To The Doctor Who Treated The Raped Baby And Who Felt Such Despair

In the poem "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair," what are the contrasting settings and what effect do they have? Why did Dowling construct her poem in this manner?

Expert Answers
Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The settings that contrast with the hospital in the poem “to the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair” by Finuala Dowling are:

1. A home and the hallway outside a baby’s room in this home. This is conveyed in the line:

“there was a light on in the hall

for a nervous little sleeper”

While a raped baby is being admitted to a hospital, somewhere in some town or city, a baby is sleeping and being protected by its loving family.

2. A veld, which is a grassland or prairie. Here a shepherd sings a lullaby to a baby in this simple environment, while the raped baby is being admitted to the hospital to save her life.

3. A home again, and a warm blanket supplied by a loving mother to her child who sleep walks. While the doctor is trying to staunch the flow of blood from the raped baby, this mother is comforting her precious child in a warm home environment.

4. Various homes, or the pediatric ward where newborns lie. Here, Finuala Dowling talks of:

“luxuriant dark nipples

for fist clenching babes”

These babies are being lovingly taken care of and fed breast milk, whether in homes, or in the birth ward of the hospital, while the raped baby is being given a powerful pain-killer to stop the pain caused by the violent and horrible rape.

5. A home again, and an uncle taking care of a hungry baby, against the backdrop of the doctor in the hospital calling for more blood as medical professionals work on the raped baby girl to try and save her life.

6. Two other homes, one where a baby is read a chapter from a favorite storybook, and one where a grandfather cares for a “colicky crier.” These actions take place elsewhere, while doctors and nurses try at the hospital to save the life of this violated baby girl.

The effect of poet Finuala Dowling constructing her poem in this manner is that it shocks the reader somewhat into realizing the horror of the raped baby’s experience. While doctors battle to save this baby’s life, elsewhere in the community and the world at large, many babies are safe in the cocoon of their homes with loving families taking care of them.

It is this contrast that lends this poem its power. The reader is taken on a mind journey, between states of grace and a state of despair and this contrast highlights the fact that life goes on fine for some people, while at the same time being hellish for others.

nkululekomvubu451 | Student

In the first line the speaker asserts that she is speaking 'on behalf of us all'. What does she mean by this? Write a paragraph in which you refer closely to the poem to discuss the effectiveness of Dowling use of plural pronouns