Tilscher’s Class - Sample Essay

Brady and Hindley, the child-killers, did not fit in with the children’s innocence, and so ‘faded like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake’. In conclusion to this poem’s analysis, I think that the punctuation and metaphors of such help to envision a perfect child-like world, and the joy is easily felt through the page to the reader thanks to the appropriate use of adjectives that Duffy portrays in her writing; a vast contrast to the morbid tones and text like that of Elizabeth Jennings.

An important similarity that exists within both the poems is the child-like use of certain adjectives; how an adult concept (such as running a shop, or sexual awareness) is viewed, and sometimes mistranslated through the eyes of a child. Two prominent examples of this are found in both poems. In “My Grandmother”, the last few lines convey a message of slight puzzlement:

“I walked into her room among the tall Sideboards and cupboards – things she never used But needed: and no finger-marks were there, Only the new dust falling through the air.” It is as if we can understand the writer’s thoughts and queries at that time; why did she keep all this furniture and use none of it? The answer, we know, is that they were the relics of her past experiences, physical incarnations of what her life has meant to her, but a child could not hope to comprehend such a difficult idea.

The second example in “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class” is drawn from the end of the third verse: “A rough boy Told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared At your parents, appalled, when you got back home.” As an adult (or even as an adolescent), the idea of being disturbed by sex is far from true (except for maybe a few religious types), but to a child, the very idea of such a squishy, messy and disorganised ordeal that is sex is comparable to the concept of mountaineering on Pluto is to a speckled flying fish, i.e. the very idea is absurd, and possibly even disturbing that there is such a vast idea that your parents (I know abandon the comparison of the fish) never told you about, and you have been living in blissful and idiotic ignorance of for the best part of a decade. So, the main similarity between the two poems is attempting to grasp complex ideas through childish fingers.

A significant difference between the two poems is that of choices. In Jennings’ poem, she was given a choice of going out with her grandmother, to which she refused (‘I was afraid’), but in “Mrs Tilscher’s Class”, there is no choice, just an onward plod from the rural village of childhood to the horizon-spanning cityscape of adulthood. It is not a very big difference, but for me, is the most prominent and makes all the difference.

To evaluate, I have analysed my main difference according to language and the quality of the child – adult relationship, and find (drum-roll) “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class” to be the more successful in outlining the two points listed above. Not only does Carol Ann Duffy use language to convey the significance and fragility of a child – adult relationship towards the reader, but is intelligent enough to use punctuation too. Such examples are the quotes about tadpoles, and Brady and Hindley. The references to Mrs Tilscher’s unanswered question, the rough boy and Brady and Hindley convey the sheer magnanimousness of stabilising a child’s belief that the world is a perfect place, and if people like the child murderers exist then the universe is not working probably. It also conveys extra meanings such as growing up and the turbulence of adolescence.