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Compare the Ways in Which Duffy and Pugh Write About Education Including Detailed Critical Discussions of 2 Poems by Duffy and 1 by Pugh

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Compare the ways in which Duffy and Pugh write about Education including detailed critical discussions of 2 poems by Duffy and 1 by Pugh Carol Ann Duffy and Sheenah Pugh explore the theme of education in different ways through their poems. This is especially true in Duffy’s ‘Mrs Tilscher’s Class’ as well as in ‘Education for Leisure’ and Pugh’s ‘Geography 1’.
In ‘Mrs Tilscher’s Class’, Duffy shows education to be a continual build on knowledge preparing you for the journey of life. She does this by introducing the reader to the innocent and naïve childlike voice trying to get a grasp of the possibilities of life. This is particularly displayed in the first line ‘You could travel up the Blue Nile’. By using the first word of the poem to be in the second person, ‘You’, Duffy is already drawing the reader into the story, as well as beginning to remind them that this character that unfolds is as innocent as they used to be before they were exposed to the world. Duffy also uses the word ‘Blue’ to describe the ’Nile’. By using such a vivid and beautiful colour to describe a river it evokes many possibilities in a child’s mind. As well as this, It also adds to the naivety of the child as the teach is describing this river as pure and beautiful, which in actual fact, the river is likely to be polluted by fumes and rubbish and instead of a striking ‘Blue’ colour, grey and dull. This can be a representation of how children are painted a pure, happy and idealistic view of the world around them when in real life; things are sad, ruined and broken. By putting this idea into the reader’s mind, it says that maybe education isn’t about setting children up for their life ahead, but in fact, it is opening them up to the possibilities that life can hold and showing them what it can be like if the right opportunities are fulfilled. This idea of an open-mind to the world is also shown through the enjambment of this line flowing into the next as well as emphasising the fluidity of the river being described. The suggestion that education is used to open up the minds of children to the potential of life is also displayed in Pugh’s poem ‘Geography 1’ in the line ‘preserved for posterity on my colour slides.’ Literally this line is talking about how the island ‘Surtsey’ was ‘preserved’ for the future generations to live and survive. However, Pugh meant a lot more than that. In this poem, Pugh is personifying ‘Surtsey’ to be a symbol of life itself. Therefore this line is a symbol of how we should make our life how we want it to be. Pugh is also suggesting that education is a tool in which to make life as full as possible by saying ‘on my colour slides’. This implies that children should take the knowledge and wisdom that teachers and education provides and paint their own life with it. Also by using the word ‘colour’ instead of pen or pencil, it adds vibrancy and just like in ‘Mrs Tilscher’s Class’, it adds excitement and wonder to the world instead of making it ordinary and dull. In contrast, Duffy also displays education in a darker way in ‘Education for Leisure’. In this poem, Duffy explores how the other side of education can be when the voice of the poem is let down by the system and as a result, loses all hope in life and in themself. This is particularly exposed in the line ‘I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.’ Using the image of a ‘fly’ being ‘squashed’ creates a sense of power from the voice as well as giving the reader an insight to the life of this person. This includes a bored and unhappy person who wasted their opportunities and so their life did not turn out how they wanted to. However it could also be interpreted that this person was let down by the education system as the teachers may not have done what they were supposed to do and give this person the equipment needed in order for them to succeed in life. By using a controversial but nevertheless true representation of a character who has not succeeded in life, Duffy has opened up a world of questions as to how this person managed to slip through without being noticed and become so unhappy that they have to result in ‘squashing flies’ in order for them to feel powerful in themself and have meaning to their life. Throughout this poem, Duffy uses the first person, ‘I’. This has a powerful effect on the reader as it brings them closer to the situation. As well as this, it also allows them to not only understand a different side of the story and a different lifestyle but it also means that they are also able to witness the feelings the voice has first-hand. By doing this, Duffy has given a voice to the voiceless. On the other hand, the voice in Pugh’s poem ‘Geography 1’ has a very different attitude to education and life as a whole. From reading the poem, the reader gets a sense that the voice is an intellectual woman who has been through many experiences and because of that has been able to learn from it and become respected. There is also a feeling of inspiration towards the voice of this poem as the use of colour and the knowledge used throughout the poem makes the reader look up to the character in almost awe. As well as this, the interaction between the voice and the reader, such as ‘we’, gives a welcoming feeling which, like in ‘Education for Leisure’ draws the reader into the situation, but in doing so, the reader feels like they have learnt something and are humbled to be included with someone who is knowledgeable which was not felt in the voice in Duffy’s poem. However, at the end of Pugh’s poem, the voice becomes distant and the reader gets a sense that the voice is looking back at a time in their life. This is especially shown by the use of the ellipsis in the penultimate stanza. By using the three dots, Pugh is creating a sense of thoughtfulness to the character of the voice as well as, in this case, showing a sense of regret for something which can only be guessed at by the reader. This is mirrored to the thoughts and feelings shown in the voice in Duffy’s poem.
The end of Duffy’s ‘Mrs Tilscher’s Class’ is also extremely important to the meaning of the poem as a whole. The last line of the poem is ‘as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.’ The word ‘thunderstorm’ is one of the key images in Duffy’s view of education. He word ‘thunderstorm’ has connotations of being loud, frightening as well as confusing. This could be a symbol of secondary school and of how the children are of the age of moving on to higher education which can be scary and confusing. However, it could be a visual representation of the enormity of the realisation of growth and the gravity of the knowledge that nothing will be the same again and that life is not as perfect as it was first thought made out to be. Another interpretation is that the bolts of lightning that inevitably come with a thunderstorm could represent the desire that has been sparked into these children after having the knowledge of life and what is means to be human. Finally, a ‘thunderstorm’ is thought to be grey and imposing which is the complete opposite of the first image of the ‘Blue Nile’. This could signify how moving through school and acquiring the knowledge of life, the children’s has changed forever and so their prospects may not be as never-ending as they thought. This realisation could either make or break a child depending on whether the ‘thunderstorm’ clears, like the voice of ‘Geography 1’ or if it hovers over them like the voice of ‘Education for Leisure’.…...

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