Stylistic Devices Used in a Barred Owl and the History Teacher Poems

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Stylistic Devices Used in a Barred Owl and The History Teacher Poems

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In A Barred Owl and The History Teacher, the literary devices used help convey the narrator’s attempts to trivialize different horrors. In both poems the objective of the speaker is to shield the children from the outside world. Wilbur uses couplets and a humorous tone in order to soothe the child’s fear of the owl while Collins uses irony and word play to trivialize real-world events, hiding the horror behind the acts committed.

A Barred Owl opens with the image of an owl in “her darkened room”, bringing about a monster under the bed eeriness to the first stanza. The child is obviously frightened by the owl outside so the speaker tries to soothe the child’s fears. The simplicity of this poem is further conveyed by the speaker’s personification of the owl, “Asking of us, if rightly listened to,/ ‘Who cooks for you? and then ‘Who cooks for you?”. Wilbur purposely contradicts the positivity towards the end of the first stanza with the gore in the end of the second stanza. The poem ends with exploring the what would happen if the narrator never “sent a small child back to sleep at night”. This reaffirms the necessity to trivialize the fear as it has no consequence to the child’s well being.

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The same could not be said for The History Teacher, in which the teacher sets to protect their student’s innocence. However, in this case, hiding the true facts of the world hurts the children rather than helps them. Collins uses familiar events such as the Stone Age, the War of Roses and the Enola Gay ironically because the readers generally are aware of what really happened. Collins’ play on words serves to trivialize important historical events to no ultimate benefit. The teacher’s miseducation of his students juxtapositions with their their subsequent ill conduct as they “torment the weak and the smart”. This suggests that the student’s immaturity could be improved with real history lessons rather than the fictional stories the teacher insists on telling.

Both poems set out to protect the innocence of children in one manner or the other. However, while Wilbur describes soothing a fear with no consequence, Collins portrays ignorance caused by student’s lack of education.

Rubric rating submitted on: 2/5/2016, 3:03:26 PM by


5 These essays offer a persuasive comparison/contrast of the two poems and present an insightful analysis of the relationship between them. Although these essays offer a range of interpretations and choose to emphasize different poetic devices, these papers provide convincing readings of both poems and demonstrate consistent and effective control over the elements of composition in language appropriate to the analysis of poetry. Their textual references are apt and specific. Though they may not be error-free, these essays are perceptive in their analysis and demonstrate writing that is clear and sophisticated, and in the case of a 9 essay, especially persuasive These competent essays offer a reasonable comparison/contrast of the two poems and an effective analysis of the relationship between them. They are less thorough or less precise in their discussion of the themes and devices, and their analysis of the relationship between the two poems is less convincing. These essays demonstrate the ability to express ideas clearly with references to the text, although they do not exhibit the same level of effective writing as the 9–8 papers. While essays scored 7–6 are generally well written, those scored a 7 demonstrate more sophistication in both substance and style. 5 These essays may respond to the assigned task with a plausible reading of the two poems and their relationship, but they may be superficial in analysis of theme and devices. They often rely on paraphrase, but paraphrase that contains some analysis, implicit or explicit. Their comparison/contrast of the relationship between the two poems may be vague, formulaic, or minimally supported by references to the texts. There may be minor misinterpretations of one or both poems. These students demonstrate control of language, but the writing may be marred by surface errors. These essays are not as well conceived, organized, or developed as 7–6 essays. These lower-half essays fail to offer an adequate analysis of the two poems. The analysis may be partial, unconvincing, or irrelevant, or may ignore one of the poems completely. Evidence from the poems may be slight or misconstrued, or the essays may rely on paraphrase only. The writing often demonstrates a lack of control over the conventions of composition: inadequate development of ideas, accumulation of errors, or a focus that is unclear, inconsistent, or repetitive. Essays scored a 3 may contain significant misreadings and/or demonstrate inept writing. These essays compound the weaknesses of the papers in the 4–3 range. Although some attempt has been made to respond to the prompt, assertions are presented with little clarity, organization, or support from the poems themselves. The essays may contain serious errors in grammar and mechanics. They may offer a complete misreading or be unacceptably brief. Essays scored a 1 contain little coherent discussion of the poems

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