Analysis of Material by Ros Barber

Hello reader this is Analysis of Ros Barbar's poem Material. We're going to look today at some Material that you could use in an essay question on this poem. We are going to do this by picking specific elements of the poetry to talk about. Obviously, there's lots more you could say about this poem but my focus today is the skills of developing and writing a response to an essay question.

So our question is explore the way the poet presents the relationship between generations in material.

So, first of all, we are going to focus on the sensual image of the handkerchief and the actual material that is being discussed.

Materials the title of this poem and it's always a good idea to think about the title sometimes it gives you a lot of kind of springboard for ideas that you can develop throughout your breast of your analysis.

So we have here two quotations talking about material one is "when hankies were material" the other is "the scratchy and disposable"

So here I'm looking at the difference going back to our essay title the difference in generations through the sensual image of the handkerchief and the material that it's made of. On the one hand, material hankies were soft. They were reusable they were permanent they lasted for years they were used to mock the corners of your grief in a comforting caring nurturing role. And this is set in opposition to the scratchy and disposable material of the paper tissues.

Suggesting a scratchier and a more disposable way of looking after your children that perhaps you're not there all the time for them and you're a little bit harsh or cold with them you simply turn the TV on than baking their favorite biscuits.

So here we've got the suggestion through this imagery surrounding the material of the handkerchiefs that the previous generation that barber is looking back to here her mother's generation had more of the soft skills of parenting. And that the new generation that barber belongs to is much more utilitarian and practical because they have to juggle the pressures of modern life and in particular for women that means work.

The next aspect of this poem that I want to look at focusing on the difference between generations is how the mother and daughter are spoken about in the poem.

If you look at the start of stanza 3 we have this very striking line "she bought her own I never did" and it's a bluntness and it has a simplicity this line that really sets out the central idea of the poem the difference between mother and daughter. We have the two characters described in this line through their attitude towards handkerchiefs. And they are divided here by the caesura in the line this stop in the mid in the middle of the line showing that they are separated. We also have the change of the focus of the poem here from the mother "she" to the voice in the poem the daughter "I". So the pronoun is swapped here and for this moment in this is very telling sentence.

This balance is continued throughout the poem in many ways. The shift from the focus of the mother started the poem to the daughter in the second half of the poem and the daughter is the mother. But also you can trace this difference this opposition between the different types of mothers three phrases such as the two I've picked out:
'Sheet have one always up her sleeve'.
'There's never a hanky up my sleeve'. 
So here again we've got the difference between always the permanent the proper material. And never a negative building on that never from I never did the repetition of the world. They're showing that the daughter has this negative feeling about herself. However, we do have these two characters bound by the repetition of up her sleeve up my sleeve. So this phrase is meant to send us back to the mother and draw a direct comparison so they are tied together in some ways considering the handkerchiefs and in their attitudes to handkerchiefs but they are also separated by this.
But it isn't mine. I'll let it to go.
 my mother to eventually, 
'It isn't mine' referring to the material but also the way of life of the old era that she has spoken about in the details of this poem. She really does go through the material aspect of life in an earlier generation she talks about the things in the department store, the headscarves girdle, knitting wool, the handkerchiefs, themselves the kama van, the haddock on the fishmonger's slab and the crab.

So the detail the material detail of the generation she belonged to as a child is gone. And she's saying I can let this go now there is some resolution at the end of the poem.


In the very last stanza, we have the mother's voice coming into the daughters head and this is expressed in italics. And the mother says "this is your material/ to do with daughter what you will". There is a passing over of the mantle of motherhood there. There is a recognition from the mother that you will do it to your way and the daughter has constructed this voice in her own head and it's rather an optimistic comforting end here I would suggest.

She says she'll let her mother go eventually and she is reconciled to the fact here that it's now her turn to use her material and she laughs almost saying my mom would say this is your material to do with daughter what you will. And she would scold me for complaining about the scratchy disposable. The mother would say in quite an assertive voice don't be complaining about this. Make the most of your life and what I have given you and what you have got the material existence the material generation that you are in.


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