Analysis and themes of the panic of growing older

Critical Analysis of The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters


The Poem The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

Summary of The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

Settings The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

Analysis of Each line of the poem The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

Themes of The Panic of Growing Older

Structure of The Panic of Growing Older

About the Poet

The Poem The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

The panic
of growing older
spreads fluttering winds
from year to year
At twenty
stilled by hope
of gigantic success
time and exploration
At thirty
a sudden throb of
pain. Laboratory tests
have nothing to show
Legs cribbed
in domesticity allow
no sudden leaps
at the noon now
Copybook bisected
with red ink
and failures-
nothing to show the world
Three children perhaps
the world expects
it of you. No
specialist’s effort there.
But science gives hope
of twice three score
and ten. Hope
is not a grain of sand.
Inner satisfaction
dwindles in sharp
blades of expectation.
From now on the world has you.

Summary of The Panic of Growing Older by Lanrie Peters

The poem is a record of what may happen to a human being as soon as he/she observes the world. Such an individual engages the word at his or her youthfulness as the year tick away like clock there is a growing awareness that one “from year to year” is growing older Lenrie Peters, took age 20 upwards as his case-study to show how the events of adulthood unfold. He revealed that a person begins adulthood with beautiful hopes: “at twenty stilled by hope of gigantic success and exploration”. Ten years later, one has gained the achievement of raising a family, one becomes unnecessarily busy in domesticity that won’t give room of seeing the moon, one begins to suffer emotional pains due to inability to achieve expected goals. He put it this way: “Copybook bisected with red ink and failuresq-nothing to show the world”. He further explained that the scientific prove of life longevity is uncertain because “hope is not a grain of sand” since human being can die at anytime.

Settings of The Panic of Growing Older

The setting of the poem is a stretch of human life, stating from one’s teen years to later life. As one ages, one wonders what is in stock for one. Thus, the setting could be said to be the various stages of existence, imbued with going into the future with expectation and of the actual old age which may not be as one had thought at the beginning. As the poem is about the end, the initial aspiration has no corresponding sense of self-satisfaction. Moreover, one is now enfeebled by age such that “the world has you.

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Analysis of Lines 1-4 of The Panic of Growing Older

Fear envelopes the growing person. As the years roll by the panic of realizing the purpose of one’s existence may “spread” over the individual. The word “panic” is appropriate since with age comes the trepidation of the coming responsibility associated with adulthood.

Analysis of Lines 5-8 of The Panic of Growing Older

The individual is twenty or thereabout. There is so much optimism, so much hope, hope of “gigantic success.” It is a period when one has lots of time to oneself It is also a period of experimentation and exploration.

Analysis of Lines 9-12 of The Panic of Growing Older

One has reached thirty years or so. Were there to be a pain on any part of the body, no laboratory test would reveal it since the body is still strong and healthy.

Analysis of Lines 13- 16 of The Panic of Growing Older

At the age of thirty and a little after girls may have married. The same is with the boys to a large extent.
age and social constraint and expectation may have set in. No more gallivanting, and no excitable
at the moon now.” Even if one were not married, one is no more expected to engage in the games of teenagers and early adults.

Analysis of Lines 17-24 of The Panic of Growing Older

At this stage, life has turned into
a “copybook bisected/with red ink.” Life is like a sheet of paper divided into two one side filled with successes and the other side filled with failures. In the case of our protagonist, the person he is assessing is a failure with “nothing to show the world.” What he has to show may simply be “three children”, whose procreation requires no “specialist’s effort” to achieve.

Analysis of Lines 25-28 of The Panic of Growing Older

Although science leaves man with the hope that the normal three score years and ten God promised human beings may be doubled, it is only a mere hope and no more. The reason is that “hope is not a grain of sand.” That is, hope is neither tangible nor can it be felt.

Analysis of Lines 29-32 of The Panic of Growing Older

This is the last stage of a person’s existence. “Inner satisfaction” may not have been realized since it would have been shattered by the revolving “blades of expectation” set up at the beginning. At the point of old age, weakness sets in, one having been defeated by the world.

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Themes of the Poem The Panic of Growing Older by Lenrie Peters

The themes of Mortality The Panic of Growing Older

The poem is primarily centred on the mortality of human existence. We are born, we move about clothed in our various ambitions, quite buoyant and vibrant. Then, we step into a sober life of domesticity followed by a period of self-evaluation of where we may have done well and where we had performed badly. Our share of age is 70 although science promises “twice three score and ten.” But this is only a promise, nothing to hold on to as it has not yet materialized.

2.The Theme of The twist in human fate The Panic of Growing Older

Life is full of expectations. Man creates for himself these expectations. Life starts with strength and activities and ends with closetness/domesticity and a plummeting sense of satisfaction. Age comes with lots of hope, of what is to be achieved. One leaps up and down in an effort to achieve these hopes. But age is a period of self-assessment which may not be fully satisfying. Age comes as a contrast between optimism and the practical outcome which may not be as had been anticipated. In this way, life may after all be a movement from activity to docility, from high hopes to be realized to ordinariness

3.The Theme of Anxiety associated with ageing in The Panic of Growing Older

The “panic” having to do with growing old is tied to what one had set out to achieve and the reality of one having spent or about to consummate one’s span of existence. Although there are people who had come into this world achieving so much for themselves and for humanity, the poet’s persona is a failure, and so the lots of much of humanity. It is about such people that the poet formulated his poem Thus the poet writes “on the average” what happens in human existence. In other words, the initial excitement in youthfulness does not often last into old age.

4. The the of Man engages the world as in a contest in The Panic of Growing Older

In the poem, it is as ifhumans are engaged in a contest of will with the world or with life. Youthfulness is imbued with lots oflife and energy. However, with age this energy dissipates with little or noachievement to credit to life itself. What man achieves is no more than what does not require a specialist’s effort to achieve. Thus, it is as if man sets out to conquer the world but has himself been conquered by the
world: “From now on the world has you.”

Structure of The Panic of Growing Older

The poem has a total of thirty-two lines. It has eight stanzas of four lines each. The first stanza bears the title which although is in four lines is essentially a sentence; it also announces what the poet has in mind, namely the anxiety of ageing. The structure can be squeezed into three compartments namely the anxiety of ageing, what happens during the process of ageing and the feeling one has upon arriving at the appointed date of “three score and ten.” Stanza 7 seems to have been used to announce the fact that longevity is still far-fetched since achieving “twice three scoreland ten” is only a matter of hope and conjecture.

About the Poet
Lenrie Peters (1932-2009 wrote the poem The Panic of Growing Older. He was a Gambian writer, poet, singer, broadcaster and surgeon. He studied in Gambia, Sierra Leone and England. He published his collection of poems titled Satellites in 1967. Though renowned for his poems, he has a novel to his credit titled The Second Round. In The Panic of Growing Older, the poet brought to bear his medical background as he described the physiological and psychological process of aging.
Dr Lenrie Peters was born in 1932 in Bathurst (The Gambia). In 1956 he graduated with a     B Sc. from the Trinity College of Cambridge. He worked with the University College Hospital of London 1956 to 1959.
In 1959, he received a Medical and Surgery diploma from Cambridge. He holds a Master’s degree in Arts. From 1954 to 1955 he was the president of African Students’ Society of Cambridge. He worked as journalist of African programs with the BBC from 1955 to 1968. He was the president of the Historic Commission of Monuments of the Gambia and President of FESTAC community in 1977. Mr Peters was the President of the board of directors of the National library of the Gambia and Gambia College from 1979 to1987.
He was a member and President of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) from 1985 to 1991. He was a member of the jury for the Literary prize of the Commonwealth in 1995 and passed away on 27 May 2009 in Dakar after a brief illness.

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