Read the poem 'death like conception (for father) ' and answer the questions that follow: 1) How would you describe the speaker's faith in and perception of God as suggested in the poem? (3 marks) In the first stanza, the speaker has shown faith in God, as he believes we come from God and our souls will return to God, the owner or the 'stock-taker' after death. The speaker feels that we are not the owners of our bodies but God. When we die, our souls will leave our "tenant bod [ies]" to return back to God. The speaker also believes that God destines a person's death as death "arrives with the whims of fate" just like conception. At the same time, he is also doubtful of his belief as suggested in the third stanza, line 1", these eyes / of sight and blindness" where it suggests that the speaker does not quite understand and recognize his father's belief that death should be a journey, although he believes in God.
According to the speaker " in life [his father] knew [his father's] way' that "death should be a journey". The speaker is doubtful about this as it is implied in stanza 2, line 13 "along the hopes and beliefs / that have overshot / into the undergrowth / shadow bound and earth-bound". The hopes and beliefs only exist in his father but not in him. Nevertheless, in the end he still acknowledged that God is still the Creator and the owner of man as suggested in the third stanza, line 1 "god-given and god-taken".
2) Comment on the effectiveness of these expressions: a) "the tenant body" This expression suggests that the physical bodies that we 'live in' do not actually belong to us but we 'rented' our bodies when we come to this world, just as when we are tenants we do not own the properties but we are staying in there only temporarily. Hence, when we die we have to return them back to the 'stock-taker' or God. b) "pulsating cells"pulsating cells" refers to the living being which is still alive as the word 'cells' refers to each and every minute parts of our bodies and they are still living and functioning as implies in the word 'pulsating'. c) "truncated / winding road" This expression implies that the speaker's father has undergone a difficult period during his illness as in the phrase 'winding road', but this suffering was shortened ('truncated') as he died at the will of God although his father has recovered from it probably to lessening his father's pain. d) "shadow bound and earth bound" This expression brings to mind that his father's belief that "death should be a journey" does not exist anymore on earth when his father died. This belief has been buried along with his father, covered with earth and shaded by plants, because it is only his father's beliefs but not exactly his. In other words, the speaker does not really agree with his father on this matter. e) "god-given and god-taken" This expression suggests that God is the only one that gives us lives and takes them away from us. He is the owner of our bodies but not us. God has given life to the speaker's father and now when his father dies his father's soul goes back to God as it belong to God.
3) What is the significance of "these eyes / of sight and blindness"? Explain the paradox. (3 marks) The paradox connotes that the speaker is not sure if the journey goes on after death as what his father believes because he has not witness before with his own eyes. However, he might have a slight believe in it perhaps due to his faith in God and his knowledge from Quran. The "eyes" is a metaphor for the speaker's understanding in his religion, while "sight and blindness" conjure up the images that the speaker believes and also in doubt with his faith. Therefore, "these eyes / of sight and blindness" signifies that with this uncertainty in his mind, he still hopes that his father's soul who is given by God will return back to God safely.
4) How is death represented in this poem and what is the speaker's attitude towards death? (4 marks) In this poem death is represented as a home where a person's soul goes back to at last after he dies. The speaker feels that death should not be seen as something fearful. The speaker uses the simile "death like conception" to suggest that the idea of death and conception are not two different things in the human life. As conception is seen as a happy event, thus death should not be a sad event but a bliss as death is a home where the person's soul is returning to at last. Besides, death as the speaker perceives should not bring about a feeling of threat and pain to us because it " arrives with the whims of fate / or the gentleness of the moment".
Death happens suddenly and peacefully that does not seem frightening. Although the speaker is not sure whether death should be a journey as what his father perceived, death will still arrive one day in a 'gentle' way when he sees his father died peacefully as suggested by the speaker when he says " but [death] came / and [death] took [his father] along / home is where [his father] return at last.