11 Nov 2013

Analysis of Piano by D H Lawrence for the Edexcel IGCSE Anthology Poetry

In his poem, 'Piano', how does D H Lawrence use language and structure to deal with the subject, memory?

This paragraph will sum up the topic, the main techniques used and how Lawrence deals with the memory. This paragraph considers his point of view and his attitude/mood. I don't tend to quote in the introduction and don't get bogged down in detail. If dealing with one poem, the introduction should be fairly short.

In Piano, D H Lawrence uses flashback [analepsis] between a woman singing and his childhood memory of sitting beneath his mother’s piano. Lawrence uses sensory language, particularly sound, along with the present tense, to conjure up a vivid, sensual memory which feels as if it is
happening now. When the flashback ends, the jolt is traumatic. While the recollection of being with his mother is a happy one, in the end, he weeps ‘for the past’.

This paragraph deals with structure. I always do structure first, so I don't forget. It also helps me to avoid repeating myself (I find), as this paragraph only deals with the architecture - or the shape of the poem. I usually end up quoting a lot of technical terms (in bold). Then I analyse the effect (in italics), then start to make links and an overall interpretation of how this structure is used to get across the theme. Here, we found some contradictions, so we had to figure out how those contradictions add to the message. N.B. in English Literature/Language exams, contradictions are very important. They do not 'cancel each other out', and while they may intially seem confusing, that means you need to try to work harder to figure them out. You have spotted something very important that the poet has done deliberately.

In Piano, Lawrence uses regular stanzas which are all end-stopped. This creates the effect that the memory is neatly contained. However, other parts of the structure contradict this. The line lengths are unusually, and consistently long. They are also somewhat irregular. Enjambment adds to the flowing, expansive effect. It is as if the memory is like an unstoppable river, threatening to get out of control.

The first stanza juxtaposes the present and past tightly together. The woman ‘singing’ transports Lawrence - who is telling us about his own childhood - into the flashback. Unusually, the present tense is used both for the present and the past - as if the past is as vivid as the present. This memory feels like it happening now. In the second stanza, Lawrence starts to analyse how this flashback makes him feel, and this continues in the final stanza. The final idea is a sensory one - he breaks down and weeps. It is as if the memory is so vivid and powerful that the loss of it affects him as a real loss, physically, in the present.

The rhyme scheme is strongly regular, despite the shifting line-length, which gives a strong rhythm and melody, which we can see in internal rhyme of ‘tingling’, ‘strings’ / ‘sings’. This links to the musical theme of the ‘Piano’. The strong rhyme adds to the neat, contained effect, which makes it even more shocking when at the end of the poem, his emotions get out of control in the ‘flood of remembrance’.

How does the writer use language to get across the theme?
Lawrence uses musical language to bring this memory to life. Sibilant sounds like ‘softly’, ‘dusk’ and ‘singing’ in the first line begin with a gentle, low-key mood. The lights is fading, which could represent getting older... [to be continued!]

How would we write an introduction in the same style for Half Past Two?
In Half Past Two, U A Fanthorpe, dramatises a child’s experience of being told off at school for something he doesn’t understand. Fanthorpe brings the reader imaginatively into that period of childhood where imagination and magic meet, in the ‘tickless’ time before we can measure time by the clock.
The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.