Shakeel- A child’s sleep 1. Why did Duffy choose a seemingly ordinary moment for a parent watching their child sleep to explore the theme of parental love? ANS: Duffy choses to explore the theme of parental love through a parent watching their child sleep. Duffy has crafted this to emphasize the simple, peaceful, and fluid nature of the child’s sleep. Plus, the serene surroundings provide memories for the mother, in which the mother is fighting between not wanting to disturb her and wanting to enjoy the calmness of the moment. In addition, Duffy describes the child resembling in a small forest. She describes it has a magical place in which the child resides, and the mother sees her as being the sole resident of the woods. Again, it shows not just that the child’s sleep is peaceful and calm but also is holy in which Duffy can establish a theme of parental love. 2 and 3. At points in the poem, how and why does Duffy use contrast? How is the moon symbolic of the mother/parent? Duffy uses contrast through the use of things which is related to darkness. Most of her poems, Duffy’s use of the darkness mostly creates a sinister and violent tone, however, in this poem it is more peaceful. Duffy uses contrast through things and places such as “the moon” and “the forest”. For example, “Her sleep was a small wood, perfumed with flowers; dark, peaceful, sacred,”. This shows that the surrounding in which the child resides, smell vibrantly like “flowers”. “Dark” usually has negative connotations, however, another impression is given when the words “peaceful” and “sacred” follow. This is because even though the word dark can suggest something more sinister, the relaxed tone created by the following words suggest something positive and also shows that the child is enjoying her sleep. Plus, Duffy’s description of the forest also creates a contrast in terms peacefulness and past. For example, in stanza 3: “And she was the spirit that lives in the heart of such woods; without time, without history, wordlessly good.”. The phrase: “wordlessly good” creates a feeling of “goodness” which inhabits the place and radiates out from her child. “she was the spirit that lives in the heart of the forest”; the noun “heart “connotes love and peace. This metaphor shows that the child was the “heart”, the “light” to all of the darkness of the wood. Again, her contrast of light and darkness suggests how much she loves the child despite all the darkness she experienced in her life – the one thing that will always remain a constant positive. Also, the repetition of “w” is a contrast to the “t” sounds at the end of “without”. The “w” makes it sound smooth, whilst the “t” sounds harsh and quick. Again, this might also show that the mother doesn’t have enough time to love her child’s sleep. And the quote: “the world is without history” shows that there is no pressure or worries about the past. Additionally, Duffy used the moon to aid her description of the child’s sleep. In stanza 4: “then went to the window. The greater dark outside the room gazed back, maternal, wise, with its face of moon”. This shows that the mother turns away from the child and moves to the window to look out into the night. She contemplates about what it means to be at peace and what it is to be a mother. As she stares at the outside she feels as if the face of the moon is staring back at her. In which it suggests that Duffy creates a contrast by showing the moon having similar characteristics as the mother. The moon also brings light which has a positive connotation, in which it provides happiness to the child ( child’s source of happiness), just like the mother. The presence of the moon enables the mother to feel as though it understands her as is maternal and wise. I believe that Duffy creates contrast to establish a theme of love and peacefulness throughout the poem in which it allows a smooth and serene tone in the poem. 4. What is Duffy’s message in the poem? Through the use of a variety of different poetic devices and establishing comparisons between the child’s sleep, Duffy effectively provokes thought and engages readers as she uniquely expresses the irrevocable love of a mother and child and articulated gratitude for the beauty of innocence of a sleeping child. (fun fact and I researched this that : Duffy had a daughter from her first marriage, and she is the only child has. Soon after giving birth, Duffy came clean about her sexuality. Maybe this has some sort of link when Duffy describes about the problems that both the speaker and the child will face in the future in the poem) . Type of feeling Quote of love towards the child Maternal “although I could not enter there, I could not leave.” “maternal, wise, with its face of moon” Explanation The speaker/mother does not spend time describing her physical observations of the child, but instead heavily focuses on what the child can hear and imagine. The first thing she does is she hears is the sound of her breathing. This is a tense, but also a peaceful moment. The speaker does not wish to disturb her child, but also cannot seem to pull herself away. She must find a balance between these two states. Again, these shows that the mother is trying to protect but at the same time does not want to disturb her child, this shows the mother’s love towards her child and the fact that the mother wants the her child to be happy and peaceful. Again, this creates a comparison, where the mother is the one who is able to experience and advice the child when she is disturbed and are in trouble, whereas the father is the one who shows most the dominance. Additionally, the mother speaks of her child’s sleep as being something that she “could not enter”. There is no way for her to join her child in her particular sleep, Unconditional love “wordlessly good” “sacred, acred in hours.” “hearing her breathe;” she can only imagine what she might be dreaming. This is emphasized in the next line in which she states that she is unable to “leave.” This can be interpreted as meaning that she physically doesn’t feel as if she can leave the room, but also that she can’t stop imagining what might be going on in her child’s head. This portrays the strength of the mother and child’s relationship as imagining what her child is thinking of is a strange feeling, in which not every mother can do. The quote: “the room gazed back, maternal, wise, with its face of moon” shows that the mother turns away from the child and moves to the window to look out into the night. She contemplates about what it means to be at peace and what it is to be a mother. As she stares the outside she feels as if the face of the moon is staring back at her. In which it suggests that Duffy creates a contrast by showing the moon having similar characteristics as the mother. The moon also brings light which has a positive connotation, in which it provides happiness to the child (child’s source of happiness), just like the mother. The presence of the moon enables the mother to feel as though it understands her as is maternal and wise. Plus, the use of moon reflecting light suggests that Duffy establishes a sort of reflection/contemplation which shows that weather the speaker is a good mother to her child. The adverb “wordlessly” portrays how you cannot explain how innocent and important her child is; just like a mother who cannot express her feeling and love for child. This a feeling that every mother experiences. Duffy’s use of “sacred” creates religious references which highlights how precious and important the child is to her and emphasises Enduring love “without time, without history,” “perfumed with flowers” the fact that her loss is unbearable to her mother. The phrase: “acred in love “emphasises the measure of distance which suggests that she’s in a very deep sleep which connotes to a sense of timelessness. Her world of sleep and her dreams is also vast, which parallels to the mother’s love to her child. Additionally, the verb “hearing” implies that is soothing and a source of calmness for the mother watching her daughter in peace. The verb “breathe” is also symbolic of life which makes the mother satisfied and proud of her child which shows her adoration and unconditional love for her child. The quote “without time, without history” suggests the fact that the relationship between the mother and her child is “perpetual” and when Duffy uses the word “history” it clearly indicates that any events or consequences experienced in the future or the past will never affect or deteriorate the relationship of the mother and the child, showing the love is “enduring”. Furthermore, the adjective “perfumed “suggests her daughter’s sweetness and kindness which aids their love/relationship to be longer. Additionally, the smell of a flower is “natural” and “longlasting” which parallels the mother and the child’s relationship being long term and instinctive. How does Duffy communicate feelings of love in the poem, A Child’s Sleep? Duffy communicates the feelings of love in the poem, A Child’s sleep through the themes of happiness and maternal love and by the establishment of contrast and imagery. Duffy is writing in the perspective of a mother. The poem mainly focuses on the image of a sleeping child and emphasizing the tranquillity and composure of that special moment for the mother. In stanza 1, line 1 to 4, it is written as “I stood at the edge of my child’s sleep, hearing her breathe; although I could not enter there, I could not leave.” This sentence is the mother describing the situation, where she is standing at the edge of her daughter’s bed who is sleeping soundly, and her thoughts relative to the sight in front of her. On the other hand, there are different ways to interpret this sentence. An example of what we can infer from this sentence would be the possible religious reference. The child might view her mother as a protector and a guardian as written in the first line, the mother says, “I stood at the edge of my child’s sleep.” By saying she stood at the edge might be like standing at the edge of a cliff or a high point. Standing at a high point resembles looking over people like a ruler over their kingdom. Furthermore, the child appears to be brought up in a good household. In the second line, the word “breathe “could be an indicator to how the child is raised. Here, there is no mention of rough or fast breaths, which suggests that the child is not nervous or in in immediate danger as the mindset of someone affects the way they sleep at night. By simply saying “breathe, it implies that the child is breathing softly and is sleeping well. We are able to see that the child is having a good sleep; the child had a trusting attitude towards someone as they were nurtured well by the mother. The child who sleeps well has a positive attitude towards her mother and how she was raised. The second line also features imagery. By stating that the mother was “hearing her breathe”, as there no visual aid (the atmosphere) we imagine a darkroom. Darkness, in some ways, symbolizes peace instead of anger. When we enter a room and the lights are on, the lights affect our eyes and we adjust to our surroundings which can have a possible indication of being overwhelming. However, when we enter a room with no lights, we heavily rely on sound (the sense of hearing). Without the lights and the visuals of the atmosphere dominating and disturbing the child’s sleep, the darkness of the room appears to be peaceful and aids the child’s sleep. Duffy continues these smoothly in the next two lines when she says: “although I could not enter there, I could not leave.”. Stanza 2 also features a lot of imagery in which the speaker engages. The mother imagines the best possible world for her daughter which is crafted and constructed with dreams which is in a “small wood”. The surroundings in which her child resides and represents, smell vibrantly like “flowers”. This is symbolic of delicate and innocence and also adds to the semantic field of nature which shows that the child’s sleep and love from the mother is natural and long-lasting. They are “dark, but “also “peaceful “and “sacred” which creates a serene and smooth tone which parallels to the child’s sleep as being slow and gentle. The adjective “sacred” brings a religious tone which emphasises the love from the child’s mother and the protection given by god and the mother to not disturb or interpret the child’s sleep. In the third stanza the description of the child’s sleep is being continued. The mother has already crafted a world of magical peace for her daughter to reside and sleep, but now she creates a new sense of being for her child. The woods where the child lives is notably beautiful, but nothing come close to the child who has “the spirit that lives / in the heart of such woods.” This quote resonates the feeling of enchantment. The noun “spirit” connotes willpower and happiness. Additionally, the “heart of such woods” illustrates the fact that the woods are full of life and she is the soul of the woods in which the woods might connote that they are there to protect and guard the child. Furthermore, the child emits the majestic feeling for her mother as she does as a spirit in her sleep. This is something significant that Duffy has added because so far now, Duffy has only described the mother’s love but now we can reinforce the fact that the child is the only source of happiness for the mother. Plus, the place she lives is “without time”. There is no pressure or problems in the future that will deteriorate the speaker’s and the child’s relationship, which shows the unconditional and enduring love between them. Also, the use of “without history” shows that there is nothing to live up to or worry about the past consequences. This shows that the strong relationship between the mother and the child has crafted a new path of life which is composed of love and other good things. In addition, the adverb “wordlessly” portrays how you cannot explain how innocent and important her child is; just like a mother who cannot express her feeling and love for child. This a universal feeling that every mother experiences. In the fourth stanza, the mother “spoke her name”. The mother should have done this as a way of comfort and also to emphasise how precious she is, not just in a child-mother relationship but in all aspects. Additionally, a very significant use of this at the ending of poem creates an irresistible tone which shows that the mother can’t control herself physically and mentally on how much she loves her. As well as this, Duffy uses the metaphor “a pebble dropped” to explain the sound effects of the mother’s sound in her child’s dream. The noun “pebble” creates a peaceful “ECHO” sound which has slight effect in the child’s sleep. In the final stanza, the mother is turning away from her child. She moves to the window of the room and stares the moon. As she stares the outside she feels as if the face of the moon is staring back at her. In which it suggests that Duffy creates a contrast by showing the moon having similar characteristics as the mother. The moon also brings light which has a positive connotation, in which it provides happiness to the child (child’s source of happiness), just like the mother. The presence of the moon enables the mother to feel as though it understands her as maternal and wise. Plus, the use of moon reflecting light suggests that Duffy establishes a sort of reflection/contemplation which shows that weather the speaker is a good mother to her child. Plus, I believe that the structure and tone of the poem might have some sort a link on Duffy’s communication of love in the poem. In this poem, the pattern remains consistent throughout the poem and has been crafted at a specific way which allows Duffy to emphasise the simple, peaceful, and smooth nature of the child sleeping almost mirroring a lullaby. The structure is well constructed which parallels to how peaceful and constructive the child’s sleep is. Constant rhyming creates a sort of a magical tone which makes the child’s sleep sacred. “A Child’s Sleep” is a unique in a way compared to her other poems as this particular one features a mother who watches over her child. Most of her poems are mostly about construction/destruction of self, in other word self hatred, gender issues, modern culture, and many different forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality. She has writing style that mostly is about criticizing the society and uses conversational language and monologues mostly in third or first perspective of a person who does bad to the society. The most common theme of all her poems has a link to violence or isolation, but this poem is opposite of it all. The poem is composed of peace and calm which brings the perfect perspective of all mothers. Really good, Shakeel! You’ve really developed your writing style and I can see you’re enjoying poetry and have a firm grasp on it as texts we’re studying and the form itself. Well done for completing.