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Compare the ways that feelings are presented in ‘Nettles’ and ‘Sister Maude’ Essay

Essay Topic:

Scannell’s ‘Nettles’ shows how a powerful relationship can spark protective impulses; when the persona’s son ‘fell in the nettle bed’, he ‘slashed in fury’ at the nettles to halt their destructive consequences. However, in ‘Sister Maude’, Rossetti demonstrates how an equally powerful relationship can evolve into a destructive drive with negative results, whereby she claims that her lurking sister ‘shall get no sleep’.

Both poems account the persona’s violent responses to provoking events. In ‘Nettles’, Scannell employs a strong iambic pentameter that runs throughout; the iambic feet in the line ‘and then I took my hook and honed the blade’ conveys the persona’s sheer anger at the nettles that have hurt his son and add an accumulative effect to the poem. The repetition of the ‘o’ sound (assonance) in ‘took’, ‘hook’ and ‘honed’ adds to this affect which shows the reader how the father is becoming increasingly infuriated. The line after contains an irregularity, with an extra syllable attached to the end of the line to emphasise the words ‘with it’. This adds to the fury as the angry father tries to avenge his son’s suffering and illustrates the father’s feeling that he should always be there to solve his son’s problems for him; the iambic feet give a sense of perfect strikes as he cuts down the nettles successfully, demonstrating his feelings of triumph of revenge. Similarly, Rossetti also incorporates an iambic metre to heighten her feelings of fury and revenge, just as Scannell uses it to portray the father’s fury and sense of vengeance.

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The line ‘bide you with death and sin’ shows the reader the persona’s certain feelings that Maude’s fate will be an eternity in Hell; the plosive ‘b’ in ‘bide’, followed by the heavy stress exerted on ‘you’ conveys to the reader the persona’s furious feelings towards her sister and how she took her lover’s life. However, it could also be the intentions of the persona to have this line as the last of the poem as a way for the reader to see a stark contrast between the fate of Maude and the rest of the family; this could mean that the persona is feeling very satisfied at Maude’s certain fate, which contrasts to the father’s feelings of regret in ‘Nettles’.

Both Rossetti and Scannell present relatively minor events as huge aspects of the persona’s life. In ‘Nettles’, the father seems to be intent on getting revenge; the part of the poem where he is ‘[slashing] in fury’ contains enjambment, and no line is end-stopped, which reflects how his son getting hurt is a huge thing for him; in this way, Scannell shows how the father feels that it is his duty to protect his son on the basis of their fatherly relationship. He uses the words ‘my son’ twice which conveys to the reader how he is very protective and possessive of his son. There are two lines devoted to the description of his son’s wounds, which are vividly described as ‘beaded on his tender skin’; this evokes a sense of time coming to a halt as the father realises what has happened to his son, conveying his angry feelings. This visual description also adopts the alliterative ‘b’ sound to express contrast between the unpleasantness of the wound and a vulnerable child’s soft skin, which allows Scannell to persuade the reader to support the father and son in their ongoing feud with the nettle bed.

Conversely, the persona in ‘Sister Maude’ changes the address of her sister from her name to the pronoun ‘you’ between the first and second stanza, which accentuates her angry feelings; the way that this address change occurs between stanzas shows how the persona is trying to distance herself from Maude because of how disgusted she is of her actions, which reflects very hurt and disturbed feelings. Moreover, both poems use sibilance to demonstrate fury; this is particularly noticeable in ‘spared his soul’ and ‘green spears’. These phrases read with a ‘hissing’ sound which illustrates their similar feelings of hatred and spite.

A further way that the two poems can be compared is that Rossetti and Scannell both intensify the events that have taken place into matters of good, evil and war to show the depth of the persona’s love or hate. ‘Sister Maude’ contains religious imagery to portray how the persona feels so strongly about Maude’s fault that she wishes her to spend an eternity in Hell; she claims that her father ‘may sleep in Paradise’, her mother ‘at Heaven-gate’, but that her ‘sister Maude shall get no sleep’, suggesting that Maude will never be at peace because of what she has done. In this way, Maude’s spying and peering has become a matter of good and evil that takes into account the afterlife, which accentuates the persona’s fury.

‘Nettles’ also uses far-fetched comparisons to show the father’s love for his son, but conversely this is done to show the depth of his love, rather than his fury. He calls the nettles ‘that regiment of spite behind the shed’ and he burns ‘the fallen dead’ which conveys the nettles as the enemy force in the father’s life; the use of an expression that is normally used to describe dead soldiers heightens the father’s victory and how he feels triumphant that he has destroyed something that causes pain to his son. These war metaphors illustrate how the pains that the son will experience in his later life will not be cured by simple parental hugs, in contrast to the religious imagery in ‘Sister Maude’ which show the reader the persona’s fury at her lurking sister.

Having considered both poems, my personal response is that whereas ‘Nettles’ ends with a tone of regret, when the father recognises that the ‘sharp wounds’ of adult pain, usually caused be troubled relationships, are not so easily ‘soothed’ by a loving parent, Rossetti finishes ‘Sister Maude’ with a sense of the finality of death; she almost casts a spell at Maude with the imperative ‘bide’, which shows how her anger has overcome her and that the only thing left to happen is for Maude to be banished to Hell.

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