Stephen Spender’s “My parents kept me from children who were rough” has as the focal point of the poem the idea conveyed in the title itself. The verb ‘keep’ with reference to the context of the poem implies “preventing”. However, the verb ‘keep’ also has its own negative connotations as in the illegitimate “keep”. Therefore it also indicates the deed of holding a person “illegally”. The notion that the parents were obdurate on restraining the speaker from such company, implies that the speaker desired to befriend them. He portrays the children for the most part with the adjective “rough”. That is, they come across as ‘rough’ both in appearance and attitude. The gist of the title verges on the fact that had these children not been ‘rough’, the parents would not have remained reluctant on their child befriending them.
These street kids flung words just as they threw stones… their verbalizing was aggressive, impulsive and raw. Generally, the act of throwing stones is intended to provoke someone, to chase someone away or to articulate contempt. One deduces that their choice of words was therefore incorrigibly abusive .They were clothed in torn dresses. These, however were not dictated by fashion, but by abject poverty. They were not patches of fashion; it is their utter paucity that makes them adorn rags. Their scanty clothing rags conspicuously displayed their thighs. It may be noted that whilst the classy and the stylish paraded their thighs in order to craft a fashion statement or for the sake of commercial show; these children had it so as they had no other alternative. Their wandering aimlessly in the street rendered them ‘street kids’. They were physically agile and active. They traversed the whole place as they ran, stripped by the country streams and climbed cliffs. They had were not reticent on stripping as they were far from the realm of calculated sophistications. And more significantly, they had no inhibitions, as they had nothing to lose.
The speaker holds in apprehension their belligerent behaviour more than five tigers put together. The phrases “jerking hands”,” knees tight on my arms”.etc highlight their animal behaviour. It says that muscles were like iron. It may also allude to their steel nerve .The speaker dreaded the “salt coarse” pointing of these boys who aped the lisping of the speaker behind him on the road. Moreover, they mocked at him on the road that was a ‘public place’. The action ‘pointing’ suggests scorning at someone as in ‘pointing a finger at’. The word ‘salt’ might allude to their saucy and spicy remarks. Alternatively, it may also refer to the deed of ‘rubbing salt over one’s coarse wound’. The street kids heighten the inferior complexity(wound) of the speaker, as they taunt at his speech impediment: his handicap: his lisping.
They are defined by the adjective ‘lithe’ as they were supple, flexible and agile. This attribute of theirs enabled them spring out from behind hedges underlining their volatile and unpredictable nature.
© Rukhaya MK 2012
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