Reread Prayer Before Birth by Louis Macneice. Explore how the poet conveys the modern world as brutal and a corrupting force.

Essay by DigitalDragonHigh School, 10th grade May 2005

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In prayer before birth, Louis Macneice uses a baby to convey his thoughts and emotions on the current state of the world. Macneice wishes to emphasize how harsh and ruthless the world is, and how it can strip away a young unborn baby of its innocence. By cleverly combining uses of structure, rhyme scheme and rhetorical techniques Macneice effectively conveys the pain and suffering which occurs in society today.

The poem is set out like an appeal, a cry for help. The title itself, using the word "prayer" shows that the baby is trying to get help for something which troubles him- which raises a question; why would a soon-to-be born fetus that has its whole life strewn in front of it be despairing? Shouldn't it be preparing to enjoy that experience?

The first line reveals what the fetus is afraid of:

"O hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat of the stoat or

the club-footed ghoul come near me"

The use of "O hear me."

and "Let not" seem to be a demand, emphasizing the fetus prayers- it is pleading to be protected from the threats of the bat, rat, stoat and ghoul. These creatures don't seem to be meant in literal form- creatures such as these do not pose a major threat to today's children. Rather, they seem to be used figuratively, as these creatures are associated with disease. They are also frequently the subject of children's nightmares. The use of "club-footed ghoul" especially is a strong use of imagery, as the word ghoul implies a diseased, flesh-eating and dismembered monster. Also, the internal rhyme used by rat, bat and stoat emphasizes these dangers- they become more apparent. This first stanza shows that the fetus believes the world to be full of disease and...