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Norman MacCaig


Norman MacCaig Visiting Hour Visiting Hour Understanding After reading through the poem, write down what you think is happening in the poem. Themes Do you notice any ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Norman MacCaig

Norman MacCaig
  • Visiting Hour

Visiting Hour
  • Understanding
  • After reading through the poem, write down
    what you think is happening in the poem.
  • Themes
  • Do you notice any themes at this stage?

Stanza 1
  • How does the poet help us be there with him, in
    our minds?
  • What do the lines The hospital smellbobbing
    along. tell us about the effect of the hospital
    smell on the poet?
  • What are the connotations of the colours green
    and yellow in this context?

Stanza 1
  • The poet is making his way along the hospital
    corridor to ward 7 where his seriously ill
    relative lies.
  • In stanza 1, the scene is set by reference to the
    poets senses.
  • The hospital smell is typical of most peoples
    experience of hospitals.
  • The poet creates mood through his word choice
    combs my nostrils.
  • Suggests the smell is so pungent and unpleasant
    to him that it reaches right up into his nose
  • greenyellow suggests colours of vomit, pus
    again emphasises his discomfort and
    unpleasantness of visit.

Stanza 1
  • Lines 2/3 nostrilsbobbing along
  • Of course his whole body is moving along the
    corridor not just his nostrils.
  • The synecdoche focuses attention on the nostrils
    in order to strengthen the idea of the hospital
    smell being so overpowering, all other senses are
    blocked out.

Stanza 2
  • What seems a corpse
  • is trundled into a lift and vanishes
  • heavenward.
  • What do the words in bold tell you about the
    poets mood at this point?
  • What is the effect of enjambment?

Stanza 2
  • We know what is on his mind as when he sees the
    trolley, he immediately assumes it is a dead
  • vanishes heavenward in fact goes up in a
    lift, but as far as poet is concerned, its on its
    last journey.
  • He is clearly worried about his sick relative
    has he come too late?
  • Enjambment the effect is to emphasise the last
    word of the line (his thoughts of death and
  • Trundled suggests the lack of care taken by the
    porter as if the poet thinks there is no point
    taking care as the person is dead. Supports his
    feeling of hopelessness.

Stanza 3
  • The poet repeats the words I will not feel. To
    whom do you think he may be saying these words
    and why?
  • How does the repetition and rhythm add to the
    overall effect of the verse?
  • Explain the last line of this stanza.

Stanza 3
  • The poet appears to be talking to himself.
  • The repetition intensifies the control he is
    trying to impose on himself, denying his feelings
    as they are too painful.
  • Together with the staccato rhythm of this short
    verse with its monosyllabic words, the repetition
    heightens the atmosphere of tension.
  • The last line shows the poet making a conscious
    effort to be detached he knows he will have to
    face up to the situation eventually, but not yet.

Stanza 4
  • Comment on the syntax (word order) of the line
    here and up and down and there. What effect
    does it achieve?
  • What is the effect of the linking word and?
  • What do these details tell us about the poets
    attitude to the nurses?
  • What does he reveal about himself in his
    observations of the nurses?

Stanza 4
  • This verse gives the sense of bustle in a busy
    hospital through the description of the nurses.
  • Unusual syntax in line 12 highlights the
    ubiquitous (appear to be everywhere) nature of
    the nurses, as if they are everywhere at once.
  • The repetition of and emphasises the distance
    the nurses cover and gives an impression of the
    speed they move at.
  • There is a contrast in how the nurses and the
    poet cope with death. Burden conveys the
    extent of his anguish, yet the nurses are able to
    deal with many deaths their eyes clear.

Stanza 5
  • Comment on the effect of the full stop in Ward
    7. Also, what is the effect of the use of the
    numeral 7?
  • Find 3 examples of metaphor in this verse and
    explain the comparison being made,
  • how appropriate the image/metaphor is, what is
    the effect it has/connotations?
  • Comment on the use of enjambment in lines 29-30.

Stanza 5
  • She lies/in a cave of white forgetfulness.
  • The bed is screened off by a white curtain
    like a cave. Forgetfulness because she is
    barely conscious.
  • It is appropriate because she is cut off from the
    rest of the ward as effectively as if she were in
    a cave on the side of a cliff. Due to the coma,
    she cannot communicate with the poet, nor he with
  • The poet is immediately aware that she is not
    accessible to him, or him to her. White adds
    to the feeling of inaccessibility, as if he is
    seeing her through a white haze or white noise
    which impedes communication.

Stanza 5
  • A withered hand/trembles on its stalk,
  • Withered is appropriate as she is dying and
    stalk suggests the weakness and thinness of her
  • The trembling hand and eyes moving behind eyelids
    are her fluttering uncontrolled attempts to reach
    him, so he too, is alone with his pain.
  • The enjambment emphasises the heaviness of the
    patients eyelids and the effort she is making to
    open them, to communicate with him.
  • The flower image gives a sense of fragility and
    her beauty in the eyes of the poet who looks at
    her with love.

Stanza 5
  • Into an arm wasted/of colour a glass fang is
    fixed/not guzzling but giving.
  • Vampire image intensified by alliteration conveys
    his abhorrence at the sight of the drip feeding
    blood into her arm.
  • He sees the needle as a fang biting into her arm,
    like a vampire drinking her blood.
  • wasted of colour adds to impression that blood
    is being taken rather than given.
  • Effectively conveys his pity for the suffering of
    the patient, his distress and the feeling that
    the whole process is pointless and intrusive.

Stanza 5
  • And between her and me/distance/that neither she
    nor I/can cross.
  • He bends to kiss her but she doesnt respond.
  • She is alone with her pain which has formed an
    invisible barrier between them.
  • The image conveys his feeling of desolation and
    hopelessness at the inability to reach her.
  • His isolation is emphasised by the enjambment
    I poised at the end of the line.

Stanza 6
  • How has the poet changed from the way he was at
    the beginning of the poem?
  • Comment on the effectiveness of
  • The metaphor in line 34
  • Pun (play on words) in line 35
  • Paradox ( two opposing ideas) in line 37
  • Oxymoron (contradiction) in line 38 and
  • Alliteration in line 38.

Stanza 6
  • When the bell rings at the end of visiting hour,
    he leaves in a highly emotional state.
  • Metaphor clumsily rises/in the round swimming
    waves of a bell. he escapes from his distress
    like a drowning man to dry land.
  • His self control has collapsed as he now stumbles
    clumsily from the ward.
  • swimming could suggest his eyes filled with
    tears, as well as his head swimming with the
    emotion of the experience.

Stanza 6
  • Pun growing fainter the poet would grow
    fainter with distance from the patient and he is
    so upset he feels faint.
  • Paradox Books that will not be read and
  • Oxymoron Fruitless fruits intensify his
    distress and confusion.
  • She is beyond his reach and he can do nothing for
    her. She is past reading or eating. He has gone
    through the motions of a visit but knows his
    presence has made no difference to the final
  • Alliteration intensifies the futility of the

Visiting Hour
  • The themes of this poem are facing death (both of
    the patient and the loss of a loved one),
    inevitability of death (it is impossible to stop)
    and problems of communication.
  • It is written in FREE VERSE (it has no pattern or
  • It is written in the FIRST PERSON poet can
    express his feelings from the inside, which an
    observer would be unable to detect. We see his
    feelings as genuine.

Visiting Hour
  • STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (speaking to oneself, an
    interior monologue) style makes us sympathise
    with the poet as we can put ourselves in his
    position and identify with his feelings.
  • We arrive with him, walk through the corridor
    with him and leave with him this increases the
    emotional impact of poem.
  • We follow the build up and release of his

Visiting Hour
  • The overall structure contributes to the
    atmosphere and mood.
  • Stanzas 1-3 are short, staccato and create a
    sense of place, atmosphere and the poets
  • Stanza 4 sense of busy hospital
  • Stanza 5 main action, sense of hush in the
    presence of dying woman.
  • Stanza6 opening of floodgates of poets
    emotions in face of his inevitable loss.

Visiting Hour
  • Think about
  • Is it less of an ordeal for the dying person than
    the one left behind?
  • Dying is something we have to do alone, despite
    being surrounded by loved ones?
  • How realistic do you find the poets feelings?