Piano : DH Lawrence – feedback model response

This is a model response outline for a feedback class who read the poem as an unseen.

How does the poet explore the speaker’s emotions in the poem Piano?

In your introduction – answer the question at a basic level: in this case showing that you can identify the emotions and offering something about the use of time (one of the bullets).

In the poem Piano, DH Lawrence explores the emotions of a first person persona, possibly himself, who feels, on being surprised into reminiscence, that he has been ‘betrayed’ by his emotions and has let himself down by his sudden onset of sadness for the childhood which he has lost. Lawrence uses a shift in time to enable the cyclical structure of the poem to reflect the journey back and forwards within memory.

Then, foregrounding AO2, work through 3 points which are clearly focused on the actual question. This is an example of one of these:

In Stanza 2 the speaker has travelled back to the past from his concert in the present. The past, unlike the present is shown as ‘cosy’ and we assume safe and loving as the boy reflects on the contrast between the ‘winter outside’ (possibly suggesting the cold adult life which lies in wait beyond the family home) and his parlour with the childlike ‘tinkling’ of the piano. Lawrence uses this onomatopoeia to contrast with the idea of the false emotion in the ‘appassionato’ performance in stanza 3.  It is vital to notice that this is not necessarily a good emotion for the speaker. He feels that the song is an ‘insidious’ master suggesting that the is powerless to resist the song which creeps up unexpectedly and causes him to ‘weep’ – a heightened emotion – from his heart.

Then think about using structure at least once as a specific focus.

The cyclical structure of the poem, enhanced by the enjambment in L2 and in LL01&11 which allows for a seamless transition back and forward in time, allows the speaker to establish a comparison between the unnamed ‘woman’ of the present and his mother who ‘smiles as she sings’. In this she contrasts with the performer whose voice in falsified in emotion by the ‘great black piano appassionato’. This suggests a false love, rather than the one lost in time. For this reason, the speaker is disgusted at his failure to retain his ‘manhood’ as the destructive and powerful ‘flood’ of emotions sweep him away in self-pity.