Louise Gluck's The School Children may provide some shock for readers as it twists and turns through a school day marked by eerie abnormalities. Gluck successfully uses visual imagery to convey a deeper meaning to a fourteen-line poem about children, teachers and parents. These three groups come to life through the descriptive poem that allows readers to form their own conclusions. Though Gluck’s meaning is never clearly stated, her use of tone and imagery create an extremely visual work with three dynamic sets of characters.
Gluck continuously presents the schoolchildren as simple, orderly creatures. She portrays them as heading to school with their book bags and later in the poem points out the orderly arrangement of their coats inside their classroom. This orderliness helps readers perceive the children as wooden dolls or mindless beings that follow instruction. Gluck writes, How orderly they are- the nails on which the children hang their overcoats of blue or yellow woods (8-10). These lines are divided in a manner that present an image of children hanging orderly on nails before the reader reaches the final line describing their clothing and show the powerful imagery created by Gluck. It is important to note that the children are described as only having two different styles of coats- a yellow wool coat, perhaps for girls, and a blue wool coat, most likely for boys. Gluck leaves readers imagining a flock of orderly children wearing similar clothing while sitting in their classroom.
Joining the schoolchildren inside the classroom are teachers, whom Gluck describes...
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...f a June Cleaver figure who is sending a token of appreciation to her child s teacher. Instead they are interpreted to be desperate creatures seeking for any sign of hope in an environment filled with gloom.
The descriptions of these three sets of characters through visual imagery provided an important element in Gluck s creation of The School Children which is part of her larger work, The House on Marshland that was drafted in 1971. Throughvisual imagery she creates a combination of characters that help readers interpret the possible underlying meanings of the work. Gluck successfully uses the schoolchildren, teachers and mothers as vehicles for the various interpretations of her work. In the process, she creates dynamic characters that we are able to understand through symbolism and imagery.
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