First come first severed



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Q. How is humour created in Roger McGough’s “The Lesson? ” and what is the effect on the intended audience? Compare the tone of the poem to one of your choice. A. In this essay I will examine two poems, ” The Lesson ” and ” The Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon “, I will also observe how humour is created in Roger McGough’s ” The Lesson ” and what affect this has on the intended audience. In the last part of this essay, I will compare the tone of the two poems.

Firstly, the poem ” The Lesson” is generally about capital punishments in school and whether it should be allowed or not. It shows what students are normally like in lessons today, how they control lessons instead of teachers and how they treat them. However, in this poem it reverses the roles, where the teachers treat the students badly and punish them, taking over and having more control. In addition, the fact that all teachers are behind the attitudes and methods of this teacher (suggested on Stanza 9) and so are the audience.

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The whole poem concentrates on the theme of education and the teacher – student relationship. In this poem, Roger McGough creates humour using many different methods. Firstly, by the whole theme of the poem; the positive and negative attitudes of teachers and students. In this poem, this subject is ironic, as the teacher is in a “positive” light as all the other teachers, reading this poem understand the situation and agree with the solution of this problem, of having to teach “hooligans” that ignore them.

This creates humour, because it has turned into a laughing matter, that the teachers now become happy when they punish their students, therefore the teachers that read this poem laugh at the situation, because they have had “enough” of the attitudes of the students and by using violence and punishment achieve their satisfaction. Another method used, is mentioned in line 5 ” The theme for today is violence”, Which makes the reader laugh, as this turns the situation around that is present in school classrooms today, where children are habitually quite violent.

This is the opposite of what normally would happen, which also links with the next line. “I’m going to teach you a lesson, one that you’ll never forget” This is ironic, as students always forget what is taught to them in lessons and scarcely remember any aspects of it. This makes the audience laugh, as it suggests to them that by using forms of violence, they will remember what is taught to them and never forget it. The humour in the next few lines is cleverly achieved through the use of unrealistic thoughts that are constantly alive in teachers’ minds when having to deal with “hooligans” when they “ignore” them when trying to teach.

For example, “throttled him then and there” “he hacked his way between the chattering rows” These are all examples, of what was said earlier on in this paragraph about humour. These all are written in such a way it makes the audience laugh. The next line, “first come first severed” comes from the original saying “first come first served”. This is a clever use of a pun and makes the audience laugh, agreeing with this particular comment. The next humorous lines used are on stanzas six and eight, where again clever lines are used to create humour between the teacher and the reader. Next, on stanza nine, the part where,

“The Head popped a head round the doorway… nodded understandingly then tossed in a grenade” This suggests humour, as the audience laugh at the attitude of the Head, when normally they are meant to help children, however in this case “tossed in a grenade”. Also the lack of punctuation used represents how the teacher won’t stop and suggests speed. This creates humour, as the reader can understand the teacher and their actions to them are amusing. In this poem, humour is created using different techniques and this is done through the language and mainly the ideas, derived from the attitudes of students today.

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