‘The Cockroach’ by Kevin Halligan is a poem about reflection on life through watching the movement of a cockroach. Through the use of structure, detailed description of cockroach as an extended metaphor of the persona, the theme of confusion and realization of life is well conveyed. Halligan describes a frantic movement of the cockroach throughout the poem. The title foreshadows and reveals that the poem is about a small and trifle insect- a cockroach. However, the poem opens with the exaggeration of it ‘a giant cockroach’.
This highlights that he is observing it very closely feeling as if it is a ‘giant’. The word ‘giant’ also conveys that it is not only an insect but also a device to reflect on life giving it great importance with the repetition of word ‘cockroach’ in the title and first line. The movement of the cockroach is closely described. Analyse the poem: What is the overall message of the poem? What is the poem about? I would start at the end (the last line) myself. What do you think the author means when he says he recognises himself in the movements of the cockroach?
Try to analyse the way the narrator (the “I” in the poem) is speaking. Imagine for example you’re sitting next to each other, and he is telling you this. What effect does it all have on you, the reader? When you read the descriptions of the cockroach, do any of them sound like metaphors for something that a human being might do? What? The poem’s rhythm may be understood by counting the number of syllables in each line (metre). Describe the rhyme scheme used. How do rhythm and rhyme contribute to its overall tone and meaning?