“Testing the Reality” by poet Tony Harrison, is a poem that delves deep into the impact of death of a mother upon a son. The themes of death and abandonment in the poem are portrayed by the poet through the use of a variety of techniques such as tone, setting, alliteration, rhythm, symbolism and time. With combining these techniques together he is able to create a sense of sorrow and show the reliance and reassurance his mother had on him since a little boy.
The poet Tony Harrison uses a flock of black birds to symbolise his mother’s passing. The allegory of the birds flock to the ‘crammed church roof’ in thousands and there was no room for anymore. There was so many of them that he could only guess the number of them and the amount of them continued to grow. The flocking indicates large numbers moving to an area, in this case the church roof. The poet uses the enormity of the birds to show the magnitude of this event in the narrators’ eyes. Harrison uses the term of birds fledging to show the mother taking off with the ‘wings of night’ meaning death. Fledging is when birds get their wings and learn how to fly and in the case of the mother learning how to leave her life behind. In the last stanza, Harrison mentions being the ‘last soul still unhatched left in the clutch’, he symbolises as if he is the unhatched egg left in the birds nest. Tony Harrison tries to convey that he feels abandoned and that she just left him behind. The different stages of the birds journey through life from learning to fly and hatching young is used to symbolise the death of his mother.
In the second stanza the narrator quotes the birds as ‘picketed piercingly the passing of each day’, the use of alliteration creates the sound of the flocking birds on the church roof. The repetitive P sound reflects the sound of the shrill from the birds. The birds picketed piercingly means the groups of birds congregating and the piercing sound coming from them. The narrator