For Heidi With Blue Hair Analysis by Fleur Adcock

For Heidi With Blue Hair Analysis

Stanza 1: Heidi has her hair dyed ultramarine blue with a bunch of jet-black spikes on top. For this act of defiance, she is sent home from school. This stanza addresses Heidi directly and gives us an insight into her act of rebellion.

Stanza 2: The headmistress argues that although dyed hair was not specifically forbidden, Heidi had not dyed her hair in school colors. This argument, which is almost farcical in nature, shows that the school rules are arbitrary.

Stanza 3: Back home, Heidi is in tears but her father stands up for her, remonstrating with the school that Heidi does not intend to rebel against authority and that it is just a fad. Her father is described as ‘freedom-loving’.

Stanza 4: The headmistress is informed by Heidi’s father that the decision to colour her hair was made with his consent. They had not found anything in the school rules which prohibited it. Heidi has recovered sufficiently to make a rebuke by saying that the dye was expensive and that it wouldn’t wash out not even if she wanted to. A direct conversation makes the situation more realistic.

Stanza 5: The tone changes when we learn that Heidi has recently lost her mother, although her father desists from mentioning it as an explanation. It can be inferred that Heidi is in need of attention and recognition that something has changed in her life and how she perceives herself. The school doesn’t pursue the matter further, emphasizing the point that Heidi is not usually a student who creates disturbances.

For Heidi With Blue Hair Analysis

Stanza 6: The next day, Heidi’s colored friend comes to school with her hair dyed in precise school colours. Adcock uses such irony to portray the headmistress’ argument being turned on its head.

Setting


  1. The incident in the poem mainly takes place in the backdrop of two locations: school and Heidi’s home and is meant to be read as though it is occurring in the present.
  2. Heidi had just lost her mother and the poem briefly discusses the conflict between the school authorities and Heidi as well as Heidi’s father. This conflict arises due to Heidi’s decision to dye her hair ultramarine blue as a result of her new-found need to be recognized as an individual after her mother’s passing.
  3. The school colours are grey, white and flaxen yellow.

Literary Devices

Dialogue

Provides an unconventional and vivid representation of the difficulties Heidi is facing

Enjambment (moving over from one line to another without a terminating punctuation mark)

It creates a conversational, flowing effect that allows an idea to continue beyond the limitations of a single line.

When you dyed your hair blue
(or at least ultramarine
for the clipped sides, with a crest
of jet-black spikes on top)

Imagery

It provides the reader with a detailed image of Heidi’s hair and provides context for the following stanzas.

Parenthesis

Portrays the image of Heidi’s hair in further detail (different perspective) and to provide clarification. The poet first states that Heidi’s hair is blue in color, but immediately corrects herself by stating that it is indeed ultramarine (a deep shade of blue), lest her own words are misinterpreted, hinting that the poet knows that Heidi dislikes having her own actions misinterpreted.

Symbolism

School colours can represent and symbolise social norms which are meant to be followed without exceptions, despite not being fit for the modern age. In this case, it represents the inflexible nature of the school authorities.

The color blue also represents Heidi’s grief as a result of her mother’s death.

Connotation

Next day your black friend had hers done

The usage of the word ‘black’ hints at the fact that Heidi doesn’t seem to have many friends who are people of colour. However, this might just be representative of the fact that the majority of New Zealanders are of European descent.

The usage of the colour black also contrasts strongly with the colour of her hair. (school colours)

Onomatopoeia

the teachers twittered and gave in

Gives the reader a negative impression of the teachers. The poet refuses to give the school authorities a voice as whatever they say is implied to be trivial through the usage of ‘twittered’

Metaphor

The battle was already won.

The usage of battle being won to suggest that individuality trumps conformity.

Themes

Individuality (Conformity; Independence)

Heidi has obviously grown up and wishes to assert her own identity in life. As she has shown, the quest to seek individuality in life is often beset by the expectations of society and authority. As we reach adolescence, we often wish to express ourselves in a different manner as we wish to seek recognition from authority that we have the right to make our own decisions, bringing us into conflict with our elders. We should learn how to control our egregious thoughts and personality to prevent trouble from arising.

Determination

We should always be determined to achieve our goals in life. Heidi was strong-minded and stood by her decision to dye her hair blue. She even argues that the hair cost twenty-five dollars in her refusal to conform to the school’s arbitrary demands.
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