Why do you think Rubert Burns chose to use dialect in "John Anderson,My Jo?"

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, the use of the dialect in this poem makes the sentiments in the poem seem more realistic and heart-felt.

The basic idea of this poem is that the speaker is still in love with her husband even though they are getting old.  I feel that this theme is conveyed more effectively through dialect than it would be through formal language.

The reason for that is that dialect is sort of a homey, intimate language.  It is quite suitable for a couple that has been together for so long and is so comfortable together.


epollock | Student

Although a specific speaker is addressing a specific listener, certainly this is no dramatic monologue of the type of Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” Rather, Burns’s speaker can be almost any affectionate old woman talking to her old husband. We hasten to add that we don’t think the lack of a distinctive voice speaking in an unusual situation is a fault—enough distinctiveness is conveyed by the Scots words and by the incantatory repetition (“Your locks,” “Your bonnie brow,” “your brow,” “your locks,” “But,” “But,” and so on into the second stanza). There is an affection combined with a realistic appraisal of the past and present, culminating in a simple use of a conventional symbol: Life is a journey (here, a hill that has been climbed), and the end is in view:

Now we maun totter down, John,

And hand in hand we’ll go,

And sleep thegither at the foot,

John Anderson my jo!

The business of climbing a hill is perhaps best known in Jack and Jill, where the journey was tragic (in a comic way, of course). In “John Anderson,” though death is near, the use of dialect makes the effect heart-warming.