Effects – Alan Jenkins

‘Effects’ is a poem that explores the speakers broken relationship with his now passed mother. He ‘grew up’ and separated himself from his parents, it is only after they have gone that he realises the lack of connection he has with them. All he is left with is a bag of her items.

Themes –

  • Family: There is this sadness around the fact that the speaker was not there for his parents before their deaths. He ‘grew up’ and separated himself from them, after the death of his father is when his mothers health spiralled down and she would pour ‘drink after drink’. Even then he ‘didn’t come’ to help. I think that he regrets not being there for them and therefore uses his mother’s material things (‘her watch’) to try and fool himself into believing that he knew his mother. He was more attached to her items than his mother herself.
  • Illness: The poem highlights how an illness can control your life. The speaker’s mother would once do all the ‘chopping and slicing’ from household work, but after her illness she was incapable and needed someone else to ‘cook for her’. The television that her and her husband once ‘sat together watching soaps and game shows’ became one at which she ‘stared unseeing at’.


Tone of the poem –

  • There is a sad and accepting tone throughout the poem, as the speaker owns up to the fact that he was not there for his parents when they needed him. Even though his mother pleaded him not to leave, ‘of course […he…] left’.


Structure –

  • There is no standard or regular rhyme scheme in the poem which could be a representation of how the speakers mind was muddled and full of these little jumbled up memories of his parents after their death.
  • The poem is also made up of 2 sentences, which could be a symbol of the 2 people he has lost in his life and now regrets not being there for.
  • It is only at the end of the poem that we see a regular rhyme scheme. This could symbolise the point of acceptance and the speaker regaining control over his life following his parent’s death. He is accepting that he had ‘left’ his mother at her deathbed and all he is left with is her material items. The things he once used to feel like he knew his mother.


Techniques –

  • The author shows the divide between generations through the mother’s denial to eat ‘whatever funny foreign stuff young people seemed to eat these days’. This shows how different she was to her son due to the fact that she was from a different generation, maybe helps us to understand why the speaker felt a lack of connection to his parents. Generation divide.
  • There is also alliteration used in the phrase ‘knuckles reddened, rough’, this ‘r’ sound is a symbol of how tough his mother was, yet he never gave her credit for all of the things she did.


Important quotes –

‘I’d disdain’

Shows that the speaker did not want to be a part of all of his parent’s silly rituals like watching ‘game shows’ together. He felt ‘contempt’ (disgust, hatred) for the way they lived.


‘or grew up and learned contempt’

He hated their life and felt like he was better than his parents, he felt that he was superior and his mother knew this, she knew what he was like. That is why at the end of the poem the use of ‘of course I left’ shows that it was not unusual for him to abandon his mother; it was exactly what she would expect from him.


‘of course I left’

^^^. Also this feeling of guilt at how his abandonment was just something his mother had gotten used to.


‘little bag of her effects’

These items were once used for him to feel like he knew his mother, but now that they are not on her he realises the distance and has lost this connection. This is the effect of her death.


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