Slough Commentary Essay Eric Best Mr. Taylor October 10, 2013 EN63Ud John Betjeman’s poem Slough is a dark depiction of an English industrial town that has been run down over the years of its existence. According to Betjeman, Slough is a truly miserable place and he demonstrates this is his poem through to use of dark metaphors, consistent repetition, and discomforting imagery. The use of dark metaphors in Slough adds to the miserable aura given off by the poem by showing how the town has many aspects that are comparable to miserable things.
One of these metaphors is used to show the close-mindedness of the abitants of Slough. This is shown when it says “tinned minds, tinned breath” (8). Tinned minds compares the minds of the people of Slough to something in a tin can. Their thoughts are unoriginal, mass produced, and cheap. What they think directly impacts what they say so there is also an artificial feeling to how people in Slough speak. The way that people in power act in Slough is also portrayed by a dark metaphor. This can be seen when it says “who washes his repulsive skin in women’s tears” (15-16).
This metaphor describes how the fat, powerful men in Slough treat the women. They break their hearts and bask in the glory of doing so, showing how miserable people can become in this town. Another dark metaphor is used when Slough is shown to be waste of the Earth. This is portrayed when it says “the Earth exhales” (40) after the poem says that Slough should be destroyed. Once the town is demolished, the Earth can “exhale” as a sigh of relief that the wretched place is finally gone from the face of the Earth.
These examples of dark metaphors clearly add to the misery of Slough by describing several different negative aspects of its nature Consistent repetition in Slough emphasizes certain parts of the poem to convey he greater meaning of misery. One of these uses of repetition is the use of the word “tinned”. The phrase “tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, tinned minds, tinned breath” (7-8) shows obvious repetition. The reason that the word tinned is used so much is to portray that the town of Slough is very artificial not only in the food, but also in the people.
Another instance is the repetition of the word “and” throughout the fifth stanza. It says “And smash his desk of polished oak/ And smash his hands so used to stroke/ And stop his boring dirty Joke/ And make him ell” (17-20) which appears to be a list of things that Betjeman wants to be done against the “fat man” of Slough to stop his ways. Repetition in this example emphasizes the amount of problems with the powerful men in Slough by using “and” four times in a row to make a long, repetitive list of issues.
Each stanza in Slough is paired with another based on the rhyming of the last lines in the stanzas. The line “Swarm over, Death! ” (4) and “Tinned minds, tinned breath” (8) are an example of a rhyming pair. The use of this restores some uniformity to the way that the poem is ritten, by balancing the fact that the last lines do not rhyme with the first three in each stanza. This can be used to reflect the content of the poem that Slough is a functional town, however it has vital flaws which make it an unattractive or miserable place.
Overall, the use of repetition helps portray the fact that Slough is a miserable town and was used by Betjeman to do exactly that. John Betjeman’s use of discomforting imagery in Slough greatly assists in the reflection of its miserable nature. One example of this kind of imagery is when the town is depicted as inhospitable. This can be seen when it says “It isn’t fit for humans now” (2). Saying that a town is not fit for humans makes the reader imagine what kind of a wasteland that Slough must be if it can’t properly support human society, adding to the miserable appearance of the town.
Another instance of discomforting imagery is when the price of residence in Slough is mentioned. “A house for ninety-seven down” (10) indicates that you could live on a property for a down payment of ninety- seven dollars, which is extremely low. This in turn shows that the housing in Slough must be horrible because of how cheap it is, making it seem even more miserable. Discomforting imagery is also shown when it says “They’ve tasted Hell” (24).
The young clerks working underneath the power of the “fat men” work in a Hellish environment where they are unable to decide their own fate. This is shown by saying that they had a taste of what total misery and pain is like. Betjeman’s use of discomforting imagery in these situations reinforces the fact that Slough is a miserable town. In conclusion, John Betjeman effectively uses the different forms of metaphor, repetition, and imagery in their own ways to convey that Slough is a miserable town and shows that the world should be without such a place.