A Scrap of Paper by Studdert Kennedy and Geoffrey Anketell Just a little scrap of paper

The poem I chose is called “A Scrap of Paper”. I believe that this poem is one of the world’s best and most interesting poems I’ve ever read, and even though it’s short, it leaves a lot for the reader to think about. The poem was written around the time of the First World War, and that is what I think it is about: a person who has received a letter saying that they have lost a loved one in war. Although the poem is short, there is not a lack of rhetorical devices. Imagery is common throughout the poem. In the first line, the description of the “little scrap of paper” sets up a vivid mental image for the reader.

This paper isn’t overly valuable and not something that is important, yet to the recipient family, it is the most priceless artifact. It is “just a little scrap of paper” which the reader can now see. When I read this I think of an older looking piece of paper that probably is crinkled. I think the word “just” adds to the imagery. The word “just” is similar to “only”, which demeans value. It’s only one scrap of paper. In the second line, literal imagery is present in the description of the “yellow envelope”. This literal imagery leads into more figurative imagery.

The reader of the poem now has some information to set up the setting of where and when they think the poem is being placed. For me, I see a house with a lady standing on the front porch holding the envelope in one hand and the little scrap of paper in the other. The colour of the envelope adds irony and contrast to the tone of the poem. The colour yellow is rarely affiliated with sadness, which is definitely present in this poem. Yellow is often seen as a colour that brings joy, happiness, energy and, many may even argue, hope. This is ironic because the contents within this yellow envelope is none of the above.

These happy emotions associated with the colour yellow are polar opposites from what lies within the envelope. I think that this was done intentionally by the poets to make the sadness of the letter that much greater. The choice of the word “scrap” to describe the piece of paper was also a meaningful choice done by the poets. They could have used a different denotation, such as: “a piece of paper”. Using the word “scrap” sets a harsher tone and shows that the conditions of where the letter is from (theoretically from where the war was taking place) are not in a good condition. The scrap piece of paper symbolizes loss of hope.

When there is no scrap piece of paper the families are bottled up with hope that their loved one will come home after the war. When the letter gets sent to the houses of loved ones, this hope is immediately lost as they will never see their loved one again. There are many rhetorical devices present in the poem “A Scrap of Paper” that help the reader enhance the underlying messages and meanings in the poem. There are also some sound devices used in the poem. The poem itself is a rhyming poem. It follows the pattern abcb. A common trend in poems about war, death, and other tragedies seems to be rhyming.

Rhymes can help to lighten the mood of the poem and add a nice rhythm to the piece. The couplet of words that rhyme are “envelope” and “hope”. There are two very distinct types of connections between these words which is seen in their own context. In the context of this poem, these words contrast each other. This envelope does not associate with hope, it is the opposite. In general context, envelopes can often bring hope to people. There is always an element of surprise attached along with envelopes since one is often unsure of the contents within. The use of consonance is present in the quote “scrap of paper”.

There is a repetition of the letter “p”. The use of the sound device consonance generally adds a harsh and “dark” tone. This tone goes along with the theme of war. In conclusion, the sound devices used in the poem “A Scrap of Paper” help to enhance the theme and meaning of the poem. The saying “quality, not quantity” is definitely applicable to this poem. The first time I read the poem over, I thought there was no way that this poem is exemplary to be one of the world’s best poems. After analyzing it more thoroughly, I realized my initial opinion was very wrong.

I think that’s what the poets were hoping the reader would think. The length of a poem does not limit it’s depth and meaning and this was effectively proved while analyzing this poem. The simplicity and shortness also allows the reader to make their own assumptions. I think that this is a good quality for a poem to have. The definite results are not “set in stone”, so the reader can make their own connections with the poem. It is evident that every detail was considered while making this poem and that’s why I believe it is one of the world’s best poems.

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