On Her Blindness Analysis by Adam Thorpe

On Her Blindness Analysis: On Her Blindness (2007) by Adam Thorpe is a poem exploring the roles between parent and child and how we deal with shifts in that relationship.

The poem has 23 stanzas all with 2 lines apart from the last which has one.

The title is a take on Milton’s sonnet On His Blindness written in the 12th Century about how though a carpenter becomes handicapped and can’t work any longer he is still equal in the eyes of God to an able bodied worker as “they also serve who only stand and wait." This sonnet contradicts Thorpe’s poem as the voice of the sonnet is the sufferer and Thorpe is the observer in On Her Blindness.

Thorpe’s use of colour is interesting, it is mentioned twice in the poem: the beginning and end. The first mention of colour is a “pitch black room”, the world through his mother’s eyes.

The second mention is of “autumn trees”: “golden”, “ablaze with colour” the world his mother would never see again, living or dead.

The use of Thorpe’s name in the poem makes it extremely personal. Although it is a poem and intended to create emotional stirrings within its readers the strong connection the poet clearly has to this subject allows the reader to almost live in Thorpe’s memories.

On Her Blindness Analysis


Most poets write from experience but what Thorpe has written, during the poem becomes more than that, it becomes more of a free association writing piece on his feelings about his mother’s handicap.

He expresses freely shame in his actions and responses through his description of himself: sop, inadequate and locked in son.

Ironic as blindness literally locks up his mother in ways instead of his metaphorical emotional lock in. The poet makes clear his regrets of not being there for her at her most vulnerable.

Thorpe, seemingly at the time could not handle the shift in his and his mother’s relationship that made him the carer.  He shows this through inappropriate jarring attempts at humour throughout the sad poem such as: “bumping into walls like a dodgem”, providing the poem with an extra layer of emotion.

The juxtaposition of the “locked in son” and the blind women that “kept her dignity” whilst in a “living hell” showing the strange antiheroic complex Thorpe has. In her time of need the mother is still portrayed as a column of strength in Thorpe’s life when it should be the other way round. Even when she is “too weak to move”  on her deathbed she cannot rely on her son for strength as he talks to her of the beauty of “the autumn trees” “forgetting” that she is unable to appreciate it.

Thorpe’s denial of his mother’s worsening condition comes off as careless at times such as when she tells him at dinner that she’d “bump herself off” if not for “hope” and he couldn’t “recall what [he] replied”. A parent talking of suicide would be a memorable moment for most people.

One of the main themes of On Her Blindness is deterioration. Setting is used to convey this well. The readers are first introduced to Thorpe’s mother in a restaurant in Paris, we are parted from her when she is in a coffin.

This is a literal way of seeing how his mother’s life changed towards the end: her relationship with her son declined, her health her living standard. One of the only things that stayed constant was her determination to “ignore the void”.

Thorpe refuses to romanticize the idea of blindness due to his raw and realistic representation of his mother’s dilemma, he reinforces the idea of “living hell” throughout. The use of “Adam[‘s]” own name is a concrete refusal of any romanticizing of the situation, he has lived it, it is real life, it is a “living hell”.
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