Discoveries memories whilst discovering his parent’s differences; in

Discoveries motivated by need, wonder or curiosity may
entail a sense of values and places in which an individual may reject or accept
as they come to new perception of the broader society. Robert Gray’s poems
explores the transformative concept of discovery in ‘Diptych’ where the persona
recollects on anecdotal memories whilst discovering his parent’s differences;
in juxtaposition to both “Meatworks” and “Flames and Dangling Wire” which centers
more towards the persona’s skeptical discovery of the devastating effects of
consumerism. We see in all three of these poems that discovery can only take
place when our curiosity challenges us whether it be for the better or worse.


In Gray’s poem ‘Diptych’ elements of
the persona’s family life are embedded throughout; from when he was a child to
a time after his father’s death. The poem begins in a conversational,
colloquial tone as it reflects the life of the family that is bounded by their
relationship but separated by nature. The persona’s reminiscence of his mother
leads to the discovery of her inner resilience. The persona not only discovers
his parent’s differing qualities but a duality of character within the mother,
who is both calm and distraught. The customary practice of waiting has become
the memory instilled within the persona “one night, as would always happen,”
she’d stay awake concerned about him “in this state”. Her euphemism for her
drunk husband demonstrates how distraught and stress she is as she hides the truth
from herself and her son. Gray clearly demonstrates the two faced personality
traits of the persona’s mother as she switches as needed in response to “what
needed to be done”.  The bull incident recounted
by the persona is prefaced by the poet’s emphasis on how his mother “never
ceased…from extending care” despite being at times “dammed impossible through a
few meal times”. Such statements evokes her ability to remain compassionate and
kind while having to deal with the pressures of having a drunken and unreliable
husband. Her actions to “care” can be shown visually when she “drives out the
neighbour’s bull…when she saw it trample on her seedlings”. Her actions
clearly amazes the persona at the time; being just a five year old boy.
Although his adult voice is confused on why she took such risks to fend the
bull off.  Therefore, initial curiosity of
his mother’s love may inspire the transformative discovery the persona makes
when reflecting on the flaws of his family. (Initial curiosity may
inspire transformative discoveries)


However, when motivated by curiosity and wonder values that
have been lost within society made can be confronting and challenging. For instance
in Gray’s poem, The Meatworks the persona questions the society’s
acceptance of the horrible process of a slaughterhouse by revealing the ethical
consequences of human greed on animals. We constantly get reminded throughout
that the process of turning live animals in packages that get ripped open for
dinner involves a set of steps that aren’t particularly pleasant. The persona;
being new to this kind of work seems completely shocked and confused with all
the different sounds, smells and sights of the new working environment. For
example “concrete gutters” are personified to seemingly “crawl off”
demonstrating the confronting images of the blood draining from the meat in a
flow; which reinforces the brutal, secret-like practice. It is this horrid
setting that facilitates the persona’s chain of new discoveries made upon the
so-call “normal” practices in manufacturing. For reasons like this, the persona
opts for the “lowest paying job” which also appears to be the job “furthest”
away from the “killing”. The symbolic distancing suggests that the speaker
attempts to maintain his own values and morals in the face of the oppressing
societal expectations of employment and money gain. Although the job itself is
no less repugnant than the actual “killing”. The poem comes to a pause towards
the end of the poem. The persona leaves for work “on the shining, white,
bruising beach”. The shift in tone and mood reveals the clear contrast between new
environments the persona was situated in earlier. In the last few lines of the
poem, the persona reflects on the feelings he had felt at the time. Even when
knowing how morally wrong the job is, leaving is not an option as it pays well “in
frail green money”. This confronting experience perfectly illustrates how an individual’s
perception in life can be changed by a chain of discoveries driven by the force
of uncovering the unknown.