This poem is an effective character portrait of an old woman, Elizabeth Jennings grandmother, who replaces friendship and companionship with antiques and objects. It’s from the viewpoint of the granddaughter looking back on their relationship. Elizabeth Jennings uses simple statements, which clearly describes her grandmother. Her poems are autobiographical, looking back and reflecting on the difficult personal experiences of her life. The relationship between the two women was difficult and that is strongly reflected throughout the poem.
She opens the poem by explaining more about who the grandmother was; “she kept an antique shop”.It’s a simple statement, which starts the portrait by suggesting the different possible characters she could have. The poem is written in the first person, from the view of the granddaughter, Elizabeth Jennings. She tries to include how she felt about her grandmother and an overall view of how she was perceived by others. Many of the lines and phrases within the poem are ambiguous; they take on more than one meaning.
For example “She kept a antique shop or it kept her” the second part of that sentence could mean that the antique shop has taken over her live and she feels that she doesn’t have a view.It could mean that the antique shop is a major part of her life and she loves it so much, like family. Some people, during the class discussion, saw it as a way of life for her, it made her carry on and kept her determined to do her best for the antiques. All of these reasons can be justified and are adequately followed up with her display of possessive behaviour towards the antiques, her shop and the treasured polish! She has everything perfectly displayed in her mind and tries to recreate this in her shop, by spending most of her day polishing the silver and cleaning the furniture.She makes everything pristine within her shop and can’t bear the thought of anyone leaving fingerprints over things. Her possessiveness leads to the loss of the friends and family, she becomes too wrapped up in polish. “Polish was all, there was no need for love. ” She replaced companionship with her reflection in the polished metals.
She would clean everything until you could see your reflection in it; this was her reward for all of the hard work that she put in, “she watched her own reflection in the brass”. If she could see herself then she knows that she has done a good job.As she grew older that was all she cared about.
From this behaviour we can draw up a more detailed view of Elizabeth Jennings and her grandmother’s character. She was old and didn’t have many friends; you could imagine her stalking you around the shop to check that you don’t touch anything or leave any fingerprints. The granddaughter finds the grandmother hard to relate to, cold and doesn’t really like her. They don’t have a very good relationship. Jennings shows empathy towards her grandmother throughout the poem. This emphasises the difference in personality and opinions.The poem not only portrays the life of her grandmother but also displays the thoughts and feelings of the poet.
This is something people like, knowing how people are feeling and what their life is like. They like to try and relate it to their lives and situations. Using the subject of family and the poem being autobiographical, people are more interested in it. One can’t help feeling that as this lady grew older she started to, mentally, degenerate. In some ways she reminds me of my grandmother, confused and slightly vulnerable, yet she displays signs of anger when misunderstood.That is possibly one of the reason that I was so taken with the poem, the subject is very easy to relate to, annoying or embarrassing relatives. I also appreciated the style of the poem.
She doesn’t use many different techniques to make the poem effective I think her style of writing does this by itself. Jennings creates different atmospheres within each verse by the use imagery; creative words and descriptive phrases illustrate the surroundings and situations. They are made with descriptive words, adjectives or metaphors.
“She kept an antique shop – or it kept her” the antique shop can’t literally keep the old woman.She also sometimes uses stanzas but not consistently. A stanza is four or more rhymed line’s, matching them together. I can’t find any direct pattern between the each verse. For example in the first verse the first and third line rhyme (her, furniture), the second and fourth lines rhyme (glass, brass) but the last two lines don’t rhyme as such.
The last three letters are the same, so they look similar (prove, love) yet when pronounced they don’t rhyme. Not all of the verses have complete stanzas some only have two lines that rhyme, to have a ‘full’ stanza you must have four or more lines that can be matched together.My theory of why she did this was to try and distract the reader from enjoying it because ‘it rhymes and sounds really good’ and make them concentrate more on the poem and think about what each line means. I really enjoyed the poem, although it is quite a straightforward poem, I feel it has hidden depths, more about the poet rather than anything else.
Many of these hidden truths are things that we can’t directly see. I think ‘My Grandmother’ is a very personal poem that Elizabeth Jennings relates to more than anyone and maybe that is one of mysteries that attracts me to it.