Compare and Contrast: “Autobiography in Late Middle Age” and “Picnic, Lightning”

The tone in the poem “Picnic, Lightning” by Billy Collins changes from a seeming lightness to helplessness, and eventually to a sincere ponder as the speaker wonders the volatility of death and life. Conversely, “Autobiography in Late Middle Age” by Zulfikar Ghose is a piece of work, which is experimental in theme and form, and has a tone that is infused with magic-realism, realism, and metaphysical reality Kanaganayakam 34.

The variation in tone signals the realization of the speaker that life has to be enjoyed as it lasts. In the foremost stanza, Collins provides instances of freak accidents, which people may die from, like being struck by a single-engine plane while studying in a chair. This specific situation sounds very preposterous and improbable that the readers cannot aid but laugh (Collins 45). The relaxed tone draws the readers in, creating non-threatening atmospheres. Most people view death like something, which could not probably just happen unexpectedly to them. Nevertheless, Collins then continues to describe an actual account of a female struck by lightning while on a picnic.

The accident sounds mere as improbable, yet the readers understand it has really happened. Shifting into the subsequent stanza, Collins recognizes how heart attacks may just be unpredicted. He refers to death, as “a tiny dark ship is unmoored…” At this point, the poem has lost its previous flippancy regarding death (Collins and Henry 67). There is a fearful and dark feeling of helplessness in his death description silently overtaking the body.

On the other hand, Ghose’s piece of work frequently uses strategies to compel readers to reassess the basis of the text. The poem frequently challenges readers to appreciate that language and storyline are ancillary to a piece of art and are just tools Ghose manipulates in conveying his message (Kanaganayakam 76). Often, the poem expresses a view of a culturally isolated person and relates not just to his individual sense of dislocation from his home, but suggests a broader reaction to life during a post-colonial community.


Work Cited
Collins, Billy. Picnic, Lightning. , 2011. Print.
Collins, Billy, and Henry Taylor. Billy Collins with Henry Taylor, Conversation, 26 September 2001. Santa Fe, NM: Lannan Foundation, 2013. Internet resource.
Kanaganayakam, C. Structures of Negation: The Writings of Zulfikar Ghose. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Print.