Wordsworth present his views on childhood and parenting, in many ways such as language, structure and form. He portrays children as the epitome of innocence while he depicts adults as the essence of experience. His poems had set the foundations of childhood and parenting. The three main poems that show this are: The Idiot Boy, We are Seven and Anecdote for Fathers.
Wordsworth uses The Idiot Boy to ask the reader two questions. The first regards the happenings of his imagination especially what happened at night and the second regards of his imaginative adventures. Wordsworth does this intentionally, to show that children use their imagination to keep themselves occupied, also he might have wanted to show that their imagination was one of the keys to a hopeful future or their personality.
Wordsworth explores different states of mind of both the mother and the son. The mother is shown through the language used. She experiences a range of emotions: overconfidence, doubt, fear and anxiety. However, when we compare her to her son, who is mentally disabled he remains joyful, innocent, imaginative and closer to nature than even his mother he remains unperturbed.
The rhyming scheme is first established after the 1st verse, abccb, it adds pace and suspense and it underpins a sense of comedy. Wordsworth doesn’t only use this rhyming scheme to add a sense of comedy, but it is like a nursery rhyme, so it can be enjoyable and understandable to everyone. Wordsworth portrays the mother as someone who is caring, also someone Wordsworth would trust as she would protect her loved one. The language of the poem is very positive as Wordsworth uses words such as “glee” and “merry”. These adjectives give a sense of hope and respect towards Johnny. Therefore Wordsworth wants to portray children as a pure being, someone you must not tarnish with logic or even education, as they will learn their knowledge from the best teacher; imagination or nature.
Another poem, where the readers see Wordsworth conveying his views on childhood and parenting is in We are Seven, this poem is slightly different compared to the other Wordsworth poems, as we see two perspectives on death, one by the little girl and another by the ignorant narrator who could be a father, at first until he is taught by the little girl. It is structured in four sections, Verses 1-3- are about the girl and her landscape, verses 4-9- are outlining her family background and her response to the narrator’s enquiry. Verses 10-15 are a filling out of her enigmatic reply about her life and the death of her siblings. The stand-off between these two is polarised and entrenched positions.
Wordsworth uses his language, to make the girl and the narrator take a different viewpoint on death, the girl’s language is obviously taken from the mother and it is euphemistic: “released from her pain” and “[John] was forced to let go”. This conveys the pain the little girl had to suffer; she is trying to ease her pain and trying to make the reader suffer less. Wordsworth is showing that children are knowledgeable. However, she does not like the fact of death at all, as it saddens her. She still keeps the memory of her loved ones, which is only seen in children rather than adults.
Wordsworth deceptively uses simple approach in language and form, the poet has suggested that we can share and accept the mystery of this young’s girl view. Wordsworth makes this poem more like a nursery one with the use of internal rhyming such as “green” and “seen”. It is written in quatrains consisting of 3 lines of iambic tetrameter and a final line which is an iambic trimester, the mood is a sing-song. This makes the poem more towards the child and Wordsworth is trying to present her as a strong character. He portrays the narrator as a preacher, something Romantics hated. As he tries to force his religious teachings upon everyone, however the roles are swapped, the little girl is teaching him, that he must care about everyone but especially children, as they are all individuals, who should not be ruined by logic and rationality.
Like We are Seven, Anecdote for Fathers explores the nature of wisdom in children and adults. Similarly it is written in quatrains with 3 iambic tetrameters and a final iambic trimester, rhyming abab. It also, like We are Seven, encourages us to view the father ironically and to see his interrogation of his son, something initiated “in very idleness”, as an adult indulgence, either to fill a moment or to selfishly focus on his own sentiments and emotions.
Even though the boy responds illogically, it portrays to us the feelings that Wordsworth might have had during his childhood, as the child doesn’t know how to respond to the father it’s quite difficult for him. The boy is suffering due to his father’s alteration of mood or his complex emotions that are unknown to the child. The poem contrasts the cynicism and selfishness of the father with the physical and mental purity of the child. Time is meaningless anyway to a child’s short existence and the poem illustrates how children are corrupted by society and adults.
Wordsworth is implying that we should not force logic and rationality on our children, as we must respect their feelings: we are not all the same and that is the key to the mystery and beauty of life. In the last verse it can be seen that the father is the ‘child of the man’. The child can be seen as a symbol of nature, which is common in the three poems of Wordsworth.
Overall it can be said, that Wordsworth sees a cynical point of view towards parents, but not towards the mother. It can be also said that the narrator and the father are both male, he could be seen as quite anti-male. He sees children as someone we must delicately take care, as they are our future’s generation and happiness.
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