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How the Two Poets, Joseph and Angelou, Reflect on Old Age

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1210
  • Category: Poets

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Both of the poems that I have read give the same sort of message, “don’t stereotype older aged people”. Both of these women are trying to say that just because you get a bit older doesn’t mean that the person inside changes as most people would think. In the poem by Joseph she uses listing to show how many things there are. Whilst in Angelou’s poem she just writes it normally with some slang put in there as well, both poems give a different angle on aging but and equal one.

In the poem ‘When I am Old I will wear purple’ by Jenny Joseph, I think she is using the colour purple because it is a colour that stands out, it is not a traditional black or navy blue colour. The colour purple is more of a rebellious colour. She uses purple as a symbol of just letting loose and being rebellious. The message she is trying to put through is that when you are an adult you have to conform and as she says,

“We must have friends to dinner.”

When you get old you can do whatever you want like having a weight lifted off you shoulders, you’re free. Most old people today are stereotyped to have walking sticks and to sit at home all of the time in their rocking chairs, but all people are different and I think they should all be treated differently. The poet tells the reader not to stereotype and assume all old people are the same.

In middle life, you always have to behave correctly. People have to “set a good example for the children.” When you are middle aged you have to do all the boring things, you mustn’t step out of line, but when you get old and senile, people don’t really care. Being old is almost an excuse, old people can be quite rude and can still get away with it. People don’t seem to mind because they are old and often get patronised.

Whilst being young or middle aged you can practise being irresponsible for when you are older, just a little here and there, just a bit of being irresponsible now for later on. When she says

“But maybe I ought to practise a little now?”

She is using it to get people used to when she does grow old and becomes irresponsible, so that people are less shocked when she “starts to wear purple!”

In the poem ‘On Aging’ by Maya Angelou, she puts the point across about people making assumptions about old people. She says,

“Don’t bring me no rocking chair,”

She is saying this because when she grows old she doesn’t want a rocking chair, just because the stereotypical old person nowadays is seen sitting in a rocking chair, blissfully watching the world go round, does not mean that all old people want one.

As old people often get stereotyped she says,

“When you see me walking, stumbling, don’t study and get it wrong, cause tired don’t mean lazy”

What she is saying is that old people don’t need to be pitied because as she says,

“I’m the same person I was back then”

Just because they might be a little less active and not as fit as they were in their day they shouldn’t need sympathy, they can still do what they want and as she says,

“Ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in?”

So they’re still here, and until the day they pass away they should be treated normally, just as they used to be!

When you start to get old, other people start to patronise you. She says in her poem,

“When you see me sitting quietly, like a sack left on the shelf, don’t think I need your chattering, I’m listening to myself.”

So really, elderly people don’t want people constantly asking them things, checking up on them as if they are incapable of living their own lives. They don’t like to be patronised, they are exactly the same as they were, maybe a bit less supple, a bit more unfit, but that’s all!

People nowadays think that when you age and become elderly that the person inside changes. Although this poem is written light heartedly, it gets the point across. She mentions about this in the lines saying,

“I’m the same person I was back then, a little less hair, a little less chin and a lot less lungs and much less wind, but ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in,”

By saying this she is saying that although you might have some more wrinkles and be less active, you are still the same person and there is no need to be treated differently because someone has aged.

Both of the poems are linked in certain ways. First of all they are both about getting older and how people’s feelings are towards that. In Jenny Joseph’s poem she says,

“But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people know me are not too shocked and surprised when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple!”

I think this shows that old people are supposed to act in a certain way a lot of the time, but she is saying that she will warn people for when she starts acting up and not being how everyone else wants. In Maya Angelou’s poem she writes,

“I will only ask one favour, don’t bring me no rocking chair.”

I think this links to the other poem with the fact that old people are stereotyped and thought to just live the rest of their lives watching the world go round.

In both of the poems the poets create effect by the use of declarative statements.

“I shall wear purple.”

This shows some kind of determination and clarity about her targets, also there is a use of syndectic listing in there,

“and pay our rent and not swear in the street and set a good example to the children.”

Also in Joseph’s poem there is a rhetorical question where she says,

“But maybe I ought to practice a little now?”

This shows some determination. She ends her poem with an exclamatory sentence,

“And start to wear purple!”

This is written like she is almost narrating a story.

The effects that Angelou is using in her poem is the irregular rhyming pattern and also there are some direct commands,

“Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me! Hold! Stop your sympathy!”

Which I think shows a sort of ambition. Also she has a good use of a simile in there as well.

“When you see me sitting quietly like a sack left on the shelf”

I think that this is good because it gives a good visual image of a sack to be like a lonely old woman, her body being ‘sack-like’ as it has gone saggy. This also adds humour to the poem and creates empathy for the poet, as she is able to laugh at herself.

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