In "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and felt despair:" Question 1: The word "and" is repeated in the beginning of the poem and in seven different lines. What is the effectiveness of the...
In "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and felt despair:"
Question 1: The word "and" is repeated in the beginning of the poem and in seven different lines. What is the effectiveness of the repetition? Identify and discuss quotations.
Question 2: What is the speaker trying to do in this poem and how is it achieved? Discuss specific instances.
The word "and" introduces the lines that describe the doctor treating the raped baby and his feelings afterwards. But while on the most basic level, the word "and" works to identify these lines about the raped baby, more importantly, it connects those lines to ordinary acts of compassion towards babies and children. Alone we have this (this is a sample):
and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
and while you staunched
and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
and when you called for more blood ...
The "ands," however, call attention to the fact that this is more than just a story about a raped baby. The rape is horrible, but it happened in the context of ordinary people acting compassionately toward their children:
and while you stitched
there was another chapter of a favourite story
and while you cleaned
a grandpa’s thin legs walked up and down for a colicky crier
This context is extremely important: horror exists in the world but not alone: it is surrounded by all sorts of loving acts that we can forget if all we focus on is the horror. There is the horror, and there is the "and" that is not the horror.
As noted above, the poet is trying to reassure the doctor who is in despair that there's more to life than what he has just witnessed. While not thanking the doctor directly, the poem sends appreciation to the doctor for what he does:
And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did.
We slept in trust that you lived.
This "and" above tells the doctor that he is not alone, but a part of a larger community that cares about what he did and that sleeps more easily because he is alive. Despite the way evil can overwhelm us, the poem suggests that good prevails. The doctor's act had meaning not just to the baby but to the larger community.