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Critical Appreciation of V by Tony Harrison

            Tony Harrison's poem "V" is a lament for the polarisation that he sees in society. There are clear links to Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard." These links include the quatrain AB rhyme scheme and the poetic scale which is mirrored in "V." These poems are both about the poorer classes, but aimed at the upper ones, aristocracy in Gray's case, "Let not ambition mock their useful toil.Nor Grandeur." There is also the link of sadness within the poems, as Harrison is standing in the graveyard where his parents are buried and Gray talks about how the potential of poor people is blighted by the aristocracy. The title itself is about this, as "V" is about the many dichotomies of life, as well as being a poem about Harrison himself. Growing through the social classes from a working class boy to a successful poet, despite this, he still wishes to remain in the same social circle as his parents.
             Despite the links there are also differences such as the use of colloquial language, "you'll have to," along with other subtle differences such as the euphemism "Slab" when referring to a grave instead of Gray's use of "Narrow cell." This is a deliberate difference that Harrison has employed to show how the time of Gray's poem is both very different from his own, but not completely, as "Slab" is just another word for coffin, much like "Narrow cell." Another difference between the times is shown by Gray's use of the term "Sire" for the Father of the family, and Harrison's use of "Dad.".
             Harrison also uses euphemistic phrase "know their place of rest" in which is embedded the verbal phrase "know their place" which, in the late 19th century, served as a social mantra that defined and restricted the opportunities of the working class within the social hierarchy. Harrison uses the alliteration of "Butcher, baker, bard" to show inclusivity as the role of being a bard used to be revered in Anglo-Saxon times.

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