Tuesday, 21 May 2013

At the Border, 1979

This poem presents two very different types of relationships: the relationship between a parent and child, and the relationship between an individual and the land.

First of all, there is the relationship between an individual and the land/country they call 'home'. We all have one, and once we form that bond with a place, we cannot think of it as anything other than home. Notice how the mother's line "we are going home" is presented in italics. Italics are traditionally used to emphasis to show the importance of a word or phrase. Therefore, we can deduce that the idea of home, and the fact that they are returning to the mother's home, is of utmost importance to the parent.

Hardi then goes on to point out how trivial and arbitrary borders are. First of all, there is the image of the sister with her legs on either side of the chain. The childlike excitement ("Look over here") conveyed through the speech is indicative of how simplistically we can view national borders, once we remove the excess emotions and politics that surround them. The child speaker then points out this simplistic way of viewing borders through the straightforward statements "The same colour, the same texture". Perhaps this lack of reverence for the land is reflective of their lack of an emotional bond with the country.

At the end of the poem, Hardi highlights how all people are linked through our tendency to develop a strong attachment to the place we consider to be 'home': "The same chain of mountains encompasses all of us". All of us could refer to the "dozens of families" waiting to cross the border, but if we consider this on a deeper level, I think that Hardi is saying that national identity and a sense of home traps us, restricting our identities, and preventing us from having the freedom to explore. Hardi and her sister are too young to have been 'encompassed' by these emotions and patriotism, and in a way are still free.

Furthermore, there is the relationship between a parent and child, and in Hardi's case this is specifically a parent who is imposing their own notion of 'home' upon their child, who sees the land in a very different way to their mother. Compare the mother's use of "much cleaner... more beautiful... much kinder". All of these phrases suggest comparing her home to everywhere else she has been, therefore presenting Kurdistan as an idyllic place. Hardi's speaker, on the other hand, uses language which puts Kurdistan on an equal level to other countries, with "the same colour, the same texture" drawing out a direct contrast with her mother's "more". The term "muddy" could also suggest disgust at the home which the mother has positively exaggerated. This therefore shows a lack of understanding between mother and child, and a lack of shared identity.

Indeed, the introduction of the mother ("my mother informed me") has a cold formality which suggests that the two are not close, and lacks affection. "Our mothers were crying" further develops this idea of distance between mothers and children, as the speaker groups herself with the other children through the collective "our", treating the "mothers" as a separate group to themselves.

I hope this helps! Post any questions below :)

Miss D

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