Analysis: The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan

An excellent reading from an excellent blog: Read this and enjoy!  Not sure I agree with the reading of “rode the floor” which seems to me to refer to the dust rather than the cockroach and therefore not to show the cockroach’s youth and eagerness…

In all, this is a great poem – deceptively simple and carrying a harsh message in the sense of humanity being little better than one of the most despised forms of life on the planet.

For me, I like the way the roach is engaged in ever more random and futile actions as it gets older – even having the sense of the unnecessary and confusing climb to the shelf – almost in the same way that humans are forced to try to climb ever higher in their chosen profession.  What’s to show for it all?  Nothing.

Possibly it helps to be older when reading this – we recognise the stages of life – avoiding trouble, happy to work in a steady and repetitive environment, over time finding the treadwheel of work (the circle) repetitive and dull, a mid-life crisis, delayed ambition and… stop!

The IGCSE Blog


  • There is question whether the Cockroach is a sonnet: it has the correct number of lines. The poem’s structure could indicate a following of a 4,4,3,3 structure (number of lines per stanza). The poem is indeed not clearly separated into stanzas, however, the changing points in the poem would indicate this structure.
  • 10 syllables per line
  • A quite regular structure with few enjambements. The author does not find total clarity and this is reflected by the ‘hidden’ sonnet.
  • Rime scheme ABAB, end change in rime scheme ABCABC => The author has ceased to just observe he is identifying himself.


  • “I watched a giant cockroach”. The word “giant” makes it a specific cockroach, it has its own personal distinction, it is made more noticeable. Furthermore, its great size makes it take up a large part of the vision of the author and is therefore worth attention…

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