Please could someone help me to make sense of the poem "Disobedience" by A.A. Milne?The only clue I could find on the internet is from someone who heard from someone that it might be about treason...

Please could someone help me to make sense of the poem "Disobedience" by A.A. Milne?

The only clue I could find on the internet is from someone who heard from someone that it might be about treason (????!).  Please help.

Asked on by sandrac373

2 Answers | Add Yours

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The amazing thing about poems is the fact that meaning lies in a reader's ability to justify the meaning of a poem. The meaning of a poem is typically based upon a reader's response to what they  understand the poem to mean. This meaning is justified through textual support. Any number of different readers could come up with different meanings based upon their own personal interpretation of any given poem.

In regards to Milne's poem "Disobedience," one could easily interpret the poem as a warning to what could happen if a person is not obedient and fails to follow directions.

The poem tells of a conversation between a mother and a son. The son tells his mother that she should not go to the end of town unless he accompanies her.

James James Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me."

The mother, either strong-willed or refusing to be told by her son what to do, tells her son that she can go alone.

"I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea."

The next stanza tells readers that James James' (Jim) mother has gone missing.

"LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON'S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
LAST SEEN
WANDERING VAGUELY:
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN -
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!"

Jim, not wanting to be blamed, tells everyone that it is not his fault she is missing.

In the end, everyone seems to come to the understanding that if a person wishes to do something someone has told them not to, what really can be done?

Ironically, one could look at the poem as a flip of what happens in life normally. Normally, it is the parent telling the child to not wander too far. Instead, in this case, it is the son telling the mother.

Regardless of who is telling who, the poem (based upon the title) can simply be interpreted to relate to the consequences of disobedience. Many times, parents give children warnings about things because of their knowledge of the dangers and, unfortunately, children ignore them. Here, the poem flips the relationship. Hopefully, the poem (when shared with children) allows children to relate to a parent's role in their lives and the importance of listening to warnings.

Sources:
sheila60's profile pic

sheila60 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I have always been a huge fan of the poetry of A.A.Milne.  I believe the inspiration for this piece came from a childhood friend of Christopher Robin who's mother had abandoned him and his father for another man.

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