My Parents

My Parents

by Stephen Spender

My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and wore torn clothes
Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

They were lithe they sprang out behind hedges
Like dogs to bark at my world. They threw mud
While I looked the other way, pretending to smile.
I longed to forgive them but they never smiled.

Summary of My Parents

  • Popularity of “My Parents”: Stephen Spender, a famous poet and novelist, wrote ‘My Parents’. It was first published in the 19th The poem is about childhood games, bullying and making friends. It also illustrates the parent’s love and their protective instinct for their children. However, its popularity lies in the phenomenon of parental love.
  • “My Parents” As a Criticism on Society: This poem is written from the perspective of a young child. The child’s parents restrict him and keep him away from the rough children, fearing they will make fun of him. The poet presents a graphic picture of the street children, which justifies the stance of his parents. They are rough in their manners and appearances. However, the speaker is envious of their freedom. He adores the way they play freely in the street without any restrictions. Also, he praises their iron muscle, which shows that he is physically weak as compared to them. Therefore, his parents never allow him to take part in an activity that invites hatred and bullying. Thus, the poem highlights an inevitable gap that exists among different classes of societies. The parents want to safeguard their son from the negativity, and the speaker wants to liberate himself from the clutches of restrictions.
  • Major Themes in “My Parents”: Bullying, the gap between social classes and parent’s love are the major themes of the poem. The poet presents two things in the poem: parents concern for their child, and the child’s wish for freedom. His parents never permit him to mingle with the street boys, and they have reasons for that. But, the poet thinks that his freedom is snatched in the name of protection. Therefore he tries to give those street children a positive gesture, forgetting their bad behavior with him, but they never respond to him positively.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “My Parents”

Literary devices are tools the writers use to create meanings in their texts to enhance the poems or stories and connect the readers with the real message of the text. Stephen Spender has also given this poem depth and clarity with the appropriate use of these literary devices. The analysis of some of the devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /c/ in “And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Who threw words like stones and wore torn clothes”; “Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms” and “Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break and is continued in the next line. For example,

“Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, “I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron.” This statement shows how greatly he fears them.
  2. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear. There is one simile used in the fourth line, “I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron”. He compares their muscles with iron.

A careful glimpse of this analysis shows that with the help of literary devices Stephen Spender has effectively conveyed a simple message through this poem.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “My Parents”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem each comprises four lines in it.
  2. Quatrain: Quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: There is no specific rhyme scheme in this poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines quoted below can be used when teaching kids about a parent’s love. These can also be used to teach why parents put some restriction on them.

“My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and wore torn clothes
Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.”