It’s meta

2 Jul

Two things I came across in the process of teaching my girls about “The Man in the Bowler Hat”:

(i) “To see and smell and touch” are the only verbs attributed to the man in the poem; everything else would be nouns (still objects) and passive voice. No wonder the phrase stands out – quite apart from the fact that they directly refer to senses and the more genuinely real experience of living/feeling, verbs imply action and proactivity, which are precisely what the man lacks the opportunity to engage in.

(ii) The poem is written in first-person, confession-style, yet the character of the man in the bowler hat remains decidedly opaque with very general and impersonal descriptions of the working class. Therein lies the irony; the man’s testimony serves to distance him from the reader rather than reveal any unique identifiers.

Teaching wakes you up!


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