Again, the link below is an excellent place to start. There is lots of information on context and some of the most important ideas in the poem.
For a more detailed exploration and guidance on some of these points, read on.
Analysing the title
The phrase used for this title is a shortened version of the saying ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. Perhaps the meaning here is as simple as the man acted early and thus made his fortune; however, we should consider the abbreviation of this phrase. Sheers has chosen to miss of the first word and the last two. This might suggest a lack of patience or forethought. Also, might there be a suggestion that the man in the poem has missed out on important parts of his life in his hurry to build wealth. Considering Sheers’ views on the importance of human relationships, this might be interpreted as a critical error on his part.
Consider the collection ‘Skirrid Hill’
- How does Sheers present the importance of human relationships in his other poems?
- Does Sheers present the man in this poem as valuing these?
- Is his viewpoint critical, empathetic or neither? Use analysis to support your view.
The man in this poem leaves his wife ’15 years old’ in order to accrue wealth. While this could be perceived as a gesture of love – he ‘thinks of his wife, his wife’, suggesting her omnipresence in his thoughts – it could also be seen as a lack of care. At 15 years old, the reader would perceive her as vulnerable. Furthermore the ‘ten years’ of separation may well be seen as excessive.
- What other evidence can you see in the poem that this man does not value the human relationships he has? Do you agree that this is the case?
- Does Sheers represent this negatively, positively or neither? Why do you think this is?
- Is it relevant that ‘he brought her’ back after ten years? Analyse the use of language to inform your interpretation.
- How far might a feminist approach be relevant here? Although a little colloquial in its style, this link will help develop your ideas: http://www.shmoop.com/feminist-theory/
- How far could we apply feminist theory to our analysis of Skirrid Hill?
Marxism and representations of wealth
Location is important here in considering the concept of capitalism: that is the domination of the wealthy capitalist west crossing the Meridian line and spreading.
We first see a society which is not monetised: while political power and wealth are evidently linked through the ‘chief’ and his ‘bespoke suit’, wealth is not necessarily linked to money. Rather an acre of land is used as payment. This might suggest a more innocent economic environment; conversely it may demonstrate man’s domination and exploitation of nature for his own ends in all societies.
It is perhaps important to note that Sheers depicts the man’s artistry through the simile ‘like a musician’ and his skill as, ‘cutter, coatmaker, finisher’. However, once wealthy he is described as ‘stiff as his oldest scissors’. It would appear that in his quest for wealth, he has abandoned the skills which he had to begin with. However, I’m not sure that this artistry might be considered his starting point.
At the end of the poem the man is described as going to London, metaphorically described as the ‘source’. London, a symbol of capitalism, wealth and power, might suggest that he was always motivated by these things. Indeed, his acquisition of land in itself would not have led to the abandonment of his craft for ownership; this must have come from ambition. While the tourists discussed might symbolise the encroachment of the wests’ capitalism on the east, his trip to London ‘where it all started’ suggests his own ambition was a driving force.
Consider the rest of the poem
- How does Sheers present the wealth the man has accrued?
- How far do you think a Marxist interpretation is relevant here?
Life cycles and separations
As with many of the poems, ‘Stitch in Time’ starts with an ending, opening with the words ‘And so he left his wife’. The words ‘And so’ suggest that this was a natural and inevitable step. Furthermore, we are told that he went ‘back…once more’. Again, creating the impression that this is a cycle of events which has happened before and will probably happen again. Interestingly, the poem closes with his ‘first morning’ in London; thus, finishing with what might be perceived as a new start, despite the age suggested by his ‘stiff joints’. Sheers repeatedly uses the idea of cycles throughout the collection.
- Why do you think this theme is relevant here?
- Why do you think this poem is relevant to the collection as a whole?