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    Charlotte O’Neil’s song’ by Fiona Farrell Essay

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    The main difference between these two poems is the fact that now charlotte is free to do what she pleases, she is no longer under a influence, where as the old woman is still stuck in the same routine the only hope for her is that the new person she latches onto will also give her his or her spare change. Charlotte has potential but the old woman doesn’t. Charlotte O’Neil’s Song is in first person so we understand her thoughts and feelings, we see her personal view on the situation and the world around her, we also see how this reflects her character.

    Her bitterness and anger really start to show when she says her master’s speech, ‘That’s the way it should be, you said. That’s the poor girl’s lot. ‘ Charlotte is adding her own feelings to his speech, showing how angry she is, this is highlighted by the way ‘You said’ stands on its own. However An Old Woman is in third person so we don’t really know what she is feeling or thinking. All her feelings are being imposed by the tourist. The only time we really understand her is when she speaks. ‘What else can an old woman do

    on hills as wretched as these? ‘ I believe here the old woman is changing her tactics, she has tried being clingy but know she’s going to play the sympathy card. I believe these two lines of speech show us that she is determined and always gets her way. The style of language in charlotte O’Neil’s Song is very simplistic and easy to understand. ‘You dined at eight And slept till late’ Maybe this reflects how simple her life was, she did the same thing day in day out, it could also mirror how simple her knowledge and education is.

    In the poem charlotte reels off a lot of statements which could mean she is sure about what she is doing. There are no questions, she is so sure about her life that she has no need to stop and question anyone, anything, or any decision. However the style of language in An old woman is very complicated and hard to understand. ‘The cracks that begin around her eyes spread beyond her skin’ I believe this suggests how difficult the old woman’s life is, nothing is easy for her, she never knows what to expect or what the day will hold for her.

    I think it shows this by suggesting how the world cracks around her forming a sort of maze which reflects her life, and her purpose in life in trying to get to the end of the maze which will stop the suffering she is going through. In Charlotte O’Neil’s Song the freedom of verses reflects the freedom of her life. There is no set verse length or rhyme structure the is showing that she cannot be contained within verses or her old job, she makes the rules and she can make her life, and the verses, go in any direction she wants.

    At he end of the poem there is a one line stanza, a throw away comment, again suggesting she makes the rule within her life and the poem. Unlike Charlotte O’Neil’s song In An Old Woman all the verses are regular and have the same structure, this reflects the Old Woman’s life. She has been contained within the verses like she has been contained within begging, because she has no way out. She views her life in short episodes shown by the shortness of the verses. Charlotte O’Neil has a lot of prospects in her ‘new’ life, even though she may not be very well educated she is young and will probably get a job easily.

    Her status is low as she is only a servant. ‘The poor deserve the gate’ However in New Zealand, which is where she’s going, nobody knows who she is or what she previously did. She will be as equal as every other person. The Old Woman, however has no prospects, she will be stuck begging for the rest of the life, which isn’t long. I think even though she isn’t happy with her situation, she has accepted it because she had to, she had no choice. ‘What else can an old woman do on hills as wretched as these? ‘

    This quote shows that she has accepted her life; she is saying that there is nothing else for a woman of her age to do. In India the elderly are very highly respected, and when a person grows old his or her family is expect to look after them as the government doesn’t help. Has the Old Woman no family? Or have they disowned her? In India the class system is very strict, you cannot move a class, if you are born into a class you cannot leave it, and you most certainly cannot marry into a higher class than the one you are in.

    As the Old woman is in one of the bottom classes she will most likely not be able to get a job, so she is well and truly stuck in her current situation, unless, if she has one, her family take her back in. In Charlotte O’Neil’s Song there are no strong images as there is not much description. Instead Farrell uses antithesis between the life of the employer and the servant. ‘You lay on a silken pillow. I lay on a attic cot’ This shows how different their life’s are. Farrell also uses persuasive device of list, which are usually in threes. ‘I’ve cleaned your plate And I’ve cleaned your house And I’ve cleaned the clothes you wore’

    Farrell makes the pattern even clearer by using and repeating the verb ‘cleaned’. Even though this is an effective method I do not believe it is as good as descriptive words, metaphors and similes. Where as in An Old Woman there is lots of strong imagery. ‘Clear through the bullet holes she has for eyes. ‘ I think this is the strongest description in the poem. It gives a brilliant image of the Old Woman’s eyes, I imagine no eyes at all and just sockets which the sky can be seen through. The bullet holes relate to war and suffering which can be linked back to begging, which is a type of suffering.

    These two poems are very different in everyway, the language, structure and the message they give off. An old woman gives off a strong image about suffering, and as that is still relevant today we can relate to it. But in Charlotte O’Neil’s song there is not a clear message that is put across; you could say that it is linked to slavery as domestic service could be perceived as a very weak form of slavery. In my opinion An old woman by Arun Kolator is a much better poem as it contains much stronger images than Charlotte O’Neil’s song.

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