Themes and Ideas 4

English Language > Extended Reading > Themes and Ideas

Example 2: exploring the way power is presented

Power is another theme that writers explore through conflicting ideas. For example:

  • the power of nature versus the power of man
  • the power of the state versus the power the individual
  • the power of love versus the power of families
  • the power of action versus the power of words

John Agard's poem Flag creates energy by contrasting the weakness of a flag fluttering in the breeze with the incredible power of the government it represents. There is another strong contrast reflected in the form of the poem, which has five stanzas, each with three strong lines, one question and a two-line answer. The power of the state Agard condemns is met with the force of his words.

The poem Belfast Confetti by Ciaran Carson also begins with a contrasting image but develops that image even further. Confetti is soft, colourful tissue paper thrown in celebration at weddings. In this poem the 'confetti' is actually random pieces of scrap metal - "Nuts, bolts, nails..." - thrown in anger during a riot. The power of this makeshift weaponry is then contrasted with the high-tech riot gear of the security forces, such as Saracen tanks, Kremlin-2 mesh and Makrolon face-shields.

Carson uses the layout of the poem to reflect the explosion of the street war. The lines are too long but single words hang like debris. The words seem lost and all the narrator sees is the shrapnel of punctuation marks flying like bullets, all questions with no answers.

The points made above are all backed up by evidence. The points come from thinking about themes as well as writing techniques, including:

  • form - the regular stanzas in Flag
  • language - the contrast between "nuts" and "bolts" and "Kremlin-2 mesh" and "Makrolon face-shields" in Belfast Confetti
  • imagery - the ironies of the fluttering flag and the aggressive confetti

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