How does D. H. Lawrence show perspective in "Last Lesson of the Afternoon"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Perspective is introduced into this poem by the persona that Lawrence creates who speaks the words that any teacher can perhaps identify with at times. The persona of this poem is a teacher, nearing the end of the day, who is clearly very tired and frustrated with his job, and with his mission of trying to teach his pupils. It is interesting to reflect that D. H. Lawrence himself worked as a schoolmaster, and so perhaps he injected some of his own experience into this poem.

Note how the first stanza introduces an implied metaphor to describe the pupils as hounds that the teacher is, in vain, trying to keep together in pursuit of knowledge:

How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart,

My pack of unruly hounds! I cannot start

Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,

I can haul them and urge them no more.

The teacher clearly feels that his job is futile, as he compares it to encouraging dogs to hunt something they do not want to hunt in the first place. The last line of this quote demonstrates just how tired and fed up he is: he has reached the end of his energies and reserves in trying to encourage them to learn. Perhaps the perspective of the teacher is best shown in the final stanza, when he asks a powerful rheorical question:

Why should we beat our heads against the wall

Of each other?

To him, his job is futile and he has no chance of succeeding, as trying to teach them only results in a situation where he is in conflict with his pupils and this heightens their reluctance to learn. Perspective is thus introduced in this poem through the choice of Lawrence to give voice to the thoughts of a teacher in a school.

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