Analysis on Clown’s Wife by Johnson Agard

Johnson Agard is a British playwright, poet, short-story and children's writer who won the Paul Hamlyn award for poetry in 1997 and has travelled extensively throughout the world performing his poetry. Through the poem Clown’s Wife, Agard deals with the difference between appearance and the reality and the suffering of the poor.

You can read the essay: The Agony of a Duel-Faced life in Clown’s Wife here.

 

Deep-End Analysis

Clown’s Wife

 Although the poem is about the wife of the clown; much emphasis is paid on the wife of the clown. It is through the voice of the wife the reader looks at the clown. Though the wife describes the real nature of her husband, her true nature is spontaneously revealed as a devoted wife who is trying her best to cheer her worried and crestfallen husband. Therefore, the title suggests that though the subject matter is the clown, the wife’s contribution is larger than his contribution to the poem, may be to the life of the clown itself.   

 

About my husband, the clown,

what could I say?

 

inversion (change of word order) – shows hesitation/ confusion

rhetorical question (question which no answer expected) – creates a dramatic effect, hesitation

1st person point of view – brings a more accurate view on the poem

 

The clown’s wife is going to describe about her husband but she does not know where to start. The use of day to day language and rhetorical questions add genuine value to the poem. The start is like she is answering to a question of a journalist. Her hesitation creates a dramatic effect showing that she is not going to tell a happy news about him.

 

On stage, he’s a different person.

Up there he’s a king on a throne,

but at home you should hear him moan.

 

king on a throne – metaphor

Her description of the clown draws parallels of two aspects of life of her husband. She reveals that the clown is perfect at his role on the stage, but at home, he is a desperate character. This situation is ironical as one expects a clown to be a happy person, but the clown described by the wife, moans at home. That shows the reality behind the painted face vs real face. Though the clown could cover up his sorrow behind a mask at the circus, his real nature is revealed at his natural abode. The reason might be he is burdened by the pressure of life; his job may not pay him enough. At the circus he has to act before the audience but at home he has to face the real life. His real life seems to be a trauma.  

 

The moment he walks through that door

without that red nose and them funny clothes,

he seems to have the world on his shoulder.

 

seems to have… - simile

have world on shoulder – paradox

red nose, funny clothes – visual imagery

 

She precisely knows where the clown changes his role of the clown to the husband. She understands that not the clown enters the home but a man crushed by the weight of life. She explains his burden using the exaggerated words ‘world on his shoulder’. This phase of the poem reveals what the problem is with the clown and the understanding nature of the wife. ‘The moment he walks through that door’ symbolizes the clown entering to the real world from the world of fantasy. Clown may feel his responsibilities to the family and his poverty which fails to fulfil them.    

 

 I do me best to cheer him up, poor soul.

I juggle with eggs, I turn cartwheels,

I tell jokes, I do me latest card trick,

I even have a borrow of his red nose.

 

juggle with eggs, turn cartwheels – visual imageries

role reversal

grammar errors - shows the education level of the wife

poor soul - irony

 

At this point, the clown changes his role from clown into the spectator where his wife takes his role to cheer him up. Her struggle to cheer him up shows that she is a caring wife who understands the feelings of the clown. The grammatical errors in the explanation may suggest her illiteracy or her eagerness to explain the situation.

 

But he doesn’t say exactly how he feels,

doesn’t say what’s bothering him inside.

Just sits there saying almost to himself

 

She may be complaining that the clown does not tell the reason for his worries. That tells about the relationship between the husband and the wife. The clown does not like to give his burden to the wife and keeps his pain suffocated.    

 

‘O life, ah life,

what would I do without this clown of a wife?’

 

Clown’s sighing clearly depicts that he is suffering from the burden of life. And he knows the struggle of his wife to keep him happy and values her effort. Though they have their own problems, both of them try to make their counterpart happy. This shows their mutual relationship.

 

Though this story is about the clown, it has a universal applicability where almost all the people in the society act nearly the same. They have to cover up emotions and show a different face to the society but when they face the reality of life, they have to face it, nobody can hide from the reality. In a way most of us are clowns - covering our real selves; our only happiness depends on the relationships around us. What is your opinion? Let’s share a comment below. If you find this article useful, share it among your friends.  

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