On Her Blindness – Adam Thorpe

On her blindness is a poem that focuses on the speaker’s mother’s terminal illness. She is blind, yet continues to ‘pretend’ that she can see everything and continues to ‘hope of a cure’. Even though her sight has been taken away from her, she still lives life to the fullest, by doing things such as driving ‘long after it was safe’.

Themes –

  • Family: The poem looks at how the speaker’s mother’s illness affects the whole family; it is not only an illness for her but her family too. They are new to this territory and therefore give her the ‘usual sop’ in her times of weakness. The way in which the speaker comforted his mother was generic with no thought behind it because of how new this all was, he also felt weak and needed comforting. Looking back he feels his responses were ‘inadequate’. The family use humour as a way to cope with the illness and try and get the mother to ‘laugh it off’, they are trying to make the best of a horrible situation.
  • Illness: We learn that the mother feels the need to ‘pretend’ everything is okay through the way she would ‘drive […] long after it was safe’ and ‘admire films’. It may be ‘living hell’ but she fought through it and kept up ‘hope of a cure’.


Tone of the poem –

  • There is a very personal tone throughout the poem especially due to the use of the poet’s name, ‘Adam’. The whole poem has a very informal tone throughout that is conversational. The speaker is defensive towards his mother and aims to get sympathy and understand his mother’s braveness by telling us to ‘try it in a pitch-black room’.


Structure –

  • There is a use of enjambment in the poem, which creates irregularity and difficulty for the readers. Thorpe may have chosen to do this to represent the difficulty his mother experienced through her ‘blindness’ and how difficult maybe impossible, everyday tasks (such as reading) had become.
  • There is also a noticeable lack of terminal punctuation at the beginning of the poem, maybe to show that they are all trying to avoid sadness and looking at this as terminal. But the closer to the end of the poem we get, and the closer to the end of the speaker’s mother’s life, we see more terminal punctuation and acceptance that you cannot avoid the fact that this illness was incurable.
  • The poem consists of couplets, which could be a representation of the mother and son together. This then shifts at the end with the single line to show that after his mother’s death, the son is left alone.


Techniques –

  • The author uses a simile to compare to the way his mother was ‘like a Roman’. This simile is tough and unflinching like a Roman is and also shows that her disease is like a battle, which signifies the semantic field of war and violence. The comparison to a Roman also could be a reference to how gladiators would put on a show, which could be telling us that sick people also felt like they had to put on a façade and show bravery to the audience.
  • There is also the simile ‘like a dodgem’ used, which could symbolise that his mother was one to bounce back and stay hopeful.
  • Near to the end of the poem the poet uses colourful imagery through phrases such as ‘golden weather’, ‘ablaze with colour’ and ‘royal with leaf fall’. This is done to emphasise the beauty that his mother is no longer able to appreciate and enjoy.


Important quotes –

‘she was watching, somewhere, in the end.’

This final line is ironic because all throughout the mother’s life she pretended she could see and ‘admire’ things even though she was ‘sightless’. Her family knew that ‘she couldn’t see’ yet she would still pretend. But now that she is gone it is the family who are pretending that she can see. It is a statement of religion and the afterlife.

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