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 Ling 131: Language & Style

Topic 2 (session A) - Being creative with words and phrases > Word class problems > Task B

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Session Overview
(Semi) Automatic poetry
Introducing word classes
More on word classes
Manipulating word classes
Changing word class - affixation
Changing word class - functional conversion
New words for old
Word class problems
Word class checklist
Useful Links
Grammar Website

Word class problems

Task B - Esther's Tomcat (cont.)

Here is the poem again. Again we'd like you to decide which word classes the words belong to, but this time the words chosen are a bit more tricky. Indeed, there will often be ambiguities and no simple answer.

Talk with your partners about which word class you think the word belongs to and also what sorts of effects relevant to the poem Hughes is trying to create.

We suggest that you start with stanza 3 and come back to stanzas 1 and 2 after you have done the rest, because the examples in the first two stanzas are in some ways a bit more complex. By looking at these words, and their derivations, carefully, we can begin to explore the character of the cat in this poem, a cat which seems at first to be a particular cat (the one belonging to Esther), but which soon becomes representative of all tomcats - essence of tomcat, if you like!

Daylong this tomcat lies stretched flat
As an old rough mat, no mouth and no eyes.
Continual wars and wives are what
Have tattered his ears and battered his head.

Like a bundle of old rope and iron
Sleeps till blue dusk. Then reappear
His eyes, green as ringstones: he yawns wide red,
Fangs fine as a lady's needle and bright.

A tomcat sprang at a mounted knight,
Locked round his neck like a trap of hooks
While the knight rode fighting its clawing and bite.
After hundreds of years the stain's there

On the stone where he fell, dead of the tom:
That was at Barnborough. The tomcat still
Grallochs odd dogs on the quiet,
Will take the head clean off your simple pullet.

Is unkillable. From the dog's fury,
From gunshot fired point-blank he brings
His skin whole, and whole
From owlish moons of bekittenings

Among ashcans. He leaps and lightly
Walks upon sleep, his mind on the moon
Nightly over the round world of men
Over the roofs go his eyes and outcry.

Once you have decided which word class you think the word belongs to and what sorts of effects Hughes is trying to create compare your analysis with ours by clicking on the words below.accessible/text verion of answers

Chuckle Stop!


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