- Childhood: The poem is about the transition from childhood to adulthood and the fleeting experience of childhood. The ‘secretary’ is almost envious of the girl’s youth as she ‘looks up’ to her as a naïve and free-spirited girl.
- Identity: The theme of childhood links to the theme of identity as the girl is making her transition from adolescence to adulthood, thus trying to find her identity and independence in the world.
- Society and culture: The contrast between the ‘half in love’ girl and the ‘flush-faced secretary’ is a harsh comment on the transition into the working world. The freedom and excitement you feel as a child is drained from you through expectations from the working world.
Tone of the poem –
- The use of third person pronouns gives this poem an observational and chatty tone, which essentially allows the poem to be more relatable to the readers as they are seeing and relating to the sharp contrasts between childhood and adulthood.
- The poem is made up of one stanza that is all in free verse. This structure can be quite daunting at first glance, which may be a reflection of how the transition to adulthood is also a daunting and ‘trembling’ experience.
- The poet uses the title ‘An Easy Passage’, as a misleading start. While initially, it appears that the girl’s task of sneaking home will be ‘easy’ after reading the poem it is clear that ‘An Easy Passage’ is a reference to growing up and a rite of passage.
- The poet also uses punctuation quite frequently to extend the pauses within the stanza. This is especially clear in the line – ‘on her thighs.-’ which can be seen as transitional punctuation like the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
- The repetition of ‘for now’ shows how short-lived and temporary childhood, freedom and youth is.
- The poet also uses frequent contrasts between the ‘half in love’ girl and the ‘flush-faced secretary’; indoors and outdoors; up and down (‘beneath her’, ‘looks up’) to express the differences between childhood and adulthood.
Important quotes –
‘flash of armaments’
The use of the word flash suggests that the ‘armaments’ are being used and shot, which could be a representation of the way in which the ‘secretary’ feels hurt and wounded by looking and the youth and innocence of the young girl. It hurts her that she is no longer a child.
‘her tiny breasts’
This emphasises the youth of the girl as she is in the transitional stage of puberty. It is a physical reference to her growing up.