Joseph Jones by Owen Sheers

Joseph Jones is a character which Sheers explores from his own youth. Jones is vulgar, playing the role of a stereotypical small town masculine male. There is a sense of dislike within the poem, with Sheers looking down on the crass character. Joseph Jones is the typical vision of a hyper-masculine male, focusing on his muscles, sex drive and drinking habits. This is not a glamorised role, with the character being crude, misogynistic and dislikable.



Owen Sheers splits Joseph Jones into four free verse stanzas, each measuring four lines. There is no rhyme scheme, but due to the amount of syllables in each of the lines in the final stanza, the end of the poem has a sense of poetic completion. The first two lines measure 3 syllables each, whereas the final two measure 4. This progression gives the final stanza metrical flow, neatly drawing to a close as we say goodbye to Joseph Jones. You can read the full poem here.


Joseph Jones Analysis

Stanza 1

Sheers begins the poem in a very colloquial, ‘Of course’. This colloquialism fits the theme of the poem, exploring the life of Joseph Jones, who seemingly never really amounted to anything. The ‘Of course’ also suggests that although never really escaping the ‘small town’, Joseph Jones is a name which Sheers and all his friend still know. He is a character that is perhaps so stereotypical that he is hard to forget.

Jospeh Jones presents the typical ‘small town’ everyman of a overly masculine figure. He focuses on his muscles, representing a desire for the stereotypical masculine traits over the feminine ‘emotional’ ones. Jones has a strict exercise routine ‘before a night out’, seeking to get a pump on before he goes out.

The very smell he emits is oppressive to those around him. Largely representing the oppressive masculinity enforcing itself on the feminine, Joseph Jones embodies this typical nature. The ‘gel’ from his hair seeps into the air, leaving ‘air dead’, a representation of this oppression. The scent is heavy on the air, even in a moment of ‘pass[ing]’, his smell remains. This lingering oppressive nature of Joseph Jones is classic to the trope Sheers is trying to depict.


Stanza 2

Joseph Jones brags about losing his virginity, with Sheers stressing how he ‘told us all’, telling everyone he sees. He removes any aspect of the woman herself from the story, only focusing on her clothes and her body. The focus on getting his ‘red wings’ is the association of two images. The first is on the colour red, often used to represent sensual imagery or the female body. This is then combined with ‘wings’. Getting your ‘wings’ stems from slang from the Royal Air Force, which means the passing of tests and earning of qualifications. Joseph Jones equates losing his virginity as passing a test of his manhood, telling everyone he can find about his first sexual experience in the form of endless bragging.

The idolisation of sex and objectification of women present Jones as a very misogynistic character. The focus on the actual event reduces the women character to her ‘skirt’. The use of metonym is a form of objectification, compressing the woman character into one word: ‘skirt’. Not only this, but ‘skirt’ is also particularly misogynistic, focusing on the female body in a moment of typified sexism.


Stanza 3

Joseph Jones has a self glorification process, focusing completely on his own image. He stands at the bar, ‘stroking his chest’, an image of ridiculous self-pruning. Jones is obsessed with his own body and his presentation of it to others.

Typically, the overly-masculine trope is pictured ‘drinking’ at the bar, linking tropes of masculinity with the idea of alcohol. Sheers is relying on every trope he can think of to paint the most stereotypical picture of a misogynistic, hyper-masculine Welsh man.

The poets’ own distain for this type of person is present in the sneering ’small town myth’. Sheers reduces Jones’ grandeur with the classifying ‘small’, depicting him as much less radical and interesting as Jones appreciates himself. Moreover, suggesting that Jones never made it out of his ‘small town’ belittles the character. You can see the cocky Jones bigging himself up, only for Sheers to laugh at the ridiculous character. The small town mentality is obvious here, with Jones thinking he is much more interesting, successful and attractive due to being trapped within a town he never leaves. Sheers laughs at this trope, himself having escaped the ‘small town’.


Stanza 4

Takes the form of things that typify the character, focusing on more attributes of Joseph Jones. The first image is of a car, the XR2, which is adapted for extra speed. This is another classic faucet of this projected masculinity, focusing on the love of cars and speed.

Sheers’ focus on ‘late night fights’ again reflect an aspect of Jones’ personality. He likes to brawl, associating fighting with masculinity and therefore embodying this concept. The lack of specificity and pluralisation of ‘fights’ suggests this is a very common occurrence.

The final two lines of the poem again house an element of Sheers’ mocking tone. He laughs at the ‘small town’ Jones, never really achieving anything apart from:

a trail once

with Cardiff Youth

The abrupt ending and lack of more details suggests that it was a failed trial, Jones not making the team. To name this achievement, one that is actually a failure, as Jones’ primary accomplishment in life furthers the presentation of Jones actually being a bit of a loser. Sheers laughs at the ‘small town myth’, not achieving anything apart from stomping around, making people uncomfortable, and starting fights.

The lack of expanding on this final stanza suggests that Sheers has grown tired of talking about Jones. There is not much to say about his character. He is, in essence, a representation of a principle of ‘small town’ masculinity. This being his primary characteristic, one Sheers laughs at. Sheers, who carefully explores the balances of female-male relationships within his collection, dislikes a character which is so clearly at one end of the spectrum. Jones is dry, shallow, and lacking in purpose. He skulks around his town, fading into memory as the rest of his cohort move away and do greater things.

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