Visiting Hour Essay

916 Words Oct 13th, 2010 4 Pages
Visiting Hour Critical Essay
A poem which explores the feeling of loss is ‘Visiting Hour’ by Norman MacCaig. In this powerful and moving poem, the writer uses techniques such as imagery, symbolism and word choice to effectively grip the reader and keeps them with him throughout the poem.

The poem is set in a hospital as the persona visits a dying relative. It is mostly focused on his walk through the hospital to her ward, and to her bedside. Throughout the poem, the poet explores the themes of death and pain using the emotions and thoughts of the persona.

In the first stanza, the writer uses many techniques to convey the feeling of loss, when he says,

“Combs my nostrils

As they go bobbing along.”

He uses personification in
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“I will not feel, I will not

Feel, until

I have to.”

The word ‘feel’ underlines that he is aware of his emotional state and ‘until’ explains that he has acceptance over her death. The repetition suggests he is struggling to keep his emotions in check and that it is a ‘mantra’ to prepare himself for what he is about to se. The mood changes to symbolise how his emotions are beginning to run loose. The phrase ‘I have to.’ Further highlights his acceptance of loss. All this establishes that he will be ready to show emotion when she finally passes but he is struggling to contain them.

Stanza four signals the end of the 1st person narrative and highlights to us the persona has regained control. “here and up and down and there” suggests to us that they are too busy to stop and gives us an image of chaos which mirrors that of his emotions. The word, “miraculously” illustrates his admiration for the nurses and the work they do. Furthermore,

“of so much pain, so

So many deaths”

The repetition here stresses how much they have to deal with. This also reinforces how the thought of loss and pain is on his mind.

Stanza five reveals his arrival at his relatives ward. The phrase “Ward 7.” symbolises the finality of both his destination and of life. Metaphors are used repeatedly in this stanza, for example, “in a white cave of forgetfulness” compares her mentally not being there and her being near death with the stereotypical image of angels

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