Analysis of the poem: “My Thatched Roof Is Ruined by the Autumn Wind”
In “My Thatched Roof Is Ruined by the Autumn Wind”, Tu Fu (also called Du Fu) attempts to depict the impact of rough and destructive nature on the poor in a sympathetic tone. In doing so, he starts with a detailed portrayal of the damage done to the roof of the speaker’s house following boisterous “autumn” “wind”. Then the poem’s tone gowns further as the speaker admits his helplessness facing children’s mockery and plunder. And as he goes into his home seeing his son sleeping under a leaking roof, the speaker’s sorrow becomes deeper. Thus, he ends the poem praying for a shelter not only for him and his son, but also for “the poorest gentlemen of all this world”.
The poet relies on the immensity of nature in conveying the poem’s message. The first two lines of the poem describe autumn weather which is characterized by strong wind. The poet does not just specify the season which is “autumn”, he also specifies the month “September”. This specificity gives a realistic dimension to the poem. In addition, there is an emphasis on the superiority and greatness of natural elements from the very beginning: “high skies”, “the wind cried out in rage”. The personification of “the wind” is meant to highlight its power; a power that is contrasted with the speaker’s old house that can collapse at any time. The other natural element used later in the poem is rain which causes more distress by soaking the speaker’s home.
The image of the violent wind destroying a poor man’s roof could also denote war. Hence, it could stand for the “devastating rebellion” that caused homelessness and poverty to many Chinese people ("An Lushan Rebellion"). Such stormy wind extirpated not only the speaker’s roof, but also children’s morality. In fact, Tu Fu shows “how relationships between people are extremely important, with the underlying theme being respect” (Kat Clark). This “underlying theme” is represented through the emphasis on the behavior of children; a behavior that shows disrespect and incivility. This is emphasized through some poetic techniques and expressions. One of the techniques used here is enjambment which adds meaning to the content of the poem. Enjambment is found in different instances through the poem, but it is most remarkable in the eight lines when the poet comments on children’s misbehavior. These lines run with only one full-stop. In addition, the poet resorts to the expressions “made a fool of me”, “without compunction”, “before my very eyes” and “brazenly” to further describe the speaker’s shock, disappointment, and disdain towards these children’s attitude.
On the other hand, in the last part of the poem there is a shift in atmosphere from noise and wind to calm and rain. Rain symbolizes wretchedness, death, disability and sickness that any rebellion leaves behind. Maybe the most fascinating and emotional instance in the poem is when the speaker starts praying. What is touching about his prayer is the amount of sorrow, pain and grief expressed through the repetition of the exclamation “oh” twice. The content of the prayer is, however, even deeper as the speaker does not just feel pity for himself, but he thinks about the other poor and wretched.
Ultimately, this poem attempts to convey a humanitarian message that calls for the need for the awareness of the existence and suffering of the other. As such, it depicts Fu’s socialist approach and concern.
"An Lushan Rebellion." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.
Kat Clark, Brain Croxall. “20091029-11 Tu Fu and Li Po (Group 4).” PBWORKS. 11. Prof. Croxall’s wiki, 11 Sep. 2009. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.