Compare the ways Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage try to make you feel disturbed

a) Compare the ways Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage try to make you feel disturbed in ‘Stealing’ and ‘Hitcher.’ Compare: what you think could be disturbing in the poems and how the poets make you feel disturbed by the ways they write.

In the poem ‘Stealing’ the character disturbs the reader by their coldness, callousness and general lack of feeling for the victims of their crimes: ‘part of the thrill was knowing / that children would cry in the morning,‘ and ‘sometimes I… break into houses just to have a look.‘ His or her actions are clearly deliberate.

By contrast, in ‘Hitcher’ we realise this is a spontaneous, unplanned crime: ‘stitch that I remember thinking, you can walk from there‘ but when the driver says ‘ I let him have it… once with the head then six times with the krooklok‘ the callousness is just as shocking.

Perhaps the most shocking thing is the thief’s admission that they’ve a ‘mind as cold as a slice of ice,while the driver in ‘hitcher’ is clearly bragging that they ‘didn’t even swerve.

The poets have both chosen a regular structure for their poems which would seem to indicate following the rules and conventions of society and yet within the poems the enjambment where the lines run on across the stanza divide for example in ‘I dropped it into third/ And leant across’ seems to show the character’s complete disrespect for the unwritten laws of hospitality to travellers. The reduction in punctuation in stanzas 3 and 4 also seem to show his haste to tell his story before he has time to think about his actions.

Similarly in ‘Stealing’ the jumble of short and long phrases underlines the randomness of their actions and the chaos of their thoughts: ‘I took a run and booted him. Again. Again.

A final disturbing aspect of the poem ‘Hitcher’ is the irony that the driver who assaulted his passenger had earlier ‘thumbed a lift‘ to where he had left his own car and yet is unable to treat the hitchhiker with the same respect he’d been given. Neither of the characters in these poems has a good reason for their anti-social actions: one gets a ‘thrill‘ and the other seems to boast and neither shows any remorse or guilt just a ‘you don’t understand a word I’m saying do you?‘ in ‘Stealing’ and an improvement in his day from ‘moderate to fair‘ in ‘Hitcher.’


And then

b) Compare the ways Thomas Hardy and Ben Jonson try to make you feel sorry for the speaker in ‘The Man He Killed’ and ‘On My First Sonne.’

Compare: what might make you feel sorry for the speakers and how the poets try to make you feel sorry by the ways they write.

The poets make us feel sorry for both characters in these poems in the first because this must be a common dilemma for soldiers who suddenly lose confidence in their commanders who have told them they must kill the enemy ‘just so my foe of course he was‘ while in Ben Jonson’s poem it is particularly poignant because this is autobiographical. His 7 year old son is dead and Jonson calls him ‘his right hand‘ and ‘best piece of poetrie‘ both of which indicate just how much he loved his son and how much he misses him.

The soldier in ‘the Man He Killed’ shows us that sometimes it is not enough to be told that someone is your enemy; a soldier needs a better reason than that. In his case he has already killed his enemy in a situation of kill or be killed ‘I shot at him as he at me‘ but now he seems ridden with guilt; his repetition of ‘because – /
Because’ and ‘my foe, / Just so: my foe’ clearly demonstrates his attempt to believe what his orders told him. But hisalthoughending stanza 3 equally shows us that he’s not convinced and he goes on to imagine a scenario where he and his enemy are similar in why they became soldiers, both ‘out of work… no other reason why‘ and how under other circumstances they could have been friends, ‘wet right many a nipperkin,’ or ‘treat… where any bar is.’

However both men have something in common because they both blame not only themselves but also a higher power. In the soldier’s case it is his superior officers but in Jonson’s it is God whom he blames for taking away his son because his ‘sinne was too much hope of thee.’ He thinks God is blaming him for his blasphemy.

The saddest thing though is the title and structure Jonson has chosen for his poem. The title includes the word ‘sonne‘ which is the word sonnet without the ‘t’ as if cut short, and the poem seems to be a shortened sonnet having only 12 lines rather than the traditional 14 – again as if cut short like the child’s life.





feelings of or for characters or about actions



Did you find this information helpful?