Reread Prayer Before Birth. Explore how the poet conveys the modern
world as brutal and a corrupting force.
In prayer before birth, Louis Macneice uses a baby to convey his
thoughts and emotions on the current state of the world. Macneice
wishes to emphasize how harsh and ruthless the world is, and how it
can strip away a young unborn baby of its innocence. By cleverly
combining uses of structure, rhyme scheme and rhetorical techniques
Macneice effectively conveys the pain and suffering which occurs in
The poem is set out like an appeal, a cry for help. The title itself,
using the word prayer shows that the baby is trying to get help
for something which troubles him- which raises a question; why would a
soon-to-be born fetus that has its whole life strewn in front of it be
despairing? Shouldn´t it be preparing to enjoy that experience?
The first line reveals what the fetus is afraid of:
¡hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat of the stoat or
the club-footed ghoul come near me
The use of hear me and Let not seem to be a demand,
emphasizing the fetus prayers- it is pleading to be protected from the
threats of the bat, rat, stoat and ghoul. These creatures don´t seem
to be meant in literal form- creatures such as these do not pose a
major threat to today´s children. Rather, they seem to be used
figuratively, as these creatures are associated with disease. They are
also frequently the subject of children´s nightmares. The use of
club-footed ghoul especially is a strong use of imagery, as the
word ghoul implies a diseased, flesh-eating and dismembered monster.
Also, the internal rhyme used by rat, bat and stoat emphasizes these
dangers- they b...
... middle of paper ...
...cneice has made them to be the most important
factors which the fetus needs to be protected against.
However, the structure may run deeper than that. The poem seemingly
resembles the fetus speech: His prayer of protection gradually
increases in confidence as the stanzas become longer, but stumbles
somewhat during those shorter lines. It shows how the fetus is devoted
to his cause and quest against the brutality of the world.
Thus we can see that Macneice conveys the brutality and corruption of
the world through several methods, but most importantly through an
unborn baby. Macneice wants us to think about the world- he has
systematically listed some of the events and things that are bad with
the world. Macneice wants us to ask ourselves this striking question:
If we cannot guarantee the safety and well-being of our next
generation, should we kill them?
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