In the poem ‘The Almond Tree’, the poet manages to effectively deal with the subject of death, or in this poem, the death of the poets hopes, by using different techniques such as imagery and symbolism. In ‘The Almond Tree’ by Jon Stallworthy, the poet is drives to the hospital to see his new born son, and once arrives there, finds out his son has Down’s Syndrome, and in the rest of the poem, the poet deals with the death of his hopes, and eventualy learns to accept his son.
The poet manages to create an appropriate mood for the death of his hopes by having the first section of the poem be positive, and build up a positive and excited mood. The poet manages to create this postivite mood by imagery. When the poet is describing the traffic lights, he refers to them being ‘green as peppermints’, the reference to confectionery makes the reader associate the image with sweet and pleasant things. The poet is so excited that he feels he can change scenes to suit himself, shown when the poet says
‘as if i were the lucky prince in an enchanted wood’,
this builds up the positive mood because it shows that the poet is very enthusiastic, and so the reader feels that enthusiasm too. The poet is very conscious of himself in the first section shown when he said he was ‘aware of the blood running down the delta of my wrist’, and so this shows how excited he is. The verse structure in the first section of the poem is also used as a technique to build up a feeling of excitement, the verses vary between 4-8 lines, and have a next to no structure, which give an impression of the poet being very excited so that he’s not concentrating on the structure, and is just getting out all his thoughts as they come to him. The poet also states the hopes that he has for his child, such as
‘let it be a son, a son’,
because he wants the family name to be carried on. All these techniques used help to develop a feeling of excitement and positivity in the first section, which is used to make the bad news to come an even bigger contrast.
The second section of the poem is when the news is delivered that the poets son has Down’s Syndrome, and is delievered effectively by first introducing the feeling of uneasiness by using onomatopoeia in the form of harsh words, such as ‘scissored’ and ‘slicing’, and so makes the reader feel as if something bad is going to happen. The way the news is actually delivered is also meant to shock the reader, and it is said as quickly and to the point as possible, using only 4 one syllable words, and 1 two syllable word
‘your son is a mongol’. The way the news is delivered is made shocking not only by the way the news is delievered, but because it is such a big contrast to the first section of the poem.
The third section describes how the poet feels once hearing this shocking news, and describes the death of his dreams,the poet uses techniques such as imagery to get these points across. He describes the news he recieved as going in ‘clean as a bullet’, and subsequently ‘stopping the heart within it’, which tells the reader that that to the poet, this news is fatal, and that the bullet left ‘no mark on the skin’ so the poet showed no outward sign of despair. This reaction shows that the poet is in a state of shock. The poet then states that ‘this was my first death’, and by his ‘first death’ he means the death of his hopes, which was for his son to carry on the family name and growing up to be just like the poet, he backs this point up again by stating ‘never to come ashore into my kingdom speaking my language.’. The poet becomes displaced from reality, saying
‘I held four walls in the lens of an eye’,
and this experience shows that the poet can see his dead self, and cannot feel anything any more, which proves that the poets hopes have died.
The central idea of the poem is that love can overcome all obstacles, which in this case is the poet learning to love his son, no matter what. The only way that the poet would have been able to accept his son was by letting go of his hopes for his son growing up to be just like him and carrying on the family name, and this is what happens. The whole process is shown in the poem through symbolism, which in this case is the almond tree blooming, the poet describes this process as painful by using harsh words, such as ‘split’ and ‘blood-dark’, and finds that the tree had to go through a painful process in order to become what it is, and he compares this to his own situation, and realises that he has to go through a painful process, which is the death of his dreams, in order to do what he was really meant to do, which was to accept his son.