Discuss how the poets present their views on old age in 'Old Man, Old Man' and 'Warning'

Essay by nicolapHigh School, 11th grade September 2003

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These two poems present old age in very different ways. Fanthorpe's poem, 'Old Man, Old Man', expresses a daughter's feelings for her father as he becomes old and is diminished by old age. In contrast, Jenny Joseph's poem 'Warning' looks forward to the freedom of pleasing herself in later years.

Both poems are modern and conversational, written in the first person.

The title 'Old Man, Old Man' sets the tone for Fanthorpe's poem. The repetition reminds the reader of a nursery rhyme, suggesting a second childhood. The old man remains nameless, hinting at a loss of identity and individuality. The poem switches between the present and past tense, showing how he was a "man who did-it-himself", but has now become someone who even "small things distress". The poem is written from a daughter's viewpoint with italics indicating her father's speech "I can see you".

In her poem Joseph warns her reader what she will do when she is older.

She too will experience a second childhood, but in much more positive way.

The first two stanzas are written in the present tense explaining how she will "learn to spit" and "press alarm bells". In the third stanza she reflects on life in early middle age, repeating the imperative verb "must" to indicate all the things she has to do like "pay our rent" and "set a good example".

The language and imagery in 'Old Man, Old Man' reflect the father's "contracted" world. Most of the vocabulary concerns domestic issues, his struggle with "recalcitrant" pill bottles, "washing up" and "television". In the past he was "an adjuster of environments" and "connoisseur of nuts", but now he has been "self- demoted" to "washing up". He was a man who was always strong and in control. However, the use of the army...