An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

Essay by kristovpherHigh School, 11th gradeA-, February 2008

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TONE: personal,


Les Murray, one of Australia's greatest poets

Poems written strongly, passionately & meaning

The superficial meaning…

an ordinary man crying…

the town talks… unacceptable - men don't cry especially in public

people stop everything - stare/watch, have no idea what to do or think

police who tried stopping him, wanted to cry, yet couldn't because they weren't free (uniform)

the children accept - their innocence not influenced by adults

some people will never come to terms with this mans behaviour

others (women in particular mentioned) accept his choice of weeping and join

after a while, he stops - carries on with his life without any explanation

The underlying meaning…

The man crying is like a rainbow, people stop/stare, in amazement…

He is one which people admire….for the ordinary to be doing the extraordinary; it is not right to see a grown man to cry in the streets…

Some believe small things are silly, yet others know it will never have the same effect,

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow - Les.

A. Murray

In the poem, An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow, Les Murray describes a scene of a dignified man, crying in a street surrounded by onlookers who are going through different emotions from this unusual sight.

The poem starts off in a world full of greed, gossip and a life of no time, and there is a man - crying in the middle of the street, yet no-one knows why. The town take an interest in this scene - a fully-grown man crying in public is unacceptable behaviour so everyone stands around, not knowing what to do. Some police try and stop him, or even try to take him away to end the commotion, but are held back and silently admire his bravery to show his emotions.

It goes on to say that he was in a space of his own, taking no notice of the prejudice around him, and the children in the crowd accept him because they have not been influenced by the narrow-mindedness of adults. Each person in the crowd has their own opinion on the situation, but the one who accepts this mans actions is the start of a domino effect of acceptance of everyone around him. In time, the man concludes his weeping then suddenly, has moved on.

So what underlying meaning is found from this? There is only one mention of a rainbow in this poem which is where the police after trying to stop the man, stand back "and feel, with amazement, their minds longing for tears as children for a rainbow." This could suggest the man is "a rainbow" an unexpected occurrence which many people are bewildered, yet do not understand the meaning of what it is doing there and how long it will go on for. A rainbow is a sight which still questions people but never ceases to amaze, the weeping of the man may symbolise the droplets of rain required to create the rainbow, "holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him" This hollow and space, could be the never-ending gap between the onlooker and the rainbow.

The other metaphorical meaning could be that Murray is giving out a message that the modern world has become too fast, that many people don't have time for the smaller things, but unlike children who still have imagination and can still appreciate the mysteries which the world creates.

In the first two stanzas the last few words are repeated "They can't stop him." "No one can stop him". This repetition reinforces the space the weeping man has between him and the crowd, also that he still has the liberty of crying even if it is looked-down upon in society.

In this poem, Murray uses a saddened but powerful tone. It suggests that Murray is affected by the modern ways of society, emotions being suppressed and being too hasty to enjoy life, but he has written it subtly in a sarcastic way, contradicting himself at the same time, challenging his beliefs or his initial thoughts. "Some will say, in the years to come, a halo or force stood around him. There is no such thing." This way of writing may imply that his imagination of the children in the poem, has been slowly creeping away - he wants to believe something, and then another thought comes into mind and snaps back to reality.

The fiercest manhood, the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children and such as look out of Paradise come near him and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

I found it quite difficult to analyse this particular part of the poem. I believe that Murray is trying to explain to the reader, that even the most strong, wealthy, smart, successful and powerful people can be affected by something so simple, which can easily change their lives if so for a split second.

All these strong people "tremble with silence", they are scared. They do not have the power to show one's emotions in public, whereas this ordinary man does. That of which we know of him, this ordinary man has nothing to lose, just like a rainbow. It is there to create something to talk about, to stop people in their tracks, to see something which doesn't make any sense, to make people wonder.