John Betjeman is a reckoned poet. He was born in 1906 to a cabinet maker. The trade was in the family for many years. John was an only child, and he spent most of his childhood a lonely child. His only comfort was a teddy bear called Archibald. He later featured this teddy bear in the children's stories.
He attended schools in Highgate. Most of the schools he attended were boarding schools, thus reinforcing his lonely life. The most exciting times for John were when they travelled to Trebethrick, where his father owned several properties. These appeared to be his valuable times because they are reflected in his poems.( Betjeman 1937)
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John was greatly influenced by his tutors in college in his writing. He has worked as a secretary and a teacher in several institutions. He later resigned to writing completely, and his first book was published by a friend.
John later married Penelope Chetwode, a relationship that Penelope's father did not approve. Their love was great that it could not be stopped. Their daughter, Candida, was born in 1942. The couple later settled in Wantage in 1951. He was named the Poet Laureate after Cecil Day Lewis died in 1972.
This brief overview of the writer opens up analysis through Biographical or historical approach. A writer's background has always influenced the perspective in which he writes his literary fiction. Most people argue that a writer's background is insignificant in his works, but they have been proved wrong in several occasions because writing has a motivating factor. The motivating factor in this case always stems from the writers background.
John's writings have confirmed the fact that a writer's background is beneficial to the thoughts that he puts down as a work of art. This, therefore, brings the fact that analysis of literary work through biographical or historical perspective is equally important just like analysis through Reader Response or Formative analysis.
In his poem, A Subaltern's Love John reflects happy moments the gaiety of the poem is shown in line twenty of the poem. There is singing and dancing, there is also playing tennis and a lot of laughter. When John was a child they used to travel for holidays in several parts of Britain. The excitement that these holidays brought is clearly shown in the poem. The holidays they went for are also shown when he says that they swung past the summer house with his lover. This clearly shows that they used to go so often for holidays ( Betjeman,1931).
Love is also another thing that John found. He married Penelope despite several antagonists. Penelope's father was against the relationship. Despite this opposition, they got married and together they had a baby daughter. When he says that the rooftop is above our heads to protect us, this meant that despite all he has chosen whom he wants to marry, and people can talk as long as he is with the girl he loves and also they have a place to stay. A place they can call home. The opposition from Penelope's father is shown in the parts where he says that her father's words shines as they walked past ( Betjeman,1940).
John's childhood was lonely, and he spent most of his time alone. In this poem, the reflection on a path full of moss this shows loneliness because for a path to be filled with moss means that people rarely used this path. The persona looks out of his bedroom window to this moss covered path. The path leads to a summer house that is filled with a lot of gay moments. This indicates that below the moss is a path that leads to a warm and welcoming place. This applies to John's childhood that if the loneliness is lifted the inert person is a very happy person.
John also reflected his background in some of his other works apart from "A Subaltern Love". In the poem, "The last Laugh" he confesses of hard work. John has worked extremely hard to attain the title; Poet Laureate. He says that make hay while the sun is still shining. It is because of hard work that earned the joy that came with the title.
On the other hand, it is also beneficial to know that not all of an author's thought in a book reflects his background. For example, John has not reflected his background in all his poems. For example, in the poem "The Church Mouse" it talks mainly about a lonely church house who thinks he is so high than the other mice. He scavenges for left over. Contrary to this poem John's life although characterized by loneliness was not characterized by poverty as shown in the poem. John's father was a wealthy, middle class Londoner, and John was his only child. This means that John was adequately provided for (Betjeman 1937).
In analyzing any piece of art, it is valuable to get into the writers background. This enables an analyst to get a full insight on what the writer means. In using the biographical approach, an analyst develops a connection of ideas in the piece of work and the wr5iter. This will help in answering questions that are always part of an analysis. Questions like; why did the writer choose this particular time in history? Chances are very high that the writer is either writing about an event he witnessed or that he was part of it. It is, therefore, important to get a glimpse of the writers' backgrounds in order to analyze any given literally work.
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