How would one write a speech about John Montague's poetry with references and quotes, including such poems as "The Locket, " "The Cage," "Like Dolmens Round My Childhood," "The Trout," "Welcoming...

How would one write a speech about John Montague's poetry with references and quotes, including such poems as "The Locket, " "The Cage," "Like Dolmens Round My Childhood," "The Trout," "Welcoming Party," and "Legendary Obstacles"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Writing your speech analyzing John Montague's poetry will actually not be any different from writing a literary analysis paper. The only difference is that you will be presenting your paper out loud. Your first step will be to decide what you want your thesis to say, what you want your overall argument about Montague's poetry to be. To figure out your thesis, you'll want to first analyze your choice of poems. To start with, you'll want to pick out things that are similar among the poems of your choice. You might consider analyzing for things like common theme, imagery, diction, and mood. Depending on how long your speech needs to be, it may also be helpful to look for differences as well. Let's look at the two poems "The Locket" and "Like Dolmens Round My Childhood" for similarities in theme as an example.

A theme is a main idea in a piece of literature that is referred to throughout. A theme will also be a universally applicable concept. For example, in "The Locket," we wouldn't really argue that one theme is being born breach because not every one has been or can be born breach. Instead, morals, principles, and abstract concepts do serve as themes. For example, if we were to read any novels by Charles Dickens, we might find the universally applicable themes of poverty, prison reform, and child abuse/child labor. Similarly, both of Montague's poems contain references to death; hence, death is a central theme. In fact it can be argued that Montague wants to portray all of the hardships of life, such as death. Death is a more obvious reference in "Like Dolmens Round My Childhood." The concept of death is even found in the title as the word dolmens refers to archeological structures thought of as a tombs (Random House Dictionary). Death is even clearly mentioned in the first stanza when it is said that when Jamie MacCrystal died, "his cottage was robbed." Other references to death are made in the next stanzas, not so much with respect to bodily death, but with respect to spiritual death. For example, it's said that Maggie Owens was called a witch, which would mean she lacks a human soul and conscience and is spiritually dead; the Nialls are described as blind and as possessing "dead eyes"; and the final stanza even speaks of "evil eye," "averted head," "gaunt figures of fear," and "dark permanence," which are all dark images that can be likened to death or soullessness.

Similarly, death is implied in "The Locket." Literally, the second-to-last stanza describes the speaker's mother as being "up and gone." But in the next stanza, we learn that he discovers a locket she had always worn around her neck containing a picture of her abandoned baby son, which was the poem's speaker. If the mother had literally moved away, we can assume she would have taken the locket with her. Instead, the locket was left behind, suggesting a more spiritual absence rather than a physical absence. In other words, it can be argued that Molly died rather than moved out of town.

If one were to write a thesis about these observations, one might argue:

  • John Montague frequently portrays the theme of death in order to characterize life's frailty and hardships.

From there, you would simply write your speech to prove your observation.

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