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Kevin Halligan wrote:The Cockroach
I watched a giant cockroach start to pace,
Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor.
At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace
A path between the wainscot and the door,
But soon he turned to jog in crooked rings,
Circling the rusty table leg and back,
And flipping right over to scratch his wings-
As if the victim of a mild attack
Of restlessness that worsened over time.
After a while, he climbed an open shelf
And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.
Was this due payment for some vicious crime
A former life had led to? I don’t know
Except I thought I recognized myself.
К нему впридачу также научный анализ
Matthew Tan wrote:The Cockroach - Kevin Halligan
Summary of the poem
The poet writes a completely allegorical poem about the cockroach in his house (or any other person’s house for that matter). He, perhaps out of sheer boredom, observes the actions of the cockroach and notes its actions It is finally at the end that he realizes the reflection of the cockroach on himself. Note that these are usually actions that are quite ordinary done by an insect that is usually ignored by society, which could indicate how in the context of a wider scale, all we do is minute comparatively.
“All we are is dust in the wind…”
Significant poetic devices and their significance
Structure based analysis
1. There is an ABAB rhyme scheme until the 9th line, and then it loses its rhyme scheme. This could implicate a sudden sense of the poet being startled as he starts to realize that the actions of the cockroach are very similar to what he does when put in his context, thus the lines “Except I thought I recognized myself”
a. On the other hand, it could indicate that life is actually really boring. Note that the rhyme scheme breaks during the climax of the poem when the cockroach climbs the shelf. Then, it has a vague scheme coming back again when the poet rhymes “go” with “know”. This shows that after the climax, all there is to do is go back to normal. Similarly, after you break the consistency and do something amazing, at the end of it, all there is left to do is go back to your normal life. When you break the consistency of the rhyme scheme to create an impact to a climax, all there is left to do is attempt to go back to the rhyme scheme again, else it won’t be special anymore. At that point, what is the point in life if it is so boring?
2. Lack of any clear stanza. May portray the poet or the atmosphere at the current moment as a very relaxed one due to the fluidity of not having to pause to move to the next stanza, especially in this case where he has the time to observe the actions of a small cockroach. Kind of like a ‘go with the flow’ attitude.
1. The phrase “Skirting a ball of dust” in the second line of the poem portray the cockroach as being capable of avoiding a form of obstacle and hardship by detour. The fact that it is a “ball of dust that rode on the floor” portrays the fact that it is an accumulating obstacle which means that if it is not tackled now, it will be much harder to overcome in the future. This can be similar to humans, who often try to take the easy way out in the short term, only to find that their work builds up in the future (eg: cheating on exams or putting all your work last minute till just before the deadline)
2. “At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace a path between the wainscot and the door. But soon he turned to jog in crooked rings” At first the cockroach is happy with his life and is just content doing the small things in life without any trouble. It demonstrates how as humans we sometimes take our time to enjoy the things in life doing something so small. Then the cockroach suddenly starts being agitated and starts to go into a slow jog. Furthermore it goes in crooked rings. If you read the next line, it shows that it also circles “the rusty table and back”, showing that it is just agitated, confused and restless. It also shows uncertainty. This exaggerates the fact that in life, we tend to have our ups and downs, our high and lows as we are happy with something at one time, and how we become agitated and scurry up and down the place wondering about our meaning in life and what to do in certain situations. Such examples would be the mid-life crisis, where you start to question what you have done with half your life gone when you were just happy with the way things were just beforehand as many would have just gotten married, or received a stable job not long before.
3. “And flipping right over to scratch his wings – as if a victim of a mild attack of restlessness that worsened over time.” this further accentuates the restlessness of the cockroach and its sudden need to do something with its life before it is to pass away. This, as said before, is similar to the will of people who are so often bored for a long period of time to try and do something with their lives, especially during a mid-life crisis. It finally goes “ARGGGHHH! (scratching its wings, similar to how someone would scratch their heads when stressed)” and tries to do something amazing as read in the next line.
4. “After a while, he climbed an open shelf” this indicates a sudden sense of hardship as the cockroach is climbing something as big as a mountain in the eyes of a human when put into perspective. It also implies a sense of progress as it is at least something productive that you do with your life. In this sense, the cockroach is going on an adventure.
a. Found in the open shelf, having the capacity to store useful objects, suggests the cockroach’s vast potential and thus the vast potential that we have as human beings. “Open” may suggest a change in perspective as he/it becomes more “open-minded”.
b. A path between the wainscot and the door. Concept of Journey through life. The “path” depicts his growth stage. “Wainscot” is typically their place of birth (they are cockroaches after all a wainscot can be defined as “wooden panels that can be used to line the walls of a room”), while the “door”, due to the ability to “open”, represents freedom and success, normally found in the later stages of your life.
6. “And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.” We can see two caesuras there in the form of the full stop. The first caesura is used as a tool by the poet to create a pause in the reading pace of the reader to make the success of the cockroach more dramatic. The second one however, is to let the fact that it has completed its aim and has nothing left to do sink in. At the end of the day, what do you have left to do after finishing your goal? There are documented times when Olympic players who achieved a world record ended up in their rooms alone crying. When you are already at the top, what is there anymore to look forward to? The author looks at this as some sort of curse that we have in our lives. We should feel happy and feel a sense of achievement when we reach our goal; when we do something amazing (in this case, the cockroach finally reaching the top of the open shelf). Why is it that we feel this sense of emptiness and a lack of any feeling whatsoever? “Was this due payment for some vicious crime a former life had led to? I don’t know” The line at the end may be related to the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that the cockroach felt previously before its amazing feat and how he is feeling this sense of ‘what am I doing with my life?’ feeling. This line is the end of the description of the cockroach as the poet comes to look back at his own life.
“Except I thought I recognized myself”
Identify the speaker in the poem: The poet himself, Kevin Halligan
Identify the speaker’s attitude towards the subject of the poem: Bored at the beginning of the poem as it starts to look at the actions of the cockroach, then curious of its actions, then starts to contemplate his meaning, as well as the cockroaches, meaning in life as he watches the emptiness of the cockroach at having completed an amazing feat in his perspective.
At first he sounds monotonous due to the absence of adventure and struggle in his life. Later on, his tone begins to be increasingly lively and the pace slightly speeds up and the voice becomes smoother as he rarely uses caesura, and writes in long lines.
1. Hunting Snake in the sense that they both make you contemplate on your life and the way that you interpret the way you look at others or your own life in that matter.
2. Continuum as there is a more depressing mood to it in the sense that you are not morally attached. In both poems, there is no emotional attachment at all inwardly, only perhaps towards the cockroach in the poem.
1. “Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor”
2. “But soon he turned to jog in crooked rings,”
3. “And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.”
4. “Except I thought I recognized myself”
LG - Life's good.
But good life is much better.