‘Halloween Party’ is a wonderful children’s poem that focuses on one young speaker’s depiction of what Halloween is like at his school. Through the child’s eyes, the reader is cast back to their own youth and the experiences they had during the holidays. One of the best parts of ‘Halloween Party’ comes at the end when the speaker reveals something amusing about himself and when exactly Halloween is. This poem should be entertaining for readers of any age but is written with children in mind.
Explore Halloween Party
In the first stanza, the child spends the lines talking about his Halloween costume. He’s dressed up as Dracula and is clearly very proud of that fact. He elaborates on what he looks like and what he’s wearing. The second stanza is similar to the first, but it goes into more detail about what he looks like, all the way down to his fingernails. Finally, in the third stanza, it becomes clear that the speaker has made a big mistake. He thought the Halloween part was “today,” but it is not actually until next week. This is something that immediately confronts the speaker when he walks into a school and sees that no one else is wearing a costume. He feels foolish and completely embarrassed about this mistake.
You can read the full poem here.
Speaker and Language
From the start of ‘Halloween Party,’ the poet uses language that signals the reader that this piece is meant for young readers, likely elementary school-aged children. The speaker is obviously in school and uses words like “man” and “cool” that help one come to this conclusion. The child is also self-aware enough to feel embarrassed about the date when he gets it wrong. This suggests that he’s old enough to realize his mistake, so likely around the age of 8-12. Nesbitt also uses simple language throughout the poem, staying away from any large words that might present a problem to a young reader.
Structure and Form
‘Halloween Party’ by Kenn Nesbitt is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB, changing end sounds in the following two stanzas. The lines also follow an unusual metrical pattern, with each line contains eleven total syllables, with the stresses moving between the lines. Sometimes in the form of iambs, trochees, and more.
Nesbitt makes use of several literary devices in ‘Halloween Party.’ These include but are not limited to caesura, enjambment, and alliteration. The latter is a kind of repetition that’s concerned with the use and reuse of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, “black” and “bangs” in line three of the first stanza and “fool” and “freak” in lines two and three of the final stanza.
Enjambment is a formal device, one that occurs when the poet cuts off a line before the natural conclusion of a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the final stanza. There is another good example between lines three and four of that same stanza and the reader is figuring out what the child got wrong.
Caesurae are pauses in the middle of lines created through the use of punctuation or meter. For example, line two of the first stanza reads, “I’m dressed up as Dracula. Man, I look cool!” Or line three of the second stanza. It reads, “My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.”
Analysis of Halloween Party
Stanzas One and Two
We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.
In the first two stanzas of ‘Halloween Party,’ the child-speaker describes all the effort that went into his Halloween costume. He went so far as to cut his bangs and paint his fingernails so that his Dracula outfit would look more convincing. It’s clear from the use of an exclamation in the second line of the first stanza that the speaker is incredibly excited about the school’s Halloween party.
What’s also clear about these lines is the child’s costume is going to be hard to miss. He’s painted his face to make sure he looks like “creatures that only come out at night.” This is an example of an allusion to vampiric lore.
My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
the Halloween party is not till next week.
In the third stanza of the poem, things change for this young speaker. He runs excitedly into school and then realizes that he’s made a huge mistake. It’s the wrong day, in fact, the “Halloween party is not till next week.” It’s obvious that he feels incredibly embarrassed. He describes himself as a “fool” even though he made a simple mistake. While this experience is traumatizing for the speaker, it’s meant to be amusing for those who read the text, especially young children.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Halloween Party’ should also consider reading some similar poems for young readers. For example, ‘Sick’ by Shel Silverstein, ‘The Pig’, and ‘The Duck’ by Ogden Nash. The latter two poems are some of Nash’s well-known animal poems. They always quite short and present the reader with an amusing depiction of the creature in the simplest terms. Another great Nash poem is ‘The People Upstairs.’ In ‘Sick,’ Silverstein describes a child’s supposed illness and attempts to stay home from school then the revelation that it’s actually Saturday.