Explication Of Scenes From The Playroom by R.S. Gwynn
Dismembered dolls and burning felines are not scenes one would usually associate with a child's playroom, that is, not unless having read the poem "Scenes from the Playroom" by R.S. Gwynn. This poem tells the story of a day in the life of an affluent family, but is the reader getting the whole story, or as the title suggests, just a "scene?"
The poem opens with a scene one would expect to see in a playroom: "Lucy with her family of dolls" (Line 1). The author conveys nothing out of the ordinary with that image but then makes a drastic turn when he states that Lucy now "Disfigures Mother with an emery board" (Line 2). This is a rather gruesome image, but nothing in comparison to what the last two lines in this stanza offer: "While Charles, with match and rubbing alcohol, / Readies the struggling cat, for Chuck is bored" (Lines 3, 4). In this stanza the author has established that these two children, Lucy and Charles, or more lovingly, Chuck, lack the basic human appreciation for their property, and worse, for life. Out of sheer boredom Chuck is going to set the cat on fire and Lucy is sanding away at her doll; not the usual scenes from a playroom.
More mischief is portrayed in the following stanza as "The young ones pour more ink into the water / Through which the latest goldfish gamely swims" (Lines 5, 6). Here the reference to the "young ones" is most likely referring to the younger siblings of Lucy and Charles. Them pouring more ink into the water just reiterates the fact that their temperaments don't stray too far from those of their older siblings. The words "more" in line 5 and "the latest" in line 6 imply that this isn't the first time that a goldfish has died from dye in this playroom. The description of the goldfish's "gamely" swimming in line 6 gives the impression that it is being hunted as game would be. The last two lines in the second stanza go back to the picture of Lucy playing with her dolls: "Laughing, pointing at naked, neutered Father. / The toy chest is a Buchenwald of limbs" (Lines 7, 8). It is interesting to note the author's reference to Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp during World War II at which over eighty thousand people were murdered, in comparison to the children's toy chest; this reference emphasizes even more the malice of the children. This middle stanza makes clear again the author's point that something terribly wrong is going on in this playroom and in this family.
The third and final stanza is where the reader will more readily realize, through the descriptions and allusions made to the parents, that this is not your average family; it is in this stanza that the true message of the poem begins to come together and make sense. "Mother is so lovely; Father is so late" (Line 9) is the opening line of this stanza. The capitalization of Mother and Father, which in this line are referring to the parents of the children, are curiously similar to the capitalization of the "[disfigured] Mother" doll and the "neutered Father" doll that are mentioned in the two previous stanzas. That first line also gives the reader a picture of the pampered mother and the father who is always at the office. The line that follows reiterates the affluence of this family by mention of the cook being off and implying that Mother must prepare dinner. One would think that crazy children like these would drive any mother mad, but not this Mother, for "onions [are] her only cause for tears" (Line 11). There is definitely some chaos with this Mother as shown in line 12: "She hacks the red meat from the slippery bone." The author's word-choice is very crucial to the interpretation of this line, for had he said the Mother "slices the red meat" or she "cuts the red meat" the reader would have thought nothing of it, but the use of the word "hacks" to describe the mother's actions implies a hidden and understated anger or tension which the mother maintains. The author wraps up the poem with: "Setting the table, where the children wait, / Her grinning babies, clean behind the ear" (Lines 13, 14). These two lines tell the reader that Mother doesn't care what her children do as long as they seem behaved and decent on the surface. In this stanza, the connection between the chaotic children and their relationship with their parents is made evident and the reader is left with the impression that it is just that relationship, or lack there of, that is the cause of the chaos in the first place.
The last two lines in stanza three basically summarize the main point of the poem, which is as long as a short, nice scene and not the entire wicked picture is shown, the parents will care not what their children do; as long as everything seems fine on the surface, Mother and Father will be happy. This poem is just a glimpse, just a scene, of the life of this family.
Article name: Explication Of Scenes From The Playroom by R.S. Gwynn essay, research paper, dissertation