My Parents by Stephen Spender

My Parents by Stephen Spender is a poem based on bullying and the desire to make friends. Spender describes bullies and the feeling of being bullied throughout the poem. He elaborates on his feelings using the poetic devices of Enjambment, Imagery, and SimilesMy Parents is in the first person and in an ambiguous point of view. However, we can assume that Spender was mentioning his own direct feeling’s in this poem, so it was in his own point of view. Interestingly enough, Spender has entitled his poem ‘My Parents’ despite the fact that the entire poem centers around bullying. The only thing Spender mentions about his parents is that they kept him away from these sinister boys who used to tease him. The fact that Spender named the poem My Parents shows that he has a great appreciation for how they protected him, or perhaps it shows that he blames his parents for being the children’s target, for they did not allow him to befriend them. You can find the poem here.


My Parents Analysis

The first line out of the 12 lines of the poem explains that Spender was kept away from children who were considered rough by none other than his parents. The fact that Spender states that his parents ‘kept’ him from the other boys shows us that he felt like he was being forced to stay away from him. The word ‘kept’ also shows his weakness, that he was unable to protest against his parent’s will. This line carries an air of negativity, showing us that Spender most likely entitled his poem My Parents as a way of blaming them for his years of being bullied. There is no further elaboration of this and Spender quickly jumps to describing the rough boys who his parents kept him away from. Spender uses imagery to describe these boys as ragged in appearance, with torn clothes and their skin being exposed through rags. This pathetic appearance could be Spender’s way of describing poverty. The boys whom his parents wished him to stay away from where those that were of a much lower class than himself. Spender uses a simile to relate their words to stones. The boys would throw words like stones means that they were not careful of their language, and when they spoke, their words were harsh enough to hurt. Once again, a lack of etiquette in speaking is a defining characteristic of the lower class so it becomes obvious that the boys whom Spender was told to stay away from, were those of a lower class.

Spender goes on to describe the boys in an almost exaggerated fashion. He stresses how they were constantly outside doing things he was never allowed to do, such as climbing cliffs and bathing in the streams. It appears that he was even envious of their style of living. Spender uses continuous Enjambment to allow his thoughts to flow together and create unity between the sentences. Naturally, being of a lower class meant the boys had to do more labor, therefore, they had muscles which he could not even dream of having. Spender states that he feared their knees on his arms which shows that perhaps he had fallen into a scrap with them before, or he had seen them fighting in such a manner with each other. Not only did Spender fear their physical strength, but he also feared their words, mocking him and pointing at him. The fact that Spender states he feared their pointing shows his insecurity of being left out. Spender has so much fear of the boys because he had such a different lifestyle compared to them and though he was of a higher socioeconomic status he somewhat desired this lifestyle and that is what made him feel bad about not fitting in with them. He describes them as fit and springing up from behind bushes. This shows us that Spender found their behavior surprising and shocking once again because he lived such a different lifestyle than they did. Spender uses Imagery to show the boys were like some form of predator. Springing from behind hedges to harass him for being different than they were. Throughout the poem, Spender is describing the boys as ‘they’ and ‘their’ showing that he truly sees them as far and distant being who he never can truly befriend.

Spender uses a Simile again to compare the boys to dogs, barking at his world and throwing mud. It is interesting that he compared the boys to dogs, for dogs can both be an enemy or close friend. Throwing mud could symbolize that the boy’s words had no real meaning to them but they were simply echoes of their envy towards him. Spender makes the socioeconomic class distinction more apparent by stating that he had a different world than what they had. The boys were not hating on Spender himself, but rather, they were hating the class distinctions and were more than likely envious of Spender’s privileged life. Spender concludes by stating that he would have loved to befriend the boys had they even shown the slightest bit of interest. Towards the end of the poem, it becomes clear that Spender entitled the poem ‘My Parents’ because it is due to being their child that he was given a more privileged life then these boys. He was following the orders of his parents and at the same time fulfilling the social requirement enforced on him due to his lineage by staying away from and even fearing the impoverished boys. Some irony can also be seen in the poem as Spender should be happy that he is so much more privileged than them, but instead of enjoying his lifestyle he fees envious and seems to wish that he could enjoy their strength and freedom. There even seems to be a hint of awe in the description that Spender gives of the boys, lithe like predators, string and capable.

My Parents by Stephen Spender is a brief poem discussing how the presence of varying socioeconomic classes in society creates strong societal barriers. Spender discusses how bullying occurs out of envy of one another and may not just be one-sided in which the poor envy the rich. but the rich can envy the poor as well.that being born into a particular family meant that you could only before certain groups of people. Spender uses Enjambment, Imagery, and Similes to describe the feelings experienced when an interaction occurs between people from different socioeconomic groups.


About Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender was a renowned poet and Writer whose works emphasize the harsh distinction between different classes in society. Most of his works focus on questioning and revealing the truth behind social disparity, such as My Parents. He has authored multiple novels, his last novel was entitled ‘The Temple.’ he has also authored a large number of poetry collections and essays.with his most recent collection entitled Dolphins and The Generous Days.The interesting thing about Spender was that he said himself that he had never even once passed an exam paper, he left his studies but was inspired to write by the famous poet and his close friend W.H.Auden.

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  • Avatar bianca says:

    how long did it take you to get over the bullying

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Me personally? I’m training to be a teacher to try and make sure people don’t get bullied!

  • Avatar rebongile james says:

    what was the poet’s message(intention) in writing this poem?

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I think it’s primarily highlighting the animalistic attributes of bullies.

  • Avatar isasasiasisdarr says:

    What would be the tone of this poem

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Dark and sombre, i’d say.

  • Avatar Dipak barman says:

    Did the poet want to make friendship with the rough children? Please answer

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I think the narrator wanted to want to make friends with their tormentors. They wanted to forgive them but ultimately couldn’t.

  • Avatar sarita says:

    what are the them of the poem and its discussion

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      The main theme is bullying, the poet draws on nature at one point and touches on being impoverished.

  • Avatar Landiswa says:

    Hi, Can you suggest few questions that can be asked for garde 9’s please ?

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Ask them to pick out any metaphors, perhaps? Ask them to describe the poems form. Ask them to highlight any enjambment lines, maybe?

  • Avatar Abeera says:

    It greatly help me to study for my exams,and i got a good result in literature.Love the analysis.It surely shows all your effort.

    Thanks !

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      That’s really great. Glad we are helping.

  • Avatar Arjun says:

    Love the analysis. I also felt the fact that it is a free verse suggests the poet’s desire to be free from the expectations of his parents. He doesn’t want to be held back and would rather go against the norm of behaving like a member of the upper class, and spend time and be friends with the other boys. Most people expect a poem to rhyme and this goes against the traditional method of writing a poem.

    • Emma Baldwin Emma Baldwin says:

      Hi Arjun,

      Thank you for your comment, we’re very glad we helped! I believe that you could be right about the poet’s choice to utilize free verse in this work. It is also likely that this choice comes from the poet’s desire to craft more of a narrative poem than one speaking to the romanticized tradition of verse.

    • Avatar Shazfa says:

      Well yes maybe on how exactly to analyze a poem, I did a bit of research and came up with the PEEL structure.. Point, evidence, explanation and link.. For example, if a question asks, “How does Spender strikingly convey uncertainty in the poem” am I to specifically choose lines and quotes in the poem and analyze those? I’m really having a panic attack, I hope this is no trouble to you..

      • Avatar Daneilla says:

        Thanks this helps a lot ??

        • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

          You’re welcome – glad to be of help.

  • Avatar Ingrid says:

    Can you kindly help me with this please I need to know the word order used by the post and why in the line ” I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron”

    • Emma Baldwin Emma Baldwin says:

      Hi Ingrid, thank you for your comment!
      In this instance the poet has chosen to depict “the children who were rough,” as being worse than tigers. Throughout the poem he emphasizes all the “scary” parts of these kids, from whom his “parents kept” him. He states that they “threw words like stones” and were tough enough to “climb cliffs” that had been “stripped by the country streams.” All of this adds up to an overwhelming image. The children have be been built up, perhaps through experience or by the parents of the speaker, to be much bigger and fiercer than they are. So much so, the speaker fears “their muscles like iron” more than he ever would a tiger.
      Hope that helps!

    • Avatar Shazfa says:

      Despite my interest in literature, it was never really a subject that I could study properly and learn the necessities accordingly.. Unfortunately, I have my GCEs in a few weeks and I’m not at all prepared for it as I used to delay literature to study all the others. This analysis impressed me a lot and so did the writing and the interpretation of the poem.. I was hoping that maybe I could get some tips? At least to get an acceptable grade.. I do hope somebody can help me..

      • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

        You mean tips on how to analyse a poem? Believe it or not that is something we potentially have in the pipeline.

  • Avatar John says:

    The last line is very ambiguous, which could mean that he was angry at his parents as they did not let him around the children but also didn’t fulfil their promise that he would be kept away from them, a failure to protect him

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      I agree it is steeped in ambiguity!

  • Avatar Eshaa says:

    I lovee it
    It also helped meee alottt

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      Thanks for the feedback – glad you approve!

      • I like this poem, it describes or talk a lot in reality. It reminds me of the bullies that use to call me you are of no use although I used to pass in all my exam and got first..i love this poem,it helped me a lot. I even saved it in my. Phone.

        • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

          That’s a really heart warming story. I’m so glad you did well at school despite your studies. I too was bullied, so I can relate”

        • Avatar swaggos says:


          • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

            I don’t know what that means – but i’m sure you’re right.

  • Avatar Ali Khalid says:

    If he wanted to be their friends why not bribe them to at least stop them from teasing him… 😛

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      It would make for a much different poem!

  • Maha Rehman Maha Rehman says:

    Hi Uzma!

    Yes I agree strongly that the boy feels upset at not being able to become like the others, and he feels alienated.
    And also nope, I have never attended that school! 🙂 Thanks for discussing the poem further!

  • Avatar Uzma Qureshi says:

    I think this is a balanced analysis of the poem showing that the boy is both bullied by the other boys and is also quite upset that he can’t be like them even if he wants to. It seems the that the boisterous boys will never accept him as their words are also like stones.
    One gets the feeling that the narrator feels alienated and helpless. This, according to the analysis above might be due to his parents’ over protectiveness

    Maha Rehman, were you a student at Beaconhouse School-system at any point ?.

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