When I grow old by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The first passage, “when I grow old”, is a poem written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1929. It describes how she will be living when she becomes an old woman, letting the reader know that she lived a “hurried life” and had many “busy days”, and tries to compensate those years by living in “wisdom” and “peace”. This poetic passage shows the reader that being an old person can be a good thing and that we shouldn’t be afraid of it. On the other hand, the second passage, which is an adaptation from Malcolm Cowley’s essay “The View” from 80, written in 1976, shows a different panorama.

This prose extract narrates the bad things about being an old person, such as, among others, health problems. It shows the reader how to know to realise if he is getting old and how his behaviour will be. Both texts share a general audience as they are directed both to children, adults, and old aged people. They show different realities that people can pass through, a good one, were you will live happy, and a bad one, were you will live with “aching bones”.

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The purpose of the first passage is to transmit feelings and experiences in a positive way, were people ages in a peaceful environment; while the purpose of the second text is to advice and inform the reader how he would feel when he becomes old, expressing the harsh reality he will be facing. On one hand, the first text has a reflective, thoughtful and confidential tone, which creates an ideal atmosphere to transmit Rawling’s idea of being old. On the other hand, the second text has a colder, direct, and controlled tone.

There is a change in the tone of the passage as at first, the text has a detached tone while at the end it has a more reflective tone. The first passage is narrated from the point of view of a person who has lived busy days, and is waiting for tranquil hours. We feel very identified with this person as we are all living a hurried life and we are waiting the moment to change our habits and live in the place described by Marjorie in her poem. The second text, as it was mentioned before, has a colder tone, so this makes us maintain a distance with the passage.

It seems that it is narrated from an external point of view, someone who is not optimistic about its future. The structure of the first passage is regular, as it contains four stanzas with four lines each, containing an ABCB rhyme. This regularity in the poem makes us feel that everything mentioned in the poem is perfect and ideal, agreeing on everything she says. While, the second text contains four irregular paragraphs, where the third paragraph contains a bulleted list.

There is a variety of sentence length to change the atmosphere of the text, and it contains quotations that have a special effect on the reader. They show that the text contains different testimonies, showing the reader that there are many people that have the same opinion about being an old aged person. On the one hand, the poem contains different devises to give a special effect to the reader. It uses visual images such as the “green grass” or the “big” room to make the reader imagine the beauty of the place were she would live when she “grows old”.

The poem contains many descriptions to contribute the reader have an exact picture of the place in his mind. The choice of words done by the author creates opposition to show that she will live aside her past life and start a new one. Se uses in the same stanza “busy”, “wisdom” and “peace”; “calmed”, “tranquil”, and “hurried”. This repetition of opposite words also helps to create the atmosphere of prosperity the author wants to create. She also uses the repetition of “I”, which makes the reader feel that she is the one that had suffered a complicated life and wants to change it.

She also makes a repetition when she says “so much of furniture, so much of stuff”, emphasising that she had many things in her life; letting the reader know that she didn’t live in poverty. The author uses a metaphor in the last stanza, “I want to pass the evening of my days”, which creates a sense of continuity, forever.

On the other hand, the second passage uses similar devices to create a totally opposite atmosphere. It uses visual imagery when it gives the instructions on how to realise if you are getting old. Put cotton in your ears and pebbles in your shoes… “. This creates a visual effect on the mind of the reader as he imagines and experiences how “instant aging” is. The author also uses repetition when he states, “he ruminates, he dreams, he remembers”, to emphasise how the new “octogenarian” feels when he is “sitting in a comfortable chair”. “Then he creaks to his feet” is an onomatopoeia which has been used to give sound to the text as the reader can feel how the bones of the “octogenarian” ache.

This devise has been very well used because it successfully creates an effect on the reader. Something that has to be noted is that the first three paragraphs are an extended metaphor (“to enter the country of age is a new experience… “) that creates an effect of exaggeration of old aged people in the reader. These paragraphs successfully make the reader be frightened about its future. We can conclude that although both texts present the same theme, old aged people, they are completely different as they both show different views about growing old.

The first passage shows how the author is tired about a “hurried life” and is optimistic about a change, while the second passage shows how the author describes the worst things about being an old person. They both use different devises such as metaphors, imagery and contrasts to express their opinions. The poem is based on the imagination of the writer’s future while the prose is based on experiences and testimonies of people who are aged. The two texts were effective on what they were transmitting as they both create an impact on the reader.