“In Mrs Tilcher’s class”, is written in the second person as Duffy invites us to share her own childhood experiences. The poem is about childhood memories from the last year of junior school, before heading up to secondary school. These were very cheerful times, the classroom is a very safe location and we follow on to the change from the innocence of childhood through to adolescence. There is no proposal of what is on the agenda at this point in the poem. The first two stanzas are eight lines long and the second two stanzas are seven lines long, as if there is a sense of necessity to finish the poem and reach adulthood.
The first stanza begins “you could travel up the Blue Nile, with your finger, tracing the route. Each country is then read out loud in a list form. “Then a skittle of milk” she uses this metaphor so we can get a real idea of what the milk bottles that were used looked like. The children have routine and structure, everything feels safe and familiar. “The laugh of the bell,” here she uses representation to illustrate the ringing of the school bell at playtime as a happy sound.
The second stanza begins “This was better than home”. Even though Duffy was from a happy and secure background, school was much more fun, relentlessly learning and discovering new information as the days went by. “The classroom glowed like a sweetshop” so many new and interesting things to find out, it was hard to choose what to do first. Duffy felt sure that her teacher loved her, because if you were really good you would get a gold star by your name. This stanza sees the first hint of negativity, where reference is made to the moors murderers Brady and Hindley who were in the papers a lot around this era. This would have soon been forgotten within the security of the classroom. She uses a simile here “Faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.”
By the time we reach the third stanza the mood has changed and innocence is beginning to disappear. This is when the realisation of the truth about growing up becomes apparent. “The inky tadpoles changed, from commas to exclamation marks.” This could represent the shift from childhood to adolescence. “A rough boy told you how you were born.” This is later confirmed as being true by Mrs Tilcher’s avoidance to the answer when questioned “how you were born.” She just smiles and turns away.
In the final stanza there is a sense of need to be grown up, but a feeling of anxiety looms as Duffy is unsure of what the future holds. Feverish July is used as personification to describe the hot, sweaty mood of a teenager. There is impatience and touchiness with the rush of hormones and physical changes that are taking place in the change from childhood to adolescence. Having seen Carol Ann Duffy at Poetry live I thoroughly enjoyed both of these poems and can relate to many experiences described in them. I particularly enjoyed In Mrs Tichler’s class as it bought back happy memories of junior school.