Little Boy Crying by Mervyn Morris (An Analysis) (2024)

Little Boy Crying by Mervyn Morris (An Analysis) (1)

An Analysis of Mervyn Morris' 'Little Boy Crying'


Mervyn Morris' poem highlights thedifferent reactions to punishment from the perspectives of a father and his son.The little boy believes his father is heartless for slapping him but the fathermaintains that the child is deserving of the slap because it will teach him avaluable lesson which will lessen the chance of him repeating his actions.

Stanza 1 – The child is crying after being slapped. Before, he waslaughing and relaxed but he now has “swimming tears” in his eyes. His mouth istwisted and he is howling his disapproval. The child hates being slapped andwants his father to express an apology or show signs of guilt. The stanza sayshe is “angling for a moment’s hint” of guilt or regret from his father.

Literary device – The stanza uses contrast to show the changes inthe little boy’s body language before and after the slap. For example, beforebeing slapped he was laughing but it changed to howling.

Stanza 2 - This stanza captures the little boy’s resentment ingreater detail. He perceives his father as being quite cruel and uses harshwords to describe his father. He wishes harm upon his father in retribution forthe slap. He uses words such as “ogre”, “giant”, “colossal and “cruel” to paintthe picture of an awful person. He wants to portray the father as being a veryheartless person who has hit him unreasonably. He uses the concept of size toevoke a sympathetic response from the reader. A word such as “towers” is usedto get the reader to conclude that the father is indeed heartless to inflictsuch a harsh punishment on a little boy when he (the father) is so much bigger.

Literary devices – The stanza uses an allusion to Jack and theBeanstalk. The father in the poem is compared to the giant in that fairy tale. Metaphor is also used when the father is referred to as an ogre and a 'grim giant'.

Stanza 3 – In this stanza the reader sees where there is aninternal struggle within the father. The father is not actually “empty offeeling” but has a “wavering hidden behind’” a mask. The little boy’s tearsscald him and he wants to comfort him by either giving him “piggy-back” or“bull-fight”. The father really wants to give ease to his son but he does not want to spoil the lesson he needs to learn. He should accept that actionscome with their consequences and he must deal with them.

Literary devicesmetaphor(easy tears can scald him with), irony (The little boy thinks his father is unfeeling but here it is clear that he is struggles between wanting to comfort his son and ensuring that he disciplines him.)

Stanza 4 – The poem endswith a line that can be interpreted on two levels. It says, “You should notmake a plaything of the rain”. On one hand, it can be referring to literal rainthat the son should avoid; and on the other hand, it can have symbolicsignificance and represent tears which the little boy uses for manipulation.Either way, the rain should be avoided and, by refraining from offeringcomfort, the father seeks to reinforce this.

Literary devicesymbolism(rain)

Additional literary devices in the poem: imagery (visual and auditory)

Themes: childhood experiences, love and family relationships, therole of parents

Tone: angry, resentful,resolute/unyielding


  1. Who are the characters involved in the poem?
  2. What has happened in the poem?
  3. How does the little boy react to his father’s action?
  4. What are some thoughts the little boy has towards his father?
  5. How does the father feel and what does this reveal?
  6. What TWO examples of contrast exist in the poem?
  7. How are literary devices used in the poem to convey meaning?
  8. What themes does the poem explore?

Follow this link: an analysis of the poem 'My Parents' by Stephen Spender.


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Little Boy Crying by Mervyn Morris (An Analysis) (2024)
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