In the poem "In School-days" by John Greenleaf Whittier, a man remembers his old school house and a certain memory that defined his idea of love. A few of the devices that Whittier uses in this poem are personification, imagery and metaphor. In the beginning of the poem in the line "And blackberry-vines are creeping," he uses both metaphor and personification. He uses personification in that the vines are "creeping" or crawling slowly, growing around the school house. This is also a metaphor because the vines could symbolize his memories of school that creep back into his mind and remind him of the days he spent in school, and in particular a girl that he knew. In the segment "Within, the master's desk is seen, deep scarred by raps official; The warping floor, the battered seats, the jack-knife's carved initial," Whittier uses imagery to express how worn down and old the school house is, as well as to show how it has been abused over the years since the narrator attended school there. Another area in which Whittier uses imagery is when he writes "The feet that, creeping slow to school, went storming out to playing!" Through using the word "creeping" again, Whittier reflects the movement of the blackberry-vines through the movement of the students on their way to school, the kids really don't want to go so they are walking almost as slowly as blackberry-vines grow. In contrast, when school is over, the kids go "storming out to play." In his use of words such as "creeping" and "storming" Whittier creates an image that is easy for the reader to picture and relate to.
Toward the end of the poem, the narrator introduces a little girl who unlike the rest of her classmates, isn' t running out of the school house and instead she is slowly leaving, with "eyes full of grieving." This imagery catches your attention, not only because it makes you wonder why a child is so sad, but also because of the distinction between how she left the school and how the rest of her classmates left the school. She seems to have a weight on her shoulders that she can't get off. The little girl is met by a little boy and the tension between them is obvious, neither one wants to say anything but they are both fidgeting and unsure of themselves. Then the little girl breaks the tension by "caressing" his face and "As if a fault confessing" tells him that she "hate[s] to go above [him]" and that she loves him. From this interaction, I thought that she is dying and that she is upset because she loves him and doesn't want to leave him.
The man recalling the memory, concludes that "he lives to learn, in life's hard school." By this Whittier is saying that life is a school in which everyone eventually graduates, or dies, but along the way we have to learn, or live. In this, Whittier uses a final metaphor, life is learning and going to heaven or dying is graduating.
This poem helped me further my research on my inquiry topic in that it showed a different kind of school experience. In this poem a little boy learns at a young age that life doesn't last forever. The memory of his friend telling him that she is going to die helped him remember his old school house forever, but it also showed him that life is a school, and that living is learning and learning involves hardships such as losing someone close to you that you care about.