cultures, specifically the clash of Indian and Western cultures. Using humor instead of anger, Narayan demonstrates just how far apart the two worlds are: the two cultures exist in the same time and space, but literally and metaphorically speak different languages. The two main characters in this story couldn’t be more different: Muni is poor, rural, uneducated, Hindu, brown; the American is wealthy, urban, educated, probably Judeo-Christian, white. As a good Hindu, Muni calmly accepts the hand that fate has dealt him, while the American is willing and able to take drastic and sudden action to change his life (for example, flying off to India, or throwing away his return plane ticket to transport a horse statue home on a ship). A lack of respect is shown in the American, who does not consider the statue’s role/importance but simply wishes to own it. This lack of respect can also be seen in the fact that the American has no excuse for being so ignorant – he is educated and ‘worldy’ and has always wanted to go to India. Muni has never had an opportunity to learn about the West. The American has a very self-oriented perspective on the world.
The message? A) Cross-cultural awareness is paramouont in today’s world.
B) We are what we value (Muni vs. American).
Role of Women – There are three women in the story: Muni’s good wife, the postman’s bad wife, and the American’s wife. The good wife is a caretaker and provider who stays with Muni through thick and thin. The bad wife is an adulterer and a shame on the postmam, says Muni. This bad wife serves to characterize Muni and his values. The American’s wife is a stereotypical ‘strong’ wife who decides things – like Muni’s wife – these women are in the background, but they resurface always as the reason these men can keep going. Muni in the sense of survival and the American in the broadening of his horizons (she books the trip to where he’s always wanted to go). These mirrored relationships are not perfect, there is both caring and conflict. Women are broken down into their base stereotypes – good/bad. They are not full characters and are only ‘seen’ by the reader through the eyes of the men in their lives – the “Male Gaze” – which tells you more, perhaps, about the men doing the seeing than the women they’re talking about.
The message? A) Women reflect their men’s values (ie, women used to characterize men).
B) Discussion on the definition of a ‘good’ woman.
C) Behind every great man there is a great woman – the women are integral to the men’s lives.

Born in Cairo, Soueif was educated in Egypt and England.
The story movingly portrays the breaking down of the relationship between an English writer and her Egyptian husband. The
story opens with a lyrical description of the narrator sitting on the beach where the water rolled in. You should consider the
significance of this opening description to the title and also to the story as a whole. The first summer holiday at the place
described (which was new to the narrator though not her husband) was a time of joy when her husband was a ‘colossus
bestriding the waves’. During the second summer holiday she misses their earlier time together spent in London. Explore the
evidence that, in spite of the passage of time, the wife finds it difficult to fit into a different culture and to consider what
effect this has on her relationship with her husband. You might begin with this excerpt: ‘My foreignness, which had been so charming, began to irritate him. My inability to remember names, to follow the minutiae of politics, my struggles with the
language, my need to be protected from the sun, the mosquitoes, the salads, the drinking water.’

– Unnamed protagonist – blank narrator; fading love; disillusioned; displaced; lost; without solid purpose in life; alienated from new “place” (and daughter?); passive
– Unnamed husband – no identity (removed out of bitterness, or because he is simply no longer her life’s ‘focus’?); unwillingly fading love; still cares
– Lucy – new ‘focus,’ (therefore she gets a name?); torn between cultures
Basic Plot:
– Protagonist recounts (via narration and flashback) the generalities of her relationship to her now husband. This includes their early relationship (characterized by pure love, excitement of ‘foreignness’ and innocence), the decision to marry (supposed realization that he is the most important thing in her life via near death experience, also that he becomes her ‘reason to live’ (she writes for him, collects stories for him, etc) and – somewhat – vice versa), decision for children (penultimate expression of her love for him) and the slow breakdown of their relationship (drifting apart because of ‘practical’ differences and a waning of original emotions. The focus/ ‘reason for living’ shifts to Lucy). The exterior relationship begins to fall apart as she searches for her place in the world – this is something that shifts from Man to Lucy, but neither of these things are true purposes, just passing ones.
– A summer afternoon spent at a beach-house is rather inconsequential; therefore, deduce that the actions of our characters, since they do not contribute to the plot, are actually reflections of their personality.
– Narrative structure includes disconcerting juxtapositions between memory and the present to show the narrator’s state of mind.
– Cross-cultural tensions/ ‘stranger in a strange land’ experiences
– Identity (how place influences identity/shows you things about yourself – like poems “Summer Farm” and “Where I Come From”) and finding one’s place in the world.

Summary of Poems

Here are some summaries of the poems that we studied in class that our teacher Pato prepared for us in order to understand them better and to help us study.


PIED BEAUTY – Gerard Manley Hopkins
Hopkins was born in England in 1844 and died in 1889. This poem was published in 1918, some forty-one years after Hopkins
wrote it in 1877, the year he became a Jesuit priest. His distinctive and innovative poetry found fame after his death rather
than during the English Victorian age in which he lived, when more traditional verse was popular and perhaps more
acceptable to the Victorian taste.
Overview of Poem:
Line 1 gives thanks to God for creating ‘dappled things’.
Lines 2 – 5 provides a list of specific things which are ‘dappled’ and which cumulatively express delight at such variety in the
natural world. In order, they are:
· skies presumably of blue sky and white cloud
· a ‘brinded’ cow – i.e. a cow streaked with different colours
· the trout with its specks of different colour (‘stipple’ is a speck)
· chestnuts glowing like coal – an image approaching the surreal, the black of the coal and the glow of the flame
· finches’ wings landscape of fields ‘plotted and pieced’ like a patchwork, some planted, some fallow and some
recently ploughed (‘fold, fallow and plough’).
Line 6 shifts attention from natural phenomena to the jobs that men (!) have and the different types of equipment they have.
‘Gear’ and ‘tackle’ are more recognisably comprehensible to the twenty-first century reader than the word ‘trim’ as used
Line 7 marks a turning-point. The language becomes more abstract in character, after the concrete detail of the previous
lines. It might be helpful to look at the final two lines of the poem first: God is the creator of all things mentioned in the
poem, and should be praised. Then go back to the adjectives in line 7: God is creator of ‘all things counter, original, spare,
strange’. These ‘fickle’ things are themselves ‘freckled’ with opposite qualities: swift / slow; sweet / sour; adazzle / dim.
Looking in detail:
Consider the relationship of the first line to the rest of the poem. The central place of God as creator is picked up again in the
final two lines. The ‘dappled things’ are listed in lines 2 – 5.
Think about what it is precisely that God is being praised for. Look closely at the descriptions of cow, trout, chestnut, finches
and landscapes. In what ways do the descriptions appeal to the sense of sight?
Before dealing with lines 7 – 9, consider the significance of the final two lines to the whole poem. What do you make of the
made-up word ‘fathers-forth’ and the short final line ‘Praise him’ in the context of the overall poem?
Then explore the meaning of lines 7 – 9. What do you think ‘things’ refer to, and what do you make of the four adjectives
‘counter, original, spare, strange’? Use a dictionary here: ‘spare’, for example, is among other things defined as ‘surplus’,
‘leftover’ and ‘unwanted’. Which of these words do you feel to be the most suitable synonym, and why?
Consider how the list of opposites (lines 8-9) links with the idea of dappled things? You should now have a clearer idea of
what Hopkins is celebrating. Support your ideas by careful reference to the words of the poem.
How would you describe the tone? Do the references to God help them to answer this question? There is a note of religious
devotion in this celebration of the diversity of God’s creations.
In what ways do you feel the sounds reinforce the poem’s meanings?

HORSES – Edwin Muir
Muir was born in 1887 on a farm in the Orkney Islands, where he lived a happy childhood. At the age of 14, he moved with
his family to Glasgow, which he came to regard as a descent from Eden into hell. He became a critic and translator as well as
poet. He died in 1959. This poem Horses should not be confused with his later more frequently anthologised poem The
The sight of horses now, in the present, leads the speaker to consider his feelings towards horses when he was a child:
‘Perhaps some childish hour has come again’.
There is an other-worldliness about the description of the horses, something magical. Admiration and fear are mixed. There
is a clear Romantic feel about the poem: e.g. ‘And oh the rapture…’
Some archaic words are explained in the glossary. Here are other words that you might usefully probe more closely:
Stanza 1: ‘lumbering’ gives the impression that the horses are moving in a slow, heavy and awkward way.
Stanza 2: pistons in the machines in an ancient mill are used to describe the movement of the horses’ hooves as the child
‘watched fearful’. The use of imagery drawn from the early industrial age is interesting in what it tells us about the child’s
Stanza 3: the word ‘conquering’ suggests a reference to an even earlier age. The word ‘ritual’ and the descriptions ‘seraphim
of gold’ and ‘ecstatic monsters’ hint at something pagan or pre-historic.
Stanza 4: the ‘rapture’ conveys a Romantic sense of worshipping these natural creatures: see lines 2 – 4.
Stanza 5: ‘glowing with mysterious fire’ links with the ‘magic power’, which describes the horses he sees in the present day
(in the first stanza).
Stanza 6: the powerful force of the horses is captured in the eyes gleaming with a ‘cruel apocalyptic light’. The religious
imagery follows on from the ‘struggling snakes’ of stanza 5.
Stanza 7: the repetition of ‘it fades’ suggests loss, straightforwardly the fading of his memory. ‘Pine’ means to feel a lingering,
often nostalgic desire.
Notice the shift in time in stanza 2. The rest of the poem deals with the speaker’s recollection of his feelings as a child. What
impression do you feel is created by the simile of the ‘pistons’?
The references in this stanza 3are to a pre-industrial age. Consider the effects of these words: ‘conquering hooves’, ‘ritual’,
‘seraphim of gold’ and ‘mute ecstatic monsters’. They should consult a dictionary where appropriate.
What do you make of the tone in stanza 4? Explore the words used to describe the horses, and to consider what they reveal
about the speaker’s attitude? What contrast is signalled by the use of ‘But when at dusk…’ at the beginning of stanza 5?
What do you make of ‘mysterious fire’ here and the ‘magic power’ attributed to the present-day horses in stanza 1?
Ask students to analyse the effectiveness of the imagery in stanza 6: the ‘cruel apocalyptic light’ of their eyes and the
personification of the wind.
How does the tone I the final stanza differ from the tone in other parts of the poem?

HUNTING SNAKE – Judith Wright
Judith Wright was an Australian writer, born in 1915; she died in 2000. She celebrated nature in many of her poems. In her
later life she was a conservationist and campaigned for the rights of Aboriginal peoples.
Wright’s poem recalls something of D. H. Lawrence’s poem Snake. There is the same awe-struck observation, a sense of
stopping dead in one’s tracks.
There are three useful areas of content to focus on:
· the description of the snake itself
· the effect the snake has on the speaker and her walking companion
· the brief mention of the creature being hunted
Each stanza has four lines; each line has eight syllables; the rhyme pattern is similar for the first three stanzas but not the
last: these are of course statements of the blindingly obvious. But a useful starting-point might be to focus on structure and
how the content is arranged within and across stanzas.
What do the words ‘grace’ and ‘gentlest’ convey? How is the suddenness of their stopping suggested? You should consider
the contrast between ‘Sun-warmed’ and ‘froze’.
Look at the words which describe the physical qualities of the snake. The word ‘reeling’ is interesting. Look up meanings of
the word in a dictionary. In what ways might it apply to the people as well as the snake?
Consider the majestic qualities of the snake. You might consider the force of ‘the parting grass’, ‘glazed’, ‘diamond’ and ‘we
lost breath’.
Consider the effect of the alliteration in ‘food’, ‘fled’ and ‘fierce’ (in stanza three).
You should chart the reactions of the speaker and her companion to the snake as described in each stanza. How do the
words used convey their reactions? What do you make of the poem’s final two lines and their relationship to the rest of the poem?

PIKE – Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England in 1930. His poetry discards Romantic notions
about the natural world. He became British Poet Laureate in 1984 and was so until his death in 1998.
In Pike Hughes offers a far from Romantic view of nature in his depiction of this primitive and malevolent fish.
Stanzas 1 – 4 offers a mix of objective description (‘green tigering the gold’) and subjective description (‘their own grandeur).
Stanzas 5 – 7 include what appears to be personal anecdote of three pike kept at home inside an aquarium and then the
grisly description of two large pike that had been locked in deadly combat: ‘One jammed past its gills down the other’s
Stanzas 8 – 11 mingles personal recollection (‘A pond I fished, fifty years across’) with reflection.
Listening to the recording of Hughes reading the poem. It can be found on the www.poetryarchive.org website:
Here Hughes gives a brief account of how he came to write the poem in the introduction to his reading.
Stanzas 1 – 4
List what facts they learn about pike and their habitat. How does the use of colours add to the dramatic impact of Hughes’
Explore the effects of particular words or phrases: e.g. ‘Killers from the egg’, ‘malevolent aged grin’, ‘submarine delicacy and
horror’, ‘The jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs’, ‘gills kneading quietly’. What do they make of the chilling line ‘A life subdued to
its instrument’?
What qualities do you think Hughes attributes to pike? You might start a detailed exploration of the language with the first
and last lines of stanza two.
Stanzas 5 – 7
Explain what happens in stanza five, which is a good example of the economy of poetry. What impressions are conveyed by
the use of the word ‘jungled’? This is another instance of a noun being made into a verb (see ‘tigering’ in the first stanza) –
though there will of course be more to observe than that. How effective do you find the final two-word sentence ‘Finally
How does the description of the two pike that begins on the third line of stanza six and ends in the final line of stanza seven
make you feel? Consider the precise effects of the words which make you feel as you do. What does the simile ‘as a vice
locks’ add to the description?
Stanzas 8 – 11
Explain the shift in content and tone that occurs with stanza eight. The pond where the speaker went fishing in his youth is
described as ‘deep as England’. Consider this simile with its connotations of England’s rich history and also the more
immediate context of a boy fishing.
You should explore how Hughes conveys the eerie atmosphere and the boy’s fear in the final three stanzas. Look at the words and also to listen to the sounds. It is interesting to hear the long ‘o’ sound in ‘rose slowly towards’ in the last line. How effective do you find this use of assonance and other uses of sound devices in adding to the drama of the situation?

THE CITY PLANNERS – Margaret Atwood
Born in Canada in 1939, Atwood is an established poet, novelist and literary critic, perhaps best known to many as author of
the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (published in 1985).
The poem begins with a satirical attack on the sterile uniformity of the residential suburbs. People are conspicuous by their
absence in her descriptions. In the first stanza the speaker declares: ‘what offends us is / the sanities’. The sanities include
houses in pedantic rows, sanitary trees and discouraged grass. There is nothing untoward; even the ‘whine’ of a power
mower is described in an oxymoron as ‘rational’. In stanza two, however, ‘certain things’ are listed that ‘give momentary
access to / the landscape behind or under / the future cracks… (stanza three). These things have the effect of disturbing the
order: the smell of oil, a splash of paint, a plastic hose ‘poised in a vicious / coil’ (suggestive of a snake) and ‘the too fixed
stare of the wide windows’. Stanza three anticipates the effects of the destructive power of nature with houses described as
sliding into the clay seas ‘gradual as glaciers / that right now nobody notices’. The last few words of stanza three lead on to
the ‘City Planners’ in stanza four, with their ‘insane faces of political conspirators’. The final three stanzas convey the futility
of planning, ‘guessing directions’ as the planners ‘sketch transitory lines’ in their attempts to impose order on the suburbs.
The planners are described as remote figures ‘concealed from each other, / each in his own private blizzard’.
What are your impressions of the suburbs described in the first stanza? Make sure you have evidence from the stanza to
support your points.
What evidence is there to suggest that the speaker is an outsider looking in? Consider the first two lines and also the
significance of the dent in the speaker’s car door. What does the word ‘rebuke’ refer to?
Make a list of the words/phrases that capture the speaker’s disapproving tone and to comment on the precise effects
created. For example, what effects do they feel are created by the underlined words in this quotation: ‘nothing more abrupt
/ than the rational whine of a power mower’? What do they make of the oxymoron ‘rational whine’?
How do other words in the stanza convey the soulless atmosphere of the suburb?
Consider the contrast between the first and second stanzas. What do they make of the driveways that ‘neatly / sidestep
hysteria / by being even’? What do the words ‘sanities’ and ‘hysteria’ have in common? And how are they different?
The syntax is somewhat complex. You will need to link the ‘certain things’ to what the speakers say they do (i.e. ‘give
momentary access to…’) in stanza three. List the things and to consider the words and sounds used to describe them. For
example, how do you interpret the ‘too fixed stare’ of the wide windows?
Consider the effectiveness of the concise line ‘certain things’ and its positioning within this stanza.
Look the image of nature presented in stanza 3 and comment closely on the effects of key words such as ‘capsized’, ‘slide
obliquely’ and also the simile of the glacier.
Probe closely the descriptions of the City Planners (note the capitals here). What attitude towards them is revealed in these
descriptions? Consider the following adjectives in relation to the planners’ actions: misguided, ignorant, futile. Which of
these adjectives (or any adjectives they might themselves suggest) best describes the planners here?
It is difficult to see in a blizzard: how effective do they find the use of the blizzard metaphor in stanza four?
How is their attitude towards the planners affected by what they read in stanza three?
How do you feel the final two lines should be read, and how effective do you find the metaphors ‘panic of suburb’ and ‘bland
madness of snows’?

THE PLANNERS – Boey Kim Cheng
Boey Kim Cheng was born in Singapore in 1965. He now lives and works in Australia.
After the title, the planners are referred to anonymously as ‘they’ six times. The word is used twice in the first line and
appears at the beginning of the first and second stanzas. ‘They’ are presented as all-powerful: nothing can stop them. In
stanza one there is a sameness and uniformity about the city which creates an exact but soulless landscape (similar to that of the residential suburb in Atwood’s The City Planners). The buildings are ‘in alignment’ and meet roads at ‘desired points’. The
stanza ends with personification of both the sea that ‘draws back’ and the skies that ‘surrender’ in the face of such progress.
In stanza two there is a sense that history is being erased: the ‘flaws’ and ‘blemishes of the past’. The drilling, we are told,
‘goes right through / the fossils of last century’. Anything not up to scratch is removed: ‘knock off / useless blocks with dental
dexterity’. An extended dentistry metaphor runs through the stanza. The line ‘Anaesthesia, amnesia, hypnosis’ is followed by
‘They [the planners] have the means’. This is an interesting line to consider, especially after considering the definitions of
these words:
anaesthesia – state of having sensation blocked
amnesia – condition in which memory is disturbed or lost
hypnosis – sleep-like state in which the mind responds to external suggestion.
In the light of the first two stanzas, what do you make of the final stanza, beginning ‘But my heart would not bleed / poetry’.
The words ‘single drop’ and ‘stain’ extend the blood/bleeding metaphor. The contrast between the final and first two stanzas
could not be more marked.
Probe the effects of particular words in stanza one. The words ‘gridded’, permutations of possibilities’, ‘points’, ‘grace of
mathematics’ are associated (broadly) with mathematics. What does their use here reveal about the speaker’s attitude
towards planners and city planning?
Explore the personification of the sea and skies in the final two lines of stanza one. What do the images suggest about the
relationship between man (more specifically, planners) and nature? What do you think is the speaker’s view of planners?
Consider the effect of the repetition of the word ‘They’ and also where each instance of the word appears in the poem.
List each reference to dentistry and dental work in stanza two, and consider closely the effect created by using each
word/phrase. Consult a dictionary for relevant meanings of the words in the line ‘Anaesthesia, amnesia, hypnosis’. Then
consider what contribution this line makes to the poem as a whole. What does it reveal about the speaker’s attitude towards
Re-read the poem’s first two stanzas again, practising getting right the tone (and any shifts in tone). Then you should
consider the meaning of the last stanza (beginning ‘But’) and its relationship to the rest of the poem.
What do you make of the ‘bleed poetry’ metaphor in the context of the poem? His heart would not bleed ‘a single drop / to
stain the blueprint / of our past’s tomorrow’. How do you interpret this, and do you find it an effective ending to the poem?

SUMMER FARM – Norman MacCaig
Norman MacCaig was born in Scotland in 1910 and died in 1996. Summer Farm contains MacCaig’s characteristic blend of
writing about nature and personal reflection.
The poem splits nicely into two parts:
· The first two stanzas offer descriptions of aspects of nature, chiefly concerned with what the speaker sees.
· The final two stanzas focus on the speaker: ‘I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass, / Afraid of where a thought
might take me…’
In this way the poem charts a movement away from the concrete to the abstract. The first two stanzas include descriptions
which are certainly original, perhaps even startling: e.g. ‘Straws like tame lightnings’, ‘ducks go wobbling’, ‘the dizzy blue’.
The mention, in stanza three, of fear ‘of where a thought might take me’ and the speaker’s description of himself as ‘a pile of
selves’ contribute to a more reflective and philosophical mood and type of writing. The speaker talks about lifting the lid of
the farm ‘with a metaphysic hand’. He ends the poem by stating that he is ‘in the centre’ of the farm. The phrases ‘Self under
self’ and ‘Farm within farm’ perhaps convey the sense that he is only part of a long sequence of people connected with the
farm. This is perhaps the thought that he was too afraid to countenance earlier in stanza three.
List the things the speaker sees in the first two stanzas, and then consider the precise effects created by the specific words
used in MacCaig’s descriptions. For example, how effective do you find the lightning simile in describing the straw and the
phrase ‘hang zigzag on hedges’?
How effective are the descriptions of:
· the water in the trough
· the ducks
· the hen
· the swallow
· the sky (‘empty’, ‘the dizzy blue’).
Comment on the contrast (in subject matter and tone) between the first two stanzas and the final two stanzas. You could
record their judgements in a table with two columns headed ‘Stanza 1’ and ‘Stanza 2’.
What is the speaker actually doing in stanzas three and four? What is the significance of the grasshopper which ‘finds himself
in space’?
Consider closely the possible meanings and effects of the following similes and metaphors in the final stanza:
‘Self under self, a pile of selves I stand / Threaded on time’ [What does ‘Threaded’ mean here?]
‘Lift the farm like a lid and see / Farm within farm…’
‘…in the centre, me.’
You should consider in what way the final stanza might explain these words from stanza three: ‘Afraid of where a thought
might take me’.
Comment on the effectiveness of the poem’s structure in relation to its subject-matter. You might consider the stanza
arrangement and the effects of particular rhymes.

WHERE I COME FROM – Elizabeth Brewster
Elizabeth Brewster is a Canadian poet and academic, born in 1922. The description in the second stanza of this poem
captures something of the rural Canada of her early years.
The first sentence in the first line is exemplified in the remainder of the first stanza. People have within them (in their
characters) something of the places where they live or perhaps where they were born. She lists jungles, mountains, seas and
the city. The greater part of the first stanza is devoted to city-dwellers in museums, glue factories, offices and subways.
Stanza two marks a shift from the city to a rural context, and with it perhaps a shift from present to past. The stanza begins
with a repetition of the title ‘Where I come from’. As with stanza one, there is a succession of images, though this time drawn
from the countryside. The images are parts of the people’s minds: pine woods, blueberry patches, farmhouses, and ‘battered
schoolhouses / behind which violets grow’.
The final four lines (straddling stanzas two and three) are central to the poem, and help to explain the formative influences
on the speaker’s mind. The focus is on the ‘chief’ seasons of spring and winter: ‘ice and the breaking of ice’. The final line of
the poem contributes to the wintry description with ‘a frosty wind from fields of snow’. The metaphor of the door in the
mind that ‘blows open’ demonstrates vividly the importance of the sense of place the speaker carries with her in her own
Divide a sheet of paper in two and list:
· the places in stanza one
· the places in stanza two.
Then consider the words and sounds used to describe each place. Which places do you feel are described more approvingly
and which places less approvingly? You should justify their views by close reference to the poem, always commenting on the
precise effects created by particular words.
Is there a sense that the description is uneven (with more given to the rural places)? Why do you think this is?
From your reading of the poem, what do you feel is the tone of stanza two? What effect is created by the phrases: ‘burnedout
bush’, ‘in need of paint’ and ‘battered schoolhouses’? What effect is created by the juxtaposition of violets growing
behind the battered schoolhouses?
You should next read the final four lines of the poem. How do they reveal the speaker’s thoughts and feelings? What is
meant by ‘Spring and winter / are the mind’s chief seasons’? How does this link with the content of the final two-line stanza?
How effective is the metaphor ‘A door in the mind blows open’? How does this connect with the final line and the central
idea of the poem?
Do you feel the poem has only a personal significance to the poet, or is it possible to detect a more universal significance? Is
the metaphor of a door blowing open one you can identify with in relation to a place you feel is important to you?
Which sounds in the poem do you find particularly striking, and why? Start by thinking about the sibilance in lines 4 and 5, or
the emphatic alliteration in ‘blueberry patches in the burned-out bush’. As always, you should think about the effects
created by the use of such devices.
Do you feel that other senses are used to powerful effect in the poem? Look for examples you find particularly striking, and
explain why.

Born in 1770 in the north of England, Wordsworth lived until the age of eighty. As a Romantic poet, he wrote of the beauty of
nature. The moment he captures in this poem is when he and his sister, Dorothy, stood on Westminster Bridge one early
morning before the city of London was awake.
Perhaps students could explore any similarities between Dorothy’s diary entry and her brother’s poem – see below.
The language of the poem is fairly straightforward. In addition to the words glossed in the anthology, the meanings of words
such as ‘majesty’ and ‘splendour’ might be given particular consideration as to how they are used in the poem. How do these
words reveal the speaker’s attitude, and how do they contribute to the overall mood?
This is a Petrarchan sonnet. The octave (first 8 lines) captures the beauty of this particular morning. Earth, personified, has
nothing more fair to show, which is praise indeed coming from this worshipper of nature. The city, personified, is wearing
only the beauty of the morning ‘like a garment’. The bare list of things in line 6 provides in an extremely economic way the
iconography of the city of London (largely familiar today – except for the ships). The rising sun makes everything ‘bright and
glittering’. The time of day is significant as such a beautiful image with its ‘smokeless air’ might be captured only before the
city wakes up and gets to work.
The sestet (last 6 lines) expresses the speaker’s view that the beauty of the city in early morning sunlight surpasses that of
‘valley, rock or hill’, more typical targets of praise in much romantic poetry. The effect on the poet’s mood is considerable:
‘Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!’
The final three lines have three instances of personification: of the river, the houses and the city itself, with ‘all that mighty
List all the views expressed by the speaker, starting with that expressed in the first line. You should annotate a copy of the
poem, showing the effects of particular words: for example, what do they make of ‘so touching in its majesty’?
Consider Wordsworth’s use of description in the octave. How effective do you find the simile ‘like a garment wear / The
beauty of the morning’? And the simple list used in line six? How important do they feel is the time of day and the mention of
‘smokeless air’ to the mood? Look for and comment on any change in subject-matter or change in tone, or any development in the argument, which
occurs in the sestet. Why do they think people are absent from the poem?
Explain the speaker’s feeling of ‘a calm so deep’, making sure you provide pertinent reference to the poem. How do you feel
the last three lines of the sestet contribute to the poem’s mood?
Find all the examples of hyperbole, personification and sound devices Wordsworth uses. As always, such notes should focus
on the precise effects created by using specific devices. This is not an invitation to simply log features. Select an example yiu
find particularly memorable, and explain how Wordsworth’s writing makes it so.

A BIRTHDAY – Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti was born in England in 1820 and died in 1894. She wrote this poem when she was twenty-seven. Perhaps
nowadays she is more famous for her poem Remember and the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter.
The title of the poem makes sense when the final two lines of the poem are read. Here her love coming to her is described as
‘the birthday of my life’.
The poem is saturated with sensuous vocabulary, which you should explore fully. Unfamiliar words such as ‘dais’ and archaic
words such as ‘vair’ are explained in the glossary.
There is a clear contrast between the content of each stanza. The first deals with actual images of nature and the second with
the artificial and exotic images of nature (e.g. ‘gold and silver grapes’).
The first stanza describes the extent of the speaker’s happiness. The final line makes it clear that she is happier than all the
things she describes because her love is coming to her. In the second stanza she wishes to immerse herself in rich and
beautiful surroundings in order to celebrate her love coming to her.
How would you read the three imperative verbs which relate to the act of creating something (‘Raise’, ‘Carve’, ‘Work’) in the
second stanza? What other features of sound can they identify, and what effects do they create?
Explore the idyllic natural images in the first stanza: of the singing-bird, apple-tree and rainbow shell. What do the words
(and sounds) reveal about the speaker’s mood? Do you think this is all about happiness, as the last two lines of the first
stanza would seem to suggest: ‘My heart is gladder than all these’?
Consider how Rossetti vividly conveys the exotic nature of the things she describes in stanza two.
Note contrasts between the two stanzas, both in their content and style. You might usefully compare the last two lines of
each stanza.
Consider the significance of the title and how do you think Rossetti uses the word in the poem’s penultimate line?

THE WOODSPURGE – Dante Gabriel Rossetti
This poem is written by Christina Rossetti’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1892). Leading light of the Pre-Raphaelite
movement, he was as famous for his painting as for his poetry. This poem was written in 1856.
The title suggests that the woodspurge will be at the centre of the poem, but there is in fact no detailed description of this
wild plant. Having stared at it during a mood of depression, the speaker learns just one thing about it: ‘The woodspurge has a
cup of three’. The tone is matter-of-fact. The earlier mentions of ‘grass’ and ‘ten weeds’ are not described in any poetic detail
either. What there is of nature in the poem is used as a backdrop for the speaker’s depressed state of mind. He is carried
along somewhat aimlessly by the wind until it stops. He sits down, his hair touching the grass, and among the weeds he
notices the woodspurge. He seems to be in this position for some time: ‘My naked ears heard the day pass’. We do not,
however, learn what has caused him to be so sad and miserable.
The relative lack of description and the simple language perhaps serve to reinforce the speaker’s gloomy state of mind. There
is an unusual insistent rhyme scheme (AAAA, BBBB etc.) and many of the lines are monosyllabic. These features, too, may
play a role in conveying the speaker’s unhappy state of mind. Consider how this might be the case by selecting examples and
commenting on precise effects.
Consider the force of the end rhymes and the use of monosyllables in conveying the mood in the first stanza. You should
explore the description of the wind (the word ‘wind’ appears four times) and the effect it has on the speaker.
What are your impressions of the speaker from the first two stanzas? What do you make of his physical position and of the
words he speaks? Do you find him a sympathetic figure (or perhaps overly melodramatic)? How do you respond to the
repetition of ‘My’?
Do you think that stanza three depicts an authentic picture of depression? Or might it seem contrived? Re-read the poem
again and consider what significance the title has to the whole poem. What do you think are the poem’s deeper meanings?
Does the woodspurge have a symbolic significance? Does it have to? Consider the first two lines of the final stanza. What
effect is created by the use of oxymoron ‘perfect grief’? Do these lines provide the key to the poem’s meaning? Or do other
lines provide the key? Support their answers by close reference to the words of the poem.