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Visiting Hour

Visiting Hour. Norman MacCaig. What is the poem about?. The poem is about a man who is describing what he sees and experiences as he makes his way through a hospital to pay a visit to a dying friend/relative.

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Visiting Hour

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  1. Visiting Hour Norman MacCaig

  2. What is the poem about? The poem is about a man who is describing what he sees and experiences as he makes his way through a hospital to pay a visit to a dying friend/relative. He is confronted by his feelings as he watches the nurses go about their work and as he makes his visit. He realises the futility of life and questions death.

  3. Techniques Used? Imagery Stanza 1 Personification to emphasise the intensity of the pungent hospital smell Humour used through word choice “bobbing along”. “Green and yellow walls” – what do these colours equate to? Positivity? Cheery, bright colours of optimism? Negativity? Drab shades, the colour of sick etc?

  4. Stanza 2 “seems a corpse” – uncertainty of the sight he is confronted with. Metaphor – “vanishes heavenward”. Is this a pleasant, welcome option? What is the narrator’s stance on what happens after death? Word choice – “seems”, “vanishes”, “trundled”. “trundled” sounds clumsy, the corpse is unimportant? “vanishes”, trying to hide it, take it away where it can’t be seen – death can’t be addressed?

  5. Tone • The tone changes throughout the poem. It starts of as quite humorous/light hearted in stanza one. • It becomes more serious and sombre as the poem progresses.

  6. The Purpose of your essay? - to ensure you can write fluently about the poem, relating theme/focus to analysis of technique and evaluating how effective you find that. Remember – don’t just mention techniques. Analyse and Evaluate them. Your own stance should be evident, in connection with your evaluation of the effectiveness of the techniques used and the message conveyed.

  7. Stanza 3 • Repetition – like a mantra, a chant – determined not to feel? • Trying to force himself not to focus on his feelings or his surroundings? • Doesn’t want to own up to his feelings? • Perhaps submitting to his feelings would force him to address his own vulnerability – maybe he’d cry and be unable to stop, feel ashamed? • Enjambment – look at the structure of the stanza, just one sentence. Look at how the punctuation and how it is used.

  8. Stanza 4 • A change in perspective – no longer “me”, thinking about the nurses around him. • Why? Distraction? • Part of the nurses’ job is to not show emotion. • Disheartening reality to see that “caring” professionals could ever reach the stage where death and suffering is just a part of their job. • Their emotional disconnection is harsh and looks cold, clinical, impersonal.

  9. Stanza 5 • Contrasting surreal nature of the metaphor “white cave of forgetfulness”. Caves are usually dark, black places. • White: clean, heavenly, purity, innocence, clinical, peace. • Blank – could be linked to her mental state, lack of awareness, consciousness, pain relief? • “Cave” – the idea of being far away, isolated, in the dark? Hard to pinpoint what is wrong? Hard to communicate with her? • Positive aspect? Safety? Shelter? Primitive. The image makes her appear less than human.

  10. “A withered hand trembles on its stalk” Metaphor – her hand/arm resembles a dying flower just as the petals are being shed. • Her body has become weak, fragile, frail – they are easily broken. • “Eyes too heavy…” – perhaps she is “doped-up”? • “Glass fang…” an IV drip. Personification – the fang is seen as being fierce, aggressive, an enemy until it is revealed that it is “not guzzling, but giving”. • It is supposed to be a shocking/disturbing image. This creates an unexpected twist after a dramatic build up. • It is no longer seen as a threat.

  11. Is the “distance” emotional? • Is there an emotional void/separation as a result of one not being able to understand/experience the other’s pain? (This could, arguably, work both ways).

  12. Stanza 6 • Lack of colour within the room. • Black figure could represent the Grim Reaper – it could just be the visitor leaving the room. • “Black figure” – is she only able to perceive blurred images? • “swimming waves of a bell”, does this signify the end of visiting hour? Under water feeling that is produced due to painkillers etc? • Are the items that are left behind gifts that he has brought that will no longer be deemed useful? Are they items that she has obtained throughout her life which will go to waste once she has died?

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