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What contrasting settings are in Dowling's poem "To the Doctor Who Treated the Raped Baby and Who Felt Such Despair" and why are they effective?

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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.

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The poem "To the Doctor who Treated the Raped Baby and Who Felt Such Despair" seems to move between contrasting settings. Write a paragraph in which you quote and discuss examples of this and explain the effect of Dowling's contrasting poem in this manner.

This poem moves between alternating images of the doctor trying to help the raped baby and scenes in which people offer care and love to children. For example, the line "and when you administered an infant-sized opiate," uses "you" to refer to the doctor; the following lines are "there were luxuriant dark nipples/for fist clenching babes." While the doctor tries to provide clinical care for the injured baby, others provide maternal and paternal care. For example, the line "and while you stitched" is followed by "there was another chapter of a favorite story." 

The effect of the contrasting lines between the doctor's care for the violated infant and the images of maternal and paternal care is to emphasize the ways in which the baby is now receiving from the doctor the love and concern that children should receive from their parents. Just as a mother nurses her baby or parents read their child another chapter in the book, the doctor does what he or she can to minister to the raped baby. At the end of the poem, when the poet writes, "We slept in trust that you lived," the doctor becomes part of the community of parents and caretakers who offer love to children. 

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The poem "To the Doctor who Treated the Raped Baby and Who Felt Such Despair" seems to move between contrasting settings. Write a paragraph in which you quote and discuss examples of this and explain the effect of Dowling's contrasting poem in this manner.

Finnuala Dowling is directly addressing the physician in her poem “To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair.” The lines of the poem vacillate between settings; that of the treatment facility where the doctor works on the injured child, and different locations where children are cared for with love and respect.

I just wanted to say on behalf of us all

that on the night in question

there was a light on in the hall

for a nervous little sleeper

and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care

On the night the baby is raped, around the world, there are others who leave lights on for children who are afraid of the dark, there are uncles singing lullabies, there are children lovingly nursed, and there are mothers inviting their little ones into their warm beds in the middle of the night. The reader goes back and forth between the horrors endured by the baby and the normalcy experienced by other children. In the end, the narrator wants the doctor to know that people can sleep peacefully, turning a blind eye to the abuse, knowing that the doctor is there to care for the child.

and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot

and asked, “Where is God?”,

a father sat watch.

And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust

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In "The doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair" the poem seems to move between contrasting settings. Quote and discuss examples of this and explain the effect of Dowling constructing her poem in this manner.

In Finuala Dowling’s poem “To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair” she compares a horrific situation with examples of normality. The doctor faces the task of dealing with the raped baby’s injuries while around the world, other children experience the care they deserve.

that on the night in question

there was a light on in the hall

for a nervous little sleeper

and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care

faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld

and while you staunched

there was space on a mother-warmed sheet

for a night walker

Her poem is formatted so each of the doctor’s actions while treating the baby is aligned with the action of a family member caring for another child. Lights are left on for children who are afraid of the dark, a shepard sings a calming song, and a mother makes room in her bed for a child seeking comfort in the night.

The author does this to emphasize the gravity of the crime against the child, and the toll it takes on the physician. In addition, the format explains how society can ignore this type of problem because we do not have deal with it. The doctor questions the existence of God.

And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust

that you would do what you did,

that you could do what you did.

We slept in trust that you lived.

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Finuala Dowling's poem, "To the Doctor who Treated the Raped Baby and Who Felt Such Despair," features contrasting settings. What effect do the contrasting settings have on the meaning of the poem as a whole? Give examples for support.

Finuala Dowling's poem, "To the Doctor who Treated the Raped Baby and Who Felt Such Despair," features contrasting settings.  The one, constant setting is an African hospital emergency room where a doctor struggles physically and emotionally with saving an infant who was raped.  This setting represents the grim reality that some people in the world are the epitome of evil and victimize the most innocent of all humanity.  

The other setting rotates from various locations, but they are all safe and peaceful places where babies and children are being raised surrounded by love and protection.  For example, "when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld" shows the reader that far away from the operating room, another baby was being cared for and sung to.  As the baby is being "stitched," in a safe bed in a safe home, another baby is being read "another chapter of a favourite story."

The effect of these contrasting settings is to support the overall idea that humanity is generally kind and compassionate and that one horrible crime against a child is not indicative of the whole world.  To the doctor, people seem evil at this point, but hopefully he will later realize that most people are good.

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The poem "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and felt such despair" seems to move between contrasting settings. How can you tell? What effect does Dowling achieve by constructing her poem in this manner?

There are two major contrasting settings throughout the poem. One setting remains constant while the other refers to a diverse number of settings similar to each other. The fixed setting is that of a surgery in a hospital in which the surgeon (or doctor) who is named in the title is performing life-saving surgery on an infant who has been raped. The speaker constantly refers to what the doctor is doing in the surgery and then contrasts it with a situation elsewhere, in the homes of those who are not victims or who have not been exposed to the atrocity which has been committed. Dowling says, for example, 

...when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld
and while you staunched
there was space on a mother-warmed sheet
for a night walker
and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
there were luxuriant dark nipples
for fist-clenching babes

These three contrasts compare the desperate actions of the surgeon in dealing with this trauma to situations in which the mood and atmosphere is restful and calm. While the horrifically injured baby was being attended to, a farmer elsewhere on a sheep farm was crooning an Afrikaans lullaby to put another baby to sleep. As the doctor was trying to stop the loss of the traumatized baby's blood, somewhere else, in another home, a mother was keeping a bed warm for a sleepwalking child. While the doctor was administering a drug to calm the infant in his care, there were mothers, elsewhere, who were calming their babies by breastfeeding them.

The stark juxtaposition between the settings emphasizes the horror of this most atrocious of crimes. On one hand, you have an innocent, harmless infant who has been severely violated, and on the other, you have little ones who are fed and taken care of by their loved ones. In the one situation you have desperation and urgency, while in the other you have peace and quiet. The speaker illustrates, furthermore, that while for some life continues normally and as it should, others are maliciously maligned and brutally abused. The horrendous nature of what has been done to the infant is encapsulated in the doctor's question: "Where is God?" The doctor expresses doubt that such an evil could have been enacted during God's watch.

In the end, the speaker expresses a universal trust in the kindness and skill of the doctor who is attending to the infant --an innate trust that we all share for those caregivers who give their all to ensure our well-being. The gratitude for what this particular practitioner is doing and has done is profoundly expressed, and one feels that dedicating the poem to such a one is not only right but also deserving.      

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What are the contrasting settings of the poem, "To the Doctor Who Treated a Raped baby and Felt Such Despair"?

The poem juxtaposes scenes in a hospital room and a doctor performing necessary procedures on the raped baby to scenes of normal, natural scenes of parenting.  For example, “when the bleeding baby was admitted to [the doctor’s] care,” a “Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietje lullaby.”  Throughout the poem, these opposite scenes play out to comfort the doctor who is in despair over the baby’s condition.  To comfort the doctor, the poet reminds him of the good in the world.  As the doctor is giving the baby an opiate, a mother gently breastfeeds her baby. When he is stitching up the baby, a parent is reading another chapter of a story to a baby. When the doctor exclaimed, “Where is God?” a father sits watch over his sleeping child. 

All of these scenes of parenthood and love are added to ease the pain the doctor feels for the baby.  They are used to remind and assure the doctor that what he is witnessing is not normal and that “all of us” thank him for his gentle, kind service to the baby. 

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