Little Boy Crying - Literature Notes
Please note that the information given on this poem is not meant to replace any material given in the classroom setting. It is a very BASIC giude to enable a literal understanding of the poem. Metaphorical interpretations should be sought in the classroom.
The physical structure of this poem has been altered from the original layout in the text.
Your mouth contorting in 3.brief spite and hurt,
your laughter 4.metamorphosed into howls,
your frame so recently relaxed now tight
with 5.three year old frustration, your 6.bright eyes
swimming tears, splashing your bare feet,
you stand there angling for 1.a moment's hint
of guilt or sorrow for the quick slap struck.
The 2.ogre towers above you, that grim giant,
empty of feeling, a colossal cruel,
soon victim of the tale's conclusion, dead
at last. You hate him, you imagine
2.chopping clean the tree he's scrambled down
or plotting deeper pits to trap him in.
You cannot understand, not yet
the 7.hurt your easy tears can scald him with,
nor guess the 8.wavering hidden behind that mask.
This fierce man longs to lift you, curb your sadness
with piggy-back or bull-fight, anything,
but 9.dare not ruin the lessons you should learn.
10.You must not make a plaything of the rain.
Morris, M. 'Little Boy Crying' in A World of Poetry. Edited by Mark McWatt and Hazel Simmonds McDonald. Pearson Education Ltd, 2005.
This is the OPINION of one individual, which might not coincide with the views of others.
A father describes his experience of disciplining his son. He describes (www.bulbsoup.com) the child's tantrum, as well as his response to the fact that he must discipline his child.
- Stanza 1, lineS 6-7: Alliteration focuses on sound and the effect that it conveys. Therefore, if you read the lines, you will realize that it conveys the speed of the slap, which implies that it might also have a loud sound. The effect of this is that it allows the reader to feel sympathy for the child.
- Stanza 2, lines 8, 12-13:This is an allusion to the fairy tale, Jack and the Bean Stalk. The father is the ogre/monster who terrifies Jack, and Jack is the little three year old child (www.bulbsoup.com) who is defenseless against the threatening figure. The solutions that the little boy has at his disposal, for defense, are not plausible. Therefore, the child's helplessness, in the face of a parent that is intent on administering discipline, is highlighted.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
3. 'brief spite and hurt'
This phrase highlights the fact that young children are mercurial in their moods. They will be angry one minute and happy the next.
This word means to change from one form to a totally different one. The use of this particular word highlights the extreme nature of the transformation, in mood, that the child underwent.
5. 'three year old frustration'
The fact that the persona puts an age to describe the frustration, points to the idea of a tantrum. Three year olds do not get angry, they get a tantrum. The word tantrum implies (www.bulbsoup.com) impermanence and triviality, therefore, the implication is that the child will get over it soon, it is only maintained based on the child's inability to control his impulses.
6. 'bright eyes swimming tears'
This phrase emphasizes the amount of tears that the child shed. One can only swim in a very large body of water, therefore, the 'swimming' tears must have been abundant.
7. 'hurt your easy tears can scald with'
This reveals that the father was not as terrible as the little boy thought. He was actually very soft, and regretted the fact that he had to discipline his son. This fact is seen in the use of the word 'scald'. This implies more than heat, but very very intense heat. Therefore, it not only hurt the father, but it caused him very intense pain, when he had to discipline his son. The fact that the little boy cries a lot, as well as his mercurial nature, was also revealed through the use of the phrase 'easy tears'. It implies that he might be calm one minute, then crying the next.
8. 'wavering hidden behind that mask'
This is highlighting the fact that the father is softer than he appears. He has to don a mask, or an expression of sternness, in order to discipline the child. His soft nature is emphasized because he wavers behind the mask, meaning that he is not firm in his stance to discipline the child, he wants to coddle him instead.
9. 'dare not ruin the lessons you should learn'
This highlights the father's motivation. He does not want to spoil his child, so he cannot fall victim to his tears by caving in to his desire to coddle him.
10. 'You must not make a plaything of the rain'
A possible meaning of this phrase is that, as a parent, the father cannot miss an opportunity to discipline his child. The rain can be interpreted as the constant crying that comes with a tantrum, and the father cannot allow the child to think that he can throw them at will. He must use the tantrum as an opportunity to discipline.
The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona is reporting on the actions of his child and his feelings about it.
The tone of the poem is regretful. The persona does not want to have to discipline the child because it goes against his nature.
Love and family relationship.
Contributor: Leisa Samuels-Thomas