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Half-past Two

Updated on February 29, 2016

Half Past Two by U.A Fanthorpe

A young child is given detention by a primary school teacher and is asked to remain in school till half-past two. Here a contrasting idea of time is cleverly executed by the poet. Time, as it is for an adult, who lives their day with activities controlled by the clock. So the teacher talks about time in this sense; where the child on the other hand has no idea of this 'pure' sense of time. To him half past two meant nothing, since a young child measures time in a series of events. For example, getting up, going to school, watching TV or tea time. The child is punished but does not really even understand why; 'I forget what it was'. The scenario is set in the first five stanzas.

In the next two stanzas, six and seven, we see how the child does not understand, 'clock time' since he cannot read it yet. To him the clock face is a physical object. So the threat and detention until 'half past two' must be far more terrifying than threats he did understand. So he does the only thing he can and retreats into an imaginary 'time'. A time further into fantasy than even 'once upon a time' ; which is the 'time' when fairy tales happen! Unable to deal with the situation the little one hides and draws back into himself and his own world.

Time is a concept for some, a source of measurement for some and for many who detest it, it is a universal enemy! Here the poet shows a child too young to even understand his mistake, juxtaposed against a teacher who callously ticks him off, totally disregarding his ignorance of time.

Note that many words such as 'school' and 'time' are compounded to imply how intricately that part of time is linked with school. It also points to the child's notion of time. Note also the capitalization of certain words such as 'something very wrong'. This exemplifies the gravity of the mistake of the child that seems to be totally blown out of proportion for his age. The fact that the child himself forgets what the, 'Something Very Wrong' was, points to the frivolity (humor) of the situation. The mistake is really hers. Since he had done something wrong he is punished up to a certain time, while she forgets that she has not taught him time.

Later on the poet explains that the child could not decipher, could not 'click' the clock's language. He only knows language that is communicated to him, like 'Gran-time'. He was too sacred of being wicked to remind her. The child is in a trance as he has escaped into a 'silent, timeless land'. He is only aware of his senses.Smells of Chrysanthemums. Touching the air and the silence makes him remember the painful noise of the hangnail; sense of sound. So he has escaped into , 'ever'.

Finally we see that for the teacher, time is a slot to fix the child into. This took priority over communicating first to the child the real meaning of time. This enabled the child to solve his confusion by escaping from time, 'into a clock less land'. For him time is 'yet to be born;' he is yet to leave, yet to grow up!

© 2016 Malinka Kadanearachchi


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