Two Hands - Jon Stallworthy

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TWO HANDS The poem “Two Hands” By Jon Stallworthy depicts the angst felt by a son vis-à-vis his more successful father. The title itself suggests that despite being physically similar their personalities are different. We know that the protagonist’s father is a hard working individual from the usage of the word “late.” The poet uses personification in the line “a pencil nodding stiffly in the hand” to show his perseverance despite having “thirteen times between breakfast and supper” worked dexterously as surgeon denoted by the word “scalpel”. There is also an element of sarcasm in the poem as the poet is commenting on the frequency with which he operates and this also shows the poet’s own sense of inferiority. The poet here uses alliteration in line 1 and 2 to highlight the words “study, sits, stiffly” which brings out the father’s character and uses the same technique in line 3 “that thirteen times” by repeating the letter “t” to create a chatty and colloquial style that continues throughout the poem. The study where the father works is seen as his refuge but this seems to alienate the protagonist. The poet again personifies the phone as being an instrument that brings distressing “sobbing” news that draws the surgeon from his home repeatedly. The poet has successfully used alliteration in line 5 in the usage of sobbing and sleep to highlight the dangers and emotional challenges of being a surgeon. The “sobbing” could also refer to the poet’s youth as he spent time sobbing without his father who was away at work. The lack of female figures points to the doctor being a single parent. The aura of grief is implied in “sobbing” while “sleep” could symbolize death that the father in his role as a doctor will be familiar with. The line “The phone sobbed itself to sleep” also points to the successful use of onomatopoeia as seen in “sobbed” and the assonance in the

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