(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The School Children,” from The House on Marshland, contains fragmented imagery and phrasing to show the disconnection of the children to both their mothers and their teachers, despite the ritual of the mother giving the apple to the child, who then gives it to the teacher. The children, the speaker says, “go forward with their little satchels,” innocent yet businesslike. The mothers who “have labored to gather the late apples, red and gold” are the agents who smooth the way for their children to develop relationships with their teachers.

The teachers “wait behind great desks . . . to receive these offerings” and perhaps pass judgment on them, as they do the students’ work. The next line, “How orderly they are” at first appears to refer to the teachers but is then found to describe “the nails on which the children hang their overcoats of blue or yellow wool.” The blue and yellow, along with the red apples, convey the primary colors associated with childhood.

The children are further disconnected from the teachers who, the speaker says, “shall instruct them in silence,” while the mothers “scour the orchards for a way out.” Here the image of the detached teacher is contrasted with the desperation of the mother who perhaps lives vicariously through her children and the success she desires for them. This is further shown in the description of the “gray limbs of the fruit trees bearing so little ammunition,” as if the apples are not only offerings but weapons against those who the mothers believe hold their children’s destinies in their hands.

The School Children Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Diehl, Joanne Feit, ed. On Louise Glück: Change What You See. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Dodd, Elizabeth. “Louise Glück: The Ardent Understatement of Postconfessional Classicism.” In The Veiled Mirror and the Woman Poet: H. D., Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992.

Harrison, DeSales. The End of the Mind: The Edge of the Intelligible in Hardy, Stevens, Larkin, Plath, and Glück. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Upton, Lee. Defensive Measures: The Poetry of Niedecker, Bishop, Glück, and Carson. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2005.

Upton, Lee. “Fleshless Voices: Louise Glück’s Rituals of Abjection and Oblivion.” In The Muse of Abandonment: Origin, Identity, Mastery in Five American Poets. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1998.