The Identification

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The Identification

Roger
McGough





Learning Objectives

As we study this poem you will learn about:


The story of the poem


More about the terms,

Metaphor
:
Tone:

Imagery:
Denial
.


You will also complete some mini tasks, a test and
an assignment on the poem.


So you think its Stephen?

Then I'd best make sure

Be on the safe side as it were.

Ah,
theres

been a mistake. The hair

you see, its black, now Stephens fair. . .

Whats

that? The explosion?

Of course, burnt black. Silly of me.

I should have known. Then lets get on.



The face, is that a face I ask?

that mask of charred wood

blistered, scarred could

that have been a child's face?

The sweater, where intact, looks

in fact all too familiar.

But one must be sure.



The
scoutbelt
. Yes
thats

his.

I recognise the studs he hammered in

not a week ago. At the age

when boys get clothes
-
conscious

now you know. Its almost

certainly Stephen. But one must

be sure. Remove all trace of doubt.

Pull out every splinter of hope.


Pockets. Empty the pockets.

Handkerchief? Could be any schoolboy's.

Dirty enough. Cigarettes?

Oh this can't be Stephen.

I
dont

allow him to smoke you see.

He wouldn't disobey me. Not his father.

But
thats

his penknife.
Thats

his alright.

And
thats

his key on the
keyring

Gran gave him just the other night.

Then this must be him.



I think I know what happened

. . . . . about the cigarettes

No doubt he was minding them

for one of the older boys.

Yes
thats

it.

Thats

him.

That’s our Stephen


What Happens In The Poem


A father has been called into a mortuary to
identify the body of his son who has been killed
in an explosion. He is in denial and tries to find
any excuse to prove it is not his son that has been
killed. As the evidence mounts up he is forced to
admit it is his son’s body that he is identifying.

Background to the poem



”I wrote it in the seventies after a bomb went
off in Belfast. That night on the TV news
following the dreadful scenes of carnage, a
man talked movingly of his son, having just
identified the
body.”

Roger
McGough

-

April 2000

Mini Task 1


With examples, write down what you think
are the key features of the poem.

Key Features
-

Imagery


The main Key feature of the poem is
imagery

and some of the images are very graphic and
poignant, ex. the charred black hair and
blistered face, or the studded Scout belt . In
essence the poem is a series of images that
are presented to the reader from the father’s
point of view as he tries to come to terms with
the realisation that the charred corpse in front
of him is his son.




Other features include metaphor, repetition
and irony.



Key Features
-

Metaphor



Of the other features Metaphor is probably the
most important element as there are several
metaphors used in the poem to help convey the
father’s horror and difficulty of his situation ex:


that mask of charred wood


Pull out every splinter of hope.





Key Features
-

Repetition



‘Stephen’ is repeated 5 times in the poem, but
interestingly not in Stanza 2 where the corpse is
described in detail. In this stanza ‘face’ is
repeated 3 times, emphasising how disfigured
Stephen's body is; so mutilated, his father can’t
even recognise Stephen’s face.


‘That’ is repeated 10 times particularly towards
the end of the poem as the father is forced to
come to terms with his son’s death





Key Features
-

Irony

Then this must be him.



I think I know what happened

. . . . . about the cigarettes

No doubt he was minding them

for one of the older boys.

Yes
thats

it.

Thats

him.

That’s our Stephen


At the end of Stanza 4 the father
accepts the body he is identifying is
his son....but then to avoid the reality
of the pain he feels he switches the
conversation to the cigarettes and the
poem ends with:

Thats

him.

That’s our Stephen

Meaning that it is typical of Stephen,
looking after something that would
get him into trouble, but , taken in
isolation, the lines are also a final
recognition that it is Stephen’s body.



Mini Task 2


Write down what you think is the key image in
each stanza.

Key Images

For me these are:


Stanza 1


The ‘burnt black’ face.


Stanza 2


‘that mask of charred wood’


Stanza 3
-

The Scoutbelt or the imagery in the
metaphor ‘Pull out every splinter of hope.’


Stanza 4 & 5


The ‘Cigarettes’ which also have
a deep symbolic significance.

Mini Task 3


With examples, write down how the mood or
atmosphere changes in during the poem.

Mood & Atmosphere


The mood and atmosphere of the poem is
serious although it could be said to contain
some ‘black’ humour in the elements the
father selects to for identification.


There is a slight change of tone in the second
stanza as Stephen’s charred face is described.


The end of the poem is tragic as the father
tries to avoid the acceptance of his son’s
death.


Mini Task 4


Write down at least 3 things you think the
poet wanted us to think about in this poem.

Main Ideas & Themes

For me these are:


The father’s pain, suffering and inability to come
to terms with the death of his son.


The tragic loss of a young life.


The disparity between a parent’s understanding
of their children’s life and the real life they lead
with their friends….cigarettes.


The pain involved in having to identify the body
of a loved one.


The trauma and unfairness of indiscriminate acts
of terrorism.




Assignment

What elements does Roger
McGough

use to

create an effective poem in
The Identification
.


500
-
800 words by Wednesday 8
th

September




If you want a copy of this
PowePoint

presentation
to help with your assignment e
-
mail a request to
Mr Tim at:
timdunne53@gmail.com