Essay question: how do the words of the poem express the poet’s feelings about the children she observes at play?
In the poem “One Street Beyond”, the author uses different words to express their feelings and to describe the children who are on the street. In the following essay, I will analyze how the poet uses dark imagery and other literary resources to express the feeling of hopelessness she feel when she watches the children play with no supervision.
To begin with, the author describes the setting where the children play all day. From the very beginning, we know that they play “from first light to pub time” and “all through the long August.” The author describes the place where they play saying they walk around “the grit of empty underpasses” and “down the absurd grass flanks of the main road.” These descriptions reveal a dark place, dirty and uncared for. It is clearly not a suitable place for children.
The author also describes how the children play with dangerous objects such as “broken glass and match-sticks” and “throwing coke cans and threats.” There seems to be a lot of violence in the way in which they play, and for most of the poem the parents are not even present. Other descriptions mention “tractors and go-carts squealing in mindless circles” and says about the children that “some are running away, and others, standing staring at a vacant play-space.” All these images portray a dangerous, dark place filled with children who are left alone to do as they please. Therefore, it is clear that the poet feels sorry for these kids, since she is always emphasising how awful everything is and how alone the children are. The author describes the children as “darkening and hardening”, which is why we could say that the image of the tractors going round and round with no direction is a metaphor for “the trackless children”, as they are described, because there are no adults to help them find their way.
The description of the parents is also very important in this poem. We know that the parents are not present because the kids play without supervision, and the author describes how little they care about their children. The description says that the “fathers come and leave in vans or on foot without a word”, and the mothers “are always tired and shouting from windows.” They don’t stay with their kids, and they only communicate through shouting, which illustrates how far away they are as they can’t even communicate in a healthy way. Through these descriptions, we imagine that the parents haven’t given the children advice about how to go through the world alone, which is illustrated in how they play with dangerous objects. The words of the poet clearly judge the parents and their attitude towards their children, which reinforces the hypothesis that the poet feels sorry for the kids, and thinks they deserve more care than they are getting. It also tells us that the author doesn’t blame the children for doing dangerous things but rather the parents for letting them do so.
Last but not least, the ending is very powerful. The last few lines read “they started with white socks, new toys, washed faces, but always end here, dirty and alone, one street beyond justice or love.” These words summarise what the author has been trying to tell us throughout the poem: that these children playing alone in a dirty, empty space symbolises a great failure from their parents. The scene of them playing alone represents how little love they receive every day of their lives, not just during August. There is a contradiction between how the parents leave them and how they end up by the end of the day, and it is as if the parents don’t really care about what happens to them when they are not around.
To sum up, the author clearly feels that the children of the poem deserve a better life, and that the parents should be more present to take care of them. The ending very clearly states that, because of bad parenting, these kids are “one street beyond justice or love.” By writing this powerful ending and using dark imagery to convey the terrible atmosphere in which these children are immersed, the author makes the reader feel sorry for them, as well.