In the poem “Visiting Hour” by Norman MacCaig, there is a significant moment where the writer’s true message becomes clear to the reader. I feel this is an effective way for the writer to put the message across. MacCaig employs various techniques to gain this effect including imagery and excellent word choice.
The significant moment occurs at the end at the end of the poem, when the poet’s true feeling are revealed to us, but the techniques employed throughout the poem enhance this ending.
Visiting Hour is an extremely effective portrayal of a person’s feelings in distressing circumstances like this. The word choice helps the reader understand how the poet is feeling. “The hospital smell” is the first line of the poem. I find this a good introduction because this smell is known to most people as a disgusting stench. I feel this is effective as the reader can relate to it.
“Combs my nostrils/as they go bobbing along”
is an excellent way of describing how the poet feels.
He is concentrating on his nose which implies that the smell is so strong that it is the only thing he can think about. I think that the reader also gets the impression that the poet is his mind off of the situation that he is in. Again MacCaig’s choice of words in “green and yellow corridors” is superbe, as these colours are known as rather sickly colours.
After the poet stops thinking f the smell, we see how he really is thinking of deep down, death.
The word “corpse” shows this. The poet’s feeling towards death are shown in the word “trundled.” This implies that the “corpse” is being moved clumsily and that the author feels that after death, nobody has any respect for your body. The word “heavenward” continues the idea of death and here the poet seems to be making fun of the idea of an afterlife.
Through his use of repetition. The poet appears to be talking to himself.
“I will not feel I will not/ feel.”
We see in this stanza how he truly feels about visiting his dying relative. He is scared and does not want to endure the pain that her inevitable death will cause. The rhythm of these short words intensifies the idea of the poet trying to control and deny his feelings. I feel this stanza gains the readers sympathy, as it is easy to relate to the poet’s feelings.
The poet’s views of hospitals beome clear when he describes the nurses. The poet admires the nurses because he appreciates how hard their jobs are.
“Here and up and down and there”
is an effective way to describe the nurse’s movement as it implies that they are walking quickly, and they seemed to be everywhere. The lines
“So much pain … so many farewells”
puts across the poet’s feelings towards hospitals. He can only associate the hospital with death and sadness. Death is the only thing on his mind.
In stanza five, the words “Ward 7” shows how abruptly MacCaig reaches his relative’s room. The poet uses a lot of powerful imagery to describe how he sees his dying relative. The pain he feels is shown when he describes her. “A withered hand trembles on its stalk,” shows how MacCaig sees the woman, like a dying flower. This efficiently gives a sense of fragility of this woman and the overall image of a dying flower helps the reader relate to the anguish the narrator is feeling. MacCaig is extremely worried about the woman’s death.
“Into an arm wasted / of colour a glass fang is fixed / not guzzling but giving.”
This image shows the poet’s negative feelings of the woman’s death. He sees the drip which is helping her as a fang biting into her arm, like a vampire greedily drinking her blood. This provides a clear understanding of the distress of the visitor and the pity he feels for the vulnerable woman.
It is at the end of the poem that the significant moment occurs. This is when the poet finally shows his emotion at seeing his dying relative. The words “round and swimming” are an excellent choice. “Round” signals the intensity of the effect the ringing of the bell has on him. The word “swimming” suggests how his eyes are perhaps filed with tears, his head swimming with the emotion of the experience. His self-control has collapsed now as he stumbles “clumsily” out of the ward.
The poem ends with MacCaig’s acceptance of his dying relative. He now accepts the inevitable “growing fainter, not smaller, leaving behind only books hat will not be read and fruitless fruits.” This shows that MacCaig accepts the fate of the woman.
I feel that this also shows that the poet feels hopeless in the situation, unable to do anything useful to help.
MacCaig’s character is revealed in this poem using powerful imagery and superb word choice. The whole poem is an excellent build up to the moment where the poet realises that he will have to accept that the woman will die. Throughout the poem he tries to avoid the truth of the situation but, at a certain moment it hits him that he will have to accept death and realise there is nothing he can do. This is when the main theme of the poem is revealed, learning to accept death.