Monologue by the late New Zealand poet Hone Tuwhare was inspired by an elderly Scotsman that he used to work with. This poem is a very thought provoking and contradictive poem about the world of work in this workplace. I believe the author is trying to make us picture this workplace in great detail and how it affects us and all around us. The persona in the poem is not the author but the elderly Scotsman he used to work with.
The poet uses enjambment through out the poem to convey his message of the precariousness of the workforce. The enjambment also causes the pace to be smooth and continuous. The structure of the poem is free verse and very irregular.
In the first stanza the persona wants to have the opportunity to escape and to have freedom in the workplace as he likes “working near a door”. In the second verse he sets the coldness of the workplace by using the metaphor “Here the cold creeps under the big doors”. This gives out an effect of bitterness and harshness as people work in the cold. We are given an industrial image when the poet uses the phrase “a lorry load of steel” this means the workplace could be using steel to make it into other products.
In the third stanza we get more imagery of industry as the place they work in “is a noisy place with smoke rising” this gives me a sense of commotion and there is a lot going on in this place. However he is at peace near the big doors and is a very quiet person as he likes to be alone “near the big doors”. The author uses alliteration in “thumping and thrusting” I think this emphasises the commotion in the workplace and the sound is very strong. I think he doesn’t like the idea of management and control over him because he is “the farthest away from those who have to come down to shout instructions”. He likes to go at his own pace in the workplace.
In the fourth stanza the author shows us the idea of employment in the workplace. The “strangers who drift in” gives us a sense of casualness as people come to look for a job as they have been to many places before looking for a job. In the fifth stanza the author tells us about the “successful ones” and “the unlucky”. Throughout the noisiness and commotion he shows compassion for his fellowmen as he has been in their shoes before and knows about the pain of rejection because he says “I know also”
In the sixth stanza the author talks about job security and how at any moment you could be left redundant. The persona states “it’s too good to last” and that “there will be a reduction in staff”. This workplace obviously is reasonably stable for now but at any moment he could be fired and left out. He talks about foreign cheap labour which is very common nowadays. I think he is worried about these foreign labours and knows it will happen soon. He uses a very peculiar word in this context “dying…” and I think this is very important in the text. As he is an old man he could die any minute and this means that you never know when you will die and that the youth will replace the young eventually.
The persona is in denial about him being made redundant as he “should be looking for another job before the axe falls”. In the sixth stanza he states that “these thoughts I push away” I believes that by the big doors he is in his own world. Although he does state that “if the worst happens” he is by the big doors and so he wouldn’t have to walk long to take his belongings away. In the last stanza he desperately tries to convince himself that he is safe by the big doors because he can always look for a work bench nearby “in case an earthquake occurs and fire breaks out, you know?” I think he is just trying to believe that he is out of harm’s way near the big doors and he will be there for a long time.
My conclusion is that the author uses the theme of work very effectively in this poem and really makes you think about work and all its aspects, at least the negative side. Like what it can do to a person and how if they make you redundant and you are elderly you might not be able to find another job and would be in a very serious state. Also we hear about foreign labour and how it affects the locals who are working because foreign labourers normally work for less money. I think he also talks about how it can affect you mentally as we can see the persona is in his own little world and is in denial this could be caused by the conditions of the workplace or the solitude of the persona as he may be left out by the other workers.