Commentary on 'The Lesson' by Roger McGough

Essay by Nanki June 2007

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Commentary on ‘The Lesson’ by Roger McGoughRoger McGough the author of ‘The Lesson’ is a well respected British poet who is still writing poems and is a poetry performer today. His work has become so well recognized that he has received an O.B.E for his contributions to poetry from the Queen. McGough was born in Liverpool and attended school in the nineteen-forties and fifties during a time when corporal punishment was widely present in British education.

‘The Lesson’ by McGough is a poem which exaggerates the theme of corporal punishment and is also a parody on people taking the law into their own hands in an environment which we can all relate to. The title, ‘The Lesson’ is a play on words, the students are attending a lesson and the teacher is about to teach them a lesson they won’t forget.

The poem is all about how one teacher who is so frustrated by the children’s attitude that he decides ‘to teach’ them ‘a lesson, one that’ they’ll ‘never forget.

In teaching this “lesson” he is trying to get the children to stop acting so boisterously. The way in which the teacher gets the lesson through to the children is in the form of capital punishment as opposed to corporal punishment. So instead of beating them with a cane he is throttling them with his hands, hacking them down with a sword, and shooting them with a shotgun.

The poem sounds as if it is set in a present day English state school where there is little if any discipline, management, or control over the students. McGough never refers to the students as students or children. He always uses negative nouns for them, such as ‘hooligans’, ‘latecomer’, ‘vandal’, and ‘those who skive’. Even though the...