In the poem 'My Parents' by Stephen Spender, how is the theme of social inequality conveyed?

1 Answer

literaturenerd's profile pic

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

Posted on

There is no hiding the fact that there is a noticeable break between who Spender's parents wanted him playing with and who they  did not (in the poem "My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough").

From the very beginning line, a reader can tell that stereotypes were a great part of deciding who Stephen could play with. It seems that Spender's parents found problems with anyone who fit the following descriptions:

-Children who were rough

-Children who spoke inappropriately and without filtering or concern

- Children who worn torn clothing

It seems that Stephen's parents found children like this to be social outcasts whom belonged to lower class families (most cued by the description of torn clothing).

Therefore, the theme of social inequality is conveyed through the negative connotations assigned to the children Stephen was not allowed to play with. In this, one could assume that Stephen did not wear torn clothing, did not use offensive language, and did not play/act rough.

This shows the reader that only those who did not do these things were considered good enough for Stephen to associate with. By setting up negatives, Spender automatically shows the opposite side through inference and assumptions based upon the reader's knowledge of social stereotypes.