Compare and Contrast Essay on Poems Half-past Two, Reports and Dear Mr. Lee

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  10
Wordcount:  2573 Words
Date:  2022-07-15


The three poems analysed in this essay are Half-past Two, Dear Mr. Lee, and Reports all of which are written by UA Fanthorpe. The poems are linked to each other as they refer to the education system. The order of the poems are the least critical of the education system to the most critical.

In the first poem I have selected to compare is Half-past Two. The poem follows the thoughts of a small boy, waiting in a classroom for his teacher to arrive at half-past two. The only problem is that he is unable to tell the time and so is unable to judge at what time he must leave the classroom. The minutes he waits in the classroom for his teacher to arrive, feel like eternity to the boy as hes lost in time. The poem shows the young pupils routine being broken, as he dreams of being lost in a world of confusion.

The beginning of Half-past Two begins like a fairytale: Once upon in a child-like tone. The main character in the poem is the little boy. The boy is left to stay behind in the classroom as hed done Something Very Wrong. The capitilisation and repetition of the line two lines later, indicates to the reader the teachers angry tone and she was cross show the reader the feelings of the pupil being ashamed. Yet it doesnt go into detail what hed done: (I forget what it was).

From the beginning of the poem it is obvious to the reader that it is written by the pupil as an adult remembering back a childhood memory, as the brackets throughout the poem show the adult perspective. As a pupil at the time he hadnt done anything serious as it had not played a significant part in his life. The use of vocabulary such as Grantime indicates to the reader its a small child. Due to the fact the little boys illiterate the spoken words sound like a single unit: Gettinguptime, timeyouwereofftime. This is represented by words being merged together as one. The little boy understands time in terms of actions or events that happened at these times and knows a lot of time for a small child:

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All the important times he knew.
But not half-past two.

The boy hadnt been taught time by his teacher, but he was too scared of being wicked to remind her. The little boy is innocent, scared and sad for what hed done and hasnt done anything serious, thus becoming the object of the readers sympathy. The clock face seems real and alive to the boy: ¦the little eyes¦two long legs for walking. As he stares at the clock the little boy thinks the clock is talking to him, as UA Fanthorpe uses onomatopoeia:

But he couldnt click its language

The personification of the clock symbolises how the childs imgagination starts to develop the only interesting and important object in the room indicating the boy feels very mundane: So he waited, beyond onceupona. The boy then starts to fall into a dream world like a fairytale due to the boredom he suffers, which reminds him of bedtime going to a world beyond onceupona. The boys daily routine has been broken, as there are no adults around to tell him when its time to do something. As he falls into a daze: Into the smell of old chrysanthemums¦Into the air outside the window, into ever the repetition of the word into suggests the timelessness and the environment around the boy is changing and drifting as he becomes aware of every minute smells as his senses become alert.

The other characters in the poem Half-past Two is the little boys teacher. The teacher comes to the little boys rescue. As when she enter there is a dramatic effect, and shes shocked when she see the little boy still in the classroom:

And then, My goodness, she said

The teachers disorganized, disorientated and forgetful as she scuttled about, panicking about the boy. The teacher is so busy, she cant remember what she has taught her pupils. The reader gets the impression that the teacher is young and doesnt have a lot of teaching experience being new to the field. Its ironic as she says Run along or youll be late as he doesnt know what time is.

UA Fanthorpes presentation of the education system as presented in Half-past Two shows the reader how imperative time is in order to function and survive in modern day society. In the poem the importance of time is when the detention ends not when a particular event occurs. The message UA Fanthorpe is getting across to the reader about the education system is that time is crucial and that it must be taught earlier on in the school syllabus rather then a later stage in life, as a young childs sense in life is determined by routine events.

The second poem is called Dear Mr Lee also written by UA Fanthorpe. The poem is written in form of a letter, by an English student expressing their love for a piece of literature by Laurie Lee. The student is writing a letter of apology, as they think they have failed an English exam yet may be proved wrong as the student seems pessimistic. The reader learns about why the student is writing the letter and the feelings and emotions of the student about failing an English exam.

The beginning of the poem Dear Mr Lee is one long continuous stanza by the student whereas in Half-past Two the poem is written in short verses. The poems are both similar as in Half-past Two the short verses represent the childs short disjointed thoughts as also in Dear Mr Lee the structure of the poem follows the students thoughts like a stream of chaotic consciousness by using enjambment. The reader gets the feeling that the student is three dimensional, as even though the character is pessimistic, yet they are positive about Cider with Rosy.

The student is very sarcastic about her English teacher, Mr Smart but shows maturity as she doesnt pass the blame for her failing exam. In contrast to Dear Mr Lee the vocabulary used in Half-past Two is very simple and the made-up words represent a young childs language. The reader learns that the main character in the book is an English student expressing their passion for their favourite author, Laurie Lee. The student addresses Mr. Lee is a sign of the students respect and admiration for him. The student refers to Mr. Lee as Laurie Lee as they see him as a friend:

It's rude to call you Laurie, but thats

how I think of you.

The letter is friendly and informal yet trying to be formal in order to show respect.

Other characters mentioned in the poem in Dear Mr Lee is also a teacher just like in Half-past Two. The student describes her English teacher Mr Smart as cynical and uninspiring, indicating to the reader he isnt a supporting and helpful teacher. The name Mr Smart may be an ironic nickname given by the student, yet the reader never finds out. Mr Smart is a direct contrast to Laurie Lee who is his dynamic opposite. He doesnt seem to motivate his students, which is due to the lack of enthusiasm shown by the student towards his English classes. In Half-past Two the teacher didnt mean to leave him in the classroom for that long a period of time to cruel. The teacher had genuinely forgot that she had left the poor little boy in the classroom and did everything she could to slot him back into his usual routine. Mr Smart is harsh and critical as he says to the student that anyone with her punctuation to consider poetry as a career is enough to make the angels weep. Mr Smart is only interested in exam results and not the subject.

The presentation of the education system in Dear Mr Lee criticizes the education system, as it doesnt credit the students enthusiasm and passion for literature and English. From UA Fanthorpes poem, it indicates to the reader that education is interested in good exam results from pupils and wants a restrictive and analytical approach, which discourages a personal and intimate response from students. The student didnt enjoy studying Shakespeare, as she didnt understand what was being taught. The one book that the student was able to understand and love was the book Cider with Rosy yet when it came to the exam the student didnt much like the questions about social welfare in the rural community and the seasons as perceived by an adolescent.

The exam doesnt credit the students enthusiasm and passion for the book, and so the student failed the exam. Unlike Dear Mr Lee the poem Half-past Two is less critical, as it only emphasis the necessity of time. While in Dear Mr Lee is very critical towards the education syllabus, and how the syllabus is being taught. The poems are both similar as the teacher plays a major role in the students view and thoughts. Mr. Smarts attitude towards one of his students has an affect on their motivation towards English. As a teacher Mr. Smart lacked to offer the support and passion the student required in order to appreciate and take leisure in English.

The last poem I will analyse is Reports which is also written by UA Fanthorpe. The poem Reports is written from a teachers point of view unlike in Half-past Two and Dear Mr Lee which are written from the point of view of students. Out of all the poems Reports is the most critical, as the teacher shows his or her frustration towards the education system. The teacher is trying to write reports for their students yet in order to justify the truth about the students they must be politically correct. This leaves the teacher stranded and unable to write an accurate, truthful and fair report for the pupils. Due to not writing accurate reports, it leaves the teacher annoyed, as there is no more truth in the education system, which has become corrupt. The poem Reports is the most negative of the three poems, this is due to the fact there isnt one single positive comment made by the teacher.

The beginning of Reports has the use of italics in order to indicate to the reader what the teacher is thinking of what to write unlike in Half-past Two where italics represent speech:

Has made a sound beginning

This is written in typical report style phraseology. The tone of the poem is formal from the start to the end, similar to the poem Dear Mr Lee except Reports is formal through out. The poem is written in stanzas just like in Half-past Two except they are longer showing the thoughts of the teacher are more sophisticated and more developed than the little boy in the poem Half-past Two. Using Pronouns are dangerous as the teacher doesnt want to be personal and indirect which may be considered rude. When the teacher uses the word dangerous they are using a mocking sarcastic tone, as the teacher will be in trouble for breaking a school policy. This proves to the reader that teacher and pupil relationships arent close as shown in Dear Mr Lee where teachers dont want to get personal with their students. The teacher has a very cynical view of reports, as they feel they are obligated to write what people want to hear. The teachers negativity is sensed in Dear Mr Lee as seen by the character Mr. Smart. The teacher must constantly remind themself to:

Be on your guard

The teacher feels the report says something about the teacher and not just the pupil. The teacher must keep on thinking about what the officials want to hear yet something that will be easily understood as the teacher wants something that Should satisfy them. Near the end of the poem Reports the teacher is reminding themself why they wanted to teach in the first place. Like the teacher in Half-past Two the teacher from Reports used to think education was the most important thing in the world. Then after a few years teaching like in the poem Dear Mr Lee teachers were no longer idealistic and think they could change the world. This leads to the failure of pupils due to education.

Other characters that are mentioned in Reports are Parent, child, head. In contrast to Half-past Two and Dear Mr Lee the characters mentioned in Reports arent direct and dont speak. The teacher thinks about who will read the reports and they are seen as evil as they will look for mistakes made by the teacher:

Unholy trinity, will read

Your scripture backwards

The holy group of three becomes unholy. Through out the poem the Parent, child, head are mention by the teacher as them. Like evil, the devil will read backwards and three is seen as a magical number. The teacher doesnt want to set them any riddles which will be difficult to understand and interperate.

The presentation of the education system in Reports by UA Fanthorpe compared to the other two poems is similar to the moral of Dear Mr Lee is that education is dieing because its becoming controlled and narrow. Pupils are failing because the education system is failing them similar to Reports when the student fails their exam. Yet, in Reports unlike in Half-past Two and Dear Mr Lee it indicates to the reader from the poem that people are no longer able to tell the truth and pupils have no more enthusiasm towards education like in Dear Mr Lee. The education system leads to disillusionment for both pupils, teachers and officials. The future of education will only be grave stones as death is the ultimate teacher ending with an epitaph saying:

Rest in peace.

From studying all three of the poems written by UA Fanthorpe it becomes obvious to the reader UA Fanthorpe doesnt agree the way education is being run through schools. The message comes across to the reader as UA Fanthorpe criticizes the education system as being corrupt and unjustified. As shown through the poem Reports UA Fanthorpe express her frustration through the teacher. UA Fanthorpe is saying that there is no longer truth and that the education system must be politically correct.


My personal response to the poem is that education has become more restricted in the modern day society we are living in today. The education system syllabus concentrates more on getting the grades than getting a pleasurable response from the students. I think for students to be motivated further its imperative they get the inspiration to learn. Obviously this is no longer happening in the education syllabus. As mention in Dear Mr Lee the students passion for Laurie Lees literature, wasnt ever credited by their teacher at the time Mr Smart. The student wasnt enthusiastic about learning, so how is a student meant to progress? I felt there does need to be honesty in the education system in order for it to succeed and be efficient, Reports addressed my attention to this matter. I feel UA Fanthorpe is raising awareness about what the education system is becoming and make us aware of the issue and decide for ourselves.

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Compare and Contrast Essay on Poems Half-past Two, Reports and Dear Mr. Lee. (2022, Jul 15). Retrieved from

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