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Identify Key Themes in 'Climbing My Grandfather'

In this worksheet, students will identify and consider key themes in 'Climbing My Grandfather'.

'Identify Key Themes in 'Climbing My Grandfather'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Love and Relationships: 'Climbing My Grandfather'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Ready to revise some key themes in the poem 'Climbing My Grandfather'? You've come to the right place! 

 

 

Thought bubble

 

First, let's recap: 

 

Written by Andrew Waterhouse, the poem 'Climbing My Grandfather' uses extended metaphor as its main device. The speaker symbolically 'climbs' his grandfather, getting to know him better.

 

In this somewhat nostalgic poem about an imposing grandfather and childhood memories, Waterhouse uses the imagery and symbolism of mountaineering to showcase a close relationship between the speaker and his grandfather.

 

The setup of this activity will be quite straightforward. We will quote a line from the poem, and you will just identify the theme it presents.

 

 

Spiral notebook with pencil

 

It will help if you write down whatever new or important information you learn along the way! 

 

Tick one key theme in the poem. 

 

Death

Sex

Unity

Romance

"Trying to get a grip" (from line 4)

 

 

Climber ascending a rock face

 

When considering the quote "Trying to get a grip", which one of these themes comes to mind? Type your answer in the box.

 

Sexuality


Fulfilment


Mountain climbing


Falling

 

Death

Sex

Unity

Romance

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of familial (family) love in the poem?

 

"I decide to do it free"

"Pushing into the weave"

"The nails are splintered"

"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"

From the selection of themes below, write down the one you think is presented in line 13 of the poem: "At his still firm shoulder...".

 

​Nature

Distance

Comfort

Security

Danger

 

 

 

From the selection below, write down one theme you think is presented in line 15: "for climbing has its dangers..."

 

Danger

Love

Adventure

Death

Childhood memory

 

 

Which of these themes are not present in the poem?

 

Familial love

Romantic love

Danger

Mountain climbing

Childhood memory

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

 

Climber triumphant on summit

 

Column A

Column B

"I decide to do it free, without a rope..."
Adventure
"(Soft and white at this altitude)", reaching for ...
Mountain climbing/mountaineering
"The slow pulse of his good heart"
Security/ comfort
"At his still firm shoulder, I rest..."
Familial love/ closeness

From the selection below, write down one theme/motif that you think is presented in line 25: "watching clouds and birds..."

 

Calmness
Unconventionality
Nature
Sexuality
Culture

 

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in line 23: "reaching for the summit".

 

Snowy mountain peaks

 

​Love

Unity

Adventure

Mountain climbing

Death

Well done on reaching the end of this activity! Just two steps to take in this question:

 

In the box, write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

Red 3D question mark

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think your chosen theme is the poem's most important/key theme. It'll come in handy later!

 

Spiral pad and paper

  • Question 1

Tick one key theme in the poem. 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Unity
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of unity is huge in the poem! It is through the extended metaphor of climbing that we see the unification of the speaker and his grandfather.
  • Question 2

"Trying to get a grip" (from line 4)

 

 

Climber ascending a rock face

 

When considering the quote "Trying to get a grip", which one of these themes comes to mind? Type your answer in the box.

 

Sexuality


Fulfilment


Mountain climbing


Falling

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Line four has the theme of mountain climbing! The speaker is 'trying to get a grip' on his subject, equating emotional connection with the physical exertion and effort it takes to climb.
  • Question 3

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of familial (family) love in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"
EDDIE SAYS
The theme/motif of familial love shines through at the end of the poem when the speaker transforms from doing to being. At the end, he knows his grandfather has a good heart. This implies the love he feels for his grandfather!
  • Question 4

From the selection of themes below, write down the one you think is presented in line 13 of the poem: "At his still firm shoulder...".

 

​Nature

Distance

Comfort

Security

Danger

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Comfort
Security
EDDIE SAYS
Themes of comfort and security seem to shine through in line 13. The speaker is comforted by his grandfather's physical presence, enough so that he can "rest". Now remember, this is a symbolic poem, but the ideas that shine through it are important. The comfort and security the speaker seems to feel in his grandfather's presence are represented in the symbolic rest that the speaker takes on his grandfather's shoulders. Perhaps this even represents a childhood memory of the speaker sitting on his grandfather's shoulders?
  • Question 5

From the selection below, write down one theme you think is presented in line 15: "for climbing has its dangers..."

 

Danger

Love

Adventure

Death

Childhood memory

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Adventure
Danger
EDDIE SAYS
If you have a motif of mountain climbing, then you're bound to have themes of danger and adventure in your poem as well! What do you think this says about the speaker's emotions? Perhaps the themes of danger/adventure tie in with the speaker's childhood memory, where the grandfather cut an imposing and intimidating figure for the speaker. The theme of adventure also ties in with the speaker feeling that he has to 'climb' his grandfather in order to understand him. Perhaps it's not easy getting to know the grandfather! These are all valid points, with themes that tie in together and connect well!
  • Question 6

Which of these themes are not present in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Romantic love
EDDIE SAYS
Romantic love isn't present in the poem. That's pretty self-explanatory when we look at the fact that this relationship is about a grandfather and grandson!
  • Question 7

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

 

Climber triumphant on summit

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I decide to do it free, without ...
Adventure
"(Soft and white at this altitude...
Mountain climbing/mountaineering
"The slow pulse of his good heart...
Familial love/ closeness
"At his still firm shoulder, I re...
Security/ comfort
EDDIE SAYS
If you can link quotes to specific themes, you'll be able to revise details AND an overview of the poem. Linking quotes to themes will also help you with analysis, where you take a wide theme and narrow it down into a small quote! Have fun with it! Be creative in your analysis and interpretation of what you think Waterhouse is trying to say.
  • Question 8

From the selection below, write down one theme/motif that you think is presented in line 25: "watching clouds and birds..."

 

Calmness
Unconventionality
Nature
Sexuality
Culture

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
Calmness
EDDIE SAYS
Line 25 really shows themes of calmness and nature. We haven't really looked at these two themes, but they're definitely present in the last bit of the poem. What's the significance of having this calm, relaxed bit at the end of the poem, after so much language of exertion and adventure. What could this suggest about the changing nature of the relationship between grandfather and speaker? Remember, we must look at what the themes represent! Also, what's the significance of adding a bit of nature "birds and clouds" to the poem? What do you think Waterhouse is trying to say about nature and its relation to the relationship presented in the poem? Have a think and we'll get back to it in level two!
  • Question 9

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in line 23: "reaching for the summit".

 

Snowy mountain peaks

 

​Love

Unity

Adventure

Mountain climbing

Death

CORRECT ANSWER
Adventure
Mountain climbing
EDDIE SAYS
The themes of adventure and mountain climbing are present in this line. Finally, the speaker is reaching the summit (the peak) of his grandfather! Do you think this line has an element of overcoming difficulty and /or conquering fears? If so, what does this suggest about the progress of the speaker's relationship with his grandfather?
  • Question 10

Well done on reaching the end of this activity! Just two steps to take in this question:

 

In the box, write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

Red 3D question mark

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think your chosen theme is the poem's most important/key theme. It'll come in handy later!

 

Spiral pad and paper

CORRECT ANSWER
Familial love
Love
Mountain climbing
Adventure
Childhood memory
Danger
Nature
Closeness
EDDIE SAYS
If you choose a quote that isn't on this list, that's okay, as long as you can find at least two quotes that back up the theme. If you can't, then you're probably not thinking of a theme, but of a one-time reference. The key themes are the ones written above, but you might also pick: - Peacefulness - Fulfilment - Tenderness - Changing relationships - Calmness - Nostalgia You've been brilliant on this trek through the themes. You definitely deserve a break!
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