English Literature





Explore the speaker’s intimacy of his relationship with his grandfather and the poetic devices used to express their closeness in ‘Climbing My Grandfather’.

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Letha Schiller

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When Analysing the poem 'Climbing my Grandfather' by Andrew Waterhouse we are immediately made aware of the closeness of their relationship when we read the first line ' I decide to do it free, without a rope or net'. This is at first glance a climbing term but as we examine more closely we understand that Waterhouse is giving us an immediate sense of the trust between the speaker and his grandfather. We get a sense that the speaker is both aware and comfortable with his own capabilities and also he is perhaps well practised in the task he is about to undertake - knowing the metaphorical landscape of his grandfather. Further in to the free verse the speaker draws our attention to what could be a perilous climb but instead uses language which puts us at ease; for example' an easy scramble on to his trousers' to further convince the reader that the speaker is in control of his actions and give a sense of his ability in the context of knowing his grandfather.

Towards the mid section of the poem the speaker says 'On his arm I discover the glassy ridge scar , place my feet gently on the old stitches and move on' again this gives the reader a sense that even the difficulties or traumas which are part of their relationship or perhaps part of his grandfathers past, we can even go as far as to say that the scar is being used as a simile 'like an ice shelf' and acts as a springboard for the speaker, metaphorically using the past as an ascent  towards the future and towards the top of his grandfather ( The Mountain).The next moment where Waterhouse pulls us in to the relationship between speaker and grandfather displays both intimacy but also what we can interpret as a childhood memory; '.....then pull myself up the loose skin of his neck to a smiling mouth.....' he we see reference to the detail of his neck as if the speaker were now a child and he had been looking at it for a long time. This is a very personal observation and one which an adult probably wouldn't draw attention to, however, here the speaker is very free and honest in his tone. Furthermore Waterhouse intensifies the understanding the reader is starting to form about the relationships between the speaker and his grandfather by referring to his smiling mouth using the imagery of a mountain rest stop , a place of relaxation and safety. This really gives the reader a sense of a playful and happy relationship, the fact that the speaker rests here to take a drink also symbolises the ease of their companionship and provokes the reader to think of sharing a drink with a close friend. Finally the last line of verse in this poem summarises the overall effect the speaker has created throughout the poem when he says 'knowing the slow pulse of his good heart' this really emphasises the point of the poem, to express that the speaker knew his grandfather inside and out, scars and loose skin and all and to further impress  that he loved him and that he felt loved.The last sentence is written to give a sense of loss, the reader feels that the poem is an ode to a lost relationship the end sentence refers to a ‘slow pulse’ to show both the steadfastness of their bond but also perhaps ironically the anatomical reference to the end of life.

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