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Explore How Themes Develop in 'Climbing My Grandfather'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate how key themes develop in 'Climbing My Grandfather'. Students will be able to look at consistent key themes in the poem, how they change and why.

'Explore How Themes Develop 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

Want to revise how key themes develop in 'Climbing My Grandfather'?

 

 

Thought bubble

 

 

This activity will help you understand how Waterhouse's language choice and tone develop these key themes in the poem. In other words, what is the effect of these key themes on the reader? What exactly is Waterhouse trying to show about these key themes? First, let's identity the main themes in the poem.

 

Familial Love

Mountaineering/ Mountain Climbing

Nature

Calmness

Closeness

Adventure

Danger

Childhood Memory/Nostalgia

 

This activity is designed so that you not only identify these key themes and ideas in the poem according to the language Waterhouse uses, but explore how these themes develop in the poem. So how does Waterhouse develop one of these themes in his poem?

 

 

 

 

Here's an example of an evaluation on the theme of mountain climbing/mountaineering

 

Waterhouse uses the imagery of mountain climbing, through extended metaphor, to symbolise the relationship between the speaker and his grandfather. The quote "reaching for the summit" near the end of the poem really showcases how the speaker seems to view getting to know his grandfather as a physical feat, which requires activity and exertion.There is also an element of danger to the experience of "climbing", shown by the quote "climbing has its dangers". This theme of climbing or mountaineering is symbolic. It represents the adventurous relationship between the speaker and his grandfather; it also represents the ups and downs and adventures of any emotional relationship. Waterhouse tells us that relationships aren't easy and require an element of adventure and exertion. But, once conquered and achieved (once the speaker reaches the "summit"), the nature of the relationship becomes much more peaceful and uplifting, "the slow pulse of his good heart".

 

 

If you want to make this activity more of a revision exercise, then jot these themes down. If you want to use this activity to test yourself, then go ahead and try to memorise these key themes/motifs. 

 

 

It's up to you how you want to use this activity!

 

 

 

Remember, it's not a race. So take your time with each step! You'll be fine.

Let's begin with the theme/motif of calmness

 

How does Waterhouse present the idea of calmness in the quote: "I can only lie...feeling his heat".

 

The quote presents calmness in the way that the speaker is lying down

The quote presents the calmness in the relationship only after effort has been put in

The quote presents the calmness in the relationship at the beginning of the poem, showing that the relationship is all-around peaceful

Looking at familial love

 

 

Pick two quotes which show this theme.

"I cross the screed cheek"

"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"

"To a smiling mouth to drink among teeth"

"I rest for a while, in the shade"

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either 'adventure' or 'peace'

 

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from.

Looking at the theme/motif of mountaineering?

 

What quotes best show the theme of mountaineering? There are two right answers.

"The nails are splintered and give good purchase"

"For climbing has its dangers"

"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"

"To drink among teeth"

Looking at the theme/motif of peace.

 

How does Waterhouse present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Waterhouse presents this theme at the end of the poem.

 

2. Waterhouse presents this theme at the end of the poem, as something which only occurs after the speaker has climbed his grandfather.

 

3. This theme develops as the speaker gets closer to his grandfather.

 

4. This theme develops as the relationship between the grandfather and speaker changes, from more adventurous and unstable, to more calm and peaceful. 

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"I rest for a while ... for climbing has its dangers"

 

Tick the two themes this quote shows.

Nature

Danger

Peace

Culture

Love

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of nature?

 

 

"For climbing has its dangers"

"Watching clouds and birds circle"

"Feeling the heat"

"On his arm I discover...the glassy ridge'"

Let's link how love and peace are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: when thinking about the theme of love, look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent love ie: certain pronouns/certain words

 LovePeace
"At his firm shoulder I rest for a while"
"I can only lie watching..."
"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"

Looking at the theme/motif of childhood memories.

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Waterhouse reflects this theme in his poem.

 

Waterhouse reflects childhood memories in the reference to nature- the birds and clouds, which suggests that the grandfather took the speaker to the park a lot

Waterhouse uses language which implies that the speaker of the poem is a child and is scared of his grandfather, hence the language of danger

Waterhouse reflects childhood memories in his references to the grandfather as a comforting and 'firm' figure, but also in the speaker's need to 'climb' him at the beginning of the poem. We can infer that the speaker's sense of peace at the end of the poem is him as an adult, as the relationship progresses

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

Danger

Peace

Mountain climbing

  • Question 1

Let's begin with the theme/motif of calmness

 

How does Waterhouse present the idea of calmness in the quote: "I can only lie...feeling his heat".

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote presents the calmness in the relationship only after effort has been put in
EDDIE SAYS
This quote comes at the end of the poem, only after the speaker has climbed and exerted! Think about what this means about the nature of relationships. Do you think Waterhouse is iterating that relationships require effort and work? Also think about the way that calmness is presented at the end of the poem, as, perhaps, a way of showing the speaker's growth, from child to adult. Maybe, as a child, the speaker viewed his grandfather as imposing. Near the end of the poem, perhaps the speaker is an adult and able to view his grandfather as much softer and older (look at the quote "soft and white hair", which comes at the end of the poem). Contrast this idea of the grandfather being softer near the end of the poem, to the language at the beginning of the poem, where the grandfather is "dusty and cracked" with nails that are "splintered". There's a paradox in the language use- perhaps this poem takes time and echoes a relationship building. Naturally, both the speaker and his grandfather age with time- their relationship softens and calms down.
  • Question 2

Looking at familial love

 

 

Pick two quotes which show this theme.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"
"To a smiling mouth to drink among teeth"
EDDIE SAYS
The middle two quotes really symbolise the love that the speaker has for his grandfather. Remember that themes can overlap, and some quotes showcase themes differently/more expressively than others.
  • Question 3

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either 'adventure' or 'peace'

 

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The themes of adventure and peace split apart near the middle of the poem. It goes from adventurous language to more peaceful and calm language- so themes develop and change as the poem continues. This seems to mimic the way relationships develop and change!
  • Question 4

Looking at the theme/motif of mountaineering?

 

What quotes best show the theme of mountaineering? There are two right answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"The nails are splintered and give good purchase"
"For climbing has its dangers"
EDDIE SAYS
Is this getting easier? In picking out the presentation of certain themes, we have to make sure we can infer - that is, we need to read between the lines. Look at the language used and the tone established.
  • Question 5

Looking at the theme/motif of peace.

 

How does Waterhouse present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Waterhouse presents this theme at the end of the poem.

 

2. Waterhouse presents this theme at the end of the poem, as something which only occurs after the speaker has climbed his grandfather.

 

3. This theme develops as the speaker gets closer to his grandfather.

 

4. This theme develops as the relationship between the grandfather and speaker changes, from more adventurous and unstable, to more calm and peaceful. 

CORRECT ANSWER
4
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you chose four! The theme of peace really shines through at the end of the poem, as the speaker goes from unstable to stable, after he has climbed to the top of his grandfather!
  • Question 6

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"I rest for a while ... for climbing has its dangers"

 

Tick the two themes this quote shows.

CORRECT ANSWER
Danger
Peace
EDDIE SAYS
The two themes really expressed in the quote are danger (obvious in the very word!) and peace ("rest").
  • Question 7

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of nature?

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Watching clouds and birds circle"
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of nature sneaks up at the end of the poem, with the reference to the birds and clouds. It coincides with the theme of peace, which arrives near the end of the poem. Coincidence? Or do you think Waterhouse is making a point about the development of certain clusters of themes in the poem. Could the theme of nature be a representation of the natural growth of relationships?
  • Question 8

Let's link how love and peace are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: when thinking about the theme of love, look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent love ie: certain pronouns/certain words

CORRECT ANSWER
 LovePeace
"At his firm shoulder I rest for a while"
"I can only lie watching..."
"Knowing the slow pulse of his good heart"
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! The theme of peace and love coincide, although, admittedly, it's hard to find quotes which really match up the two themes. But with a bit of inference and evidence, we can see how the two themes are reflected alongside each other. It seems that the main point of love in the poem is reflected in the comfort that the grandfather provides - this is accompanied by peaceful metaphors and language.
  • Question 9

Looking at the theme/motif of childhood memories.

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Waterhouse reflects this theme in his poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Waterhouse reflects childhood memories in his references to the grandfather as a comforting and 'firm' figure, but also in the speaker's need to 'climb' him at the beginning of the poem. We can infer that the speaker's sense of peace at the end of the poem is him as an adult, as the relationship progresses
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of childhood memories is implicit (implied and not obvious) and so it's a more sophisticated point. But it'll get you the marks you need and make you sound clever! Childhood is implied, first, in the way the speaker, at the beginning of the poem, seems to be a little scared of climbing his grandfather. Now, whether the speaker is an adult throughout the poem and remembering his memories as a child, or whether Waterhouse is showing the progression of the speaker from child to adult, is up to you to decide and back up with evidence. But what is important is the way the speaker's attitudes change towards his grandfather, as he metaphorically "climbs" him- there's a progression in the relationship happening. At the beginning, there's a lot of language around danger, adventure and risk. As the speaker climbs his grandfather, gets to know him better and forms a more emotional connection with him, the language becomes a lot more peaceful and nature-based. So, this progression in the climb is representative of the progression of the speaker's attitudes!
  • Question 10

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Mountain climbing
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of mountain climbing is the most constant one in the poem - shown through the extended metaphor. It never really changes and is important in representing the progression of a deep, emotional bond. Well done, that's another activity completed!
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