The Uncle Speaks In The Drawing
• The poem is written from the uncle’s point of view (“I
• The uncle is not named and no relationship is
established with the poet.
• Referring to “the uncle” instead of “my uncle” adds an
impersonal tone to the poem
• A drawing room is an elegant and richly decorated room.
• The drawing room suggests a sense of privilege and
• There is a contrast established in the poem between the
world of the drawing room and the world outside.
• The uncle speaks his mind and the poem uses his words
to give us an insight into his mentality.
• The topic of the uncle’s speech is public unrest.
“I have seen the mob of late”
“Gazing with a sullen stare
At window, balcony and gate”
“Some have held and fingered
• The poem begins with a vision of the “mob”.
• Calling the people in the square a “mob” suggests the
contempt and the fear the uncle has.
• The phrase “of late” suggests that the unrest is recent and
• Calling the crowd “sullen” alerts us to the grievances they
• That the mob is in the square puts them in a public space in
contrast to the private drawing room of the title.
• Their sullen nature is directed at the symbols of social
superiority – window, balcony and gate.
• Their unhappiness is signified by the use of the word “bitter”.
• The potential for violence is indicated by the stones.
• The uncle is aware of the mood of the “mob” and of the
danger he and his class may face.
• We are not told what grievance the crowd outside the window
• Their grievance is clearly based on the social order depicted
in the poem.
“These are follies that subside”
• fol·ly (f l )
n. pl. fol·lies
1. A lack of good sense, understanding, or
2. An act or instance of foolishness: he
regretted the follies of his youth.
“Lead in times like these to fear
For crystal vase and chandelier”
• This uncle sees the protest as a folly.
• Calling it a folly shows his contempt for the crowd outside his
• He is confident the protest will subside.
• However, he is aware that he has justifiable fears of what may
• His suggestion that the protest will subside suggests that he
has, on other occasions, witnessed events like those he is
• Mentioning “times like these” suggest that the protest is part
of a wider manifestation of social unrest.
• The uncle’s primary concern is not for human life or human
well-being; he is worried about valuable objects.
• These valuable objects – “crystal vase and chandelier” –
symbolise the uncle’s world of wealth and privilege,
• The “frailties of glass” are also the frailties of the uncle’s social
“Not that missiles will be cast”
“To see his antique ruby bowl
Shivered in a thunder-roll”
• The uncle believes that the threat posed by the
“mob” is not serious.
• He is confident that his social order will
withstand any protest against it.
• He is, perhaps, trying to reassure those to whom
he is speaking in the drawing room.
• He suggests that those protesting lack the
courage of their convictions.
• This reinforces his contempt for the protesters.
• However, he is aware that there is a historical
precedent for violence from a “mob”.
• The storm mentioned is a political storm.
• Invoking a “grandsire” is establishing a class and
a social connection with privilege.
• This shows the continuity of injustice and
• The images of glass from the previous stanza
are added to with the image of the “ruby bowl.”
• The “storm” and the “thunder-roll” are
metaphoric images of political violence.
• Using the word “shivered” rather than
“shattered” suggests that the bowl, like the social
class, withstood the rebellion.
• The social class, like the bowl, is antique.
“We stand between the dead glass-blowers
And murmurings of missile-throwers”
• This symbolic image of glass re-appears in this stanza.
• The word “only” suggests the uncle wants his listeners to
focus on one central matter – their heritage which is
represented by glass.
• The listeners are asked to consider the role of “our kind”
in sustaining their values and their “treasure”.
• The phrase “our kind” is to distinguish those in the
drawing room from the “mob”,
• The uncle recognises that his situation is less “calm”
than those of his forefathers. That is one reason for his
speech in the drawing room.
• The uncle suggests that the “glass-blowers” belonged to
a more civilised society which is now under threat from
• The “stones” at the end of the first stanza have become
“missiles” at the end of the last stanza.
Key points to consider
• There are four stanzas in the poem all of similar length
• There is a regular rhyme scheme in the poem (abbacc).
• The assertive rhythm is guided by the seven- syllable
lines in each stanza.
• The uncle looks down on the crowd both literally and
• His tone is one of arrogant superiority.
• The poem establishes through its language and,
particularly through its tone, the arrogance of the uncle
and his class.
• Phrases such as “our grandsire” and “in the keeping of
our kind” indicate the uncle’s sense of social privilege.
• The uncle has no sympathy for the “mob” or for any
grievances against him and his class that they may
• The poem can be read as an illustration of class conflict.
• The poem is ultimately political in its expression of
privilege, wealth, power and inequality.
• All these issues are expressed from the uncle’s point of
• The ultimate irony of the poem is the uncle’s
incomprehension of the issues he is describing.
• There is a contrast between the basic weapons
mentioned at the end of the first stanza (fingered stones)
and the symbols of privilege mentioned at the end of the
second stanza (crystal vase and chandelier).
• The uncle believes totally in the power and wealth he
• The image of the “missile-throwers” at the end of the
poem is an ominous foreshadowing of the global social
unrest of the late twentieth century.
• The poem depicts the contemptuous arrogance of the
rich and privileged in society.
Questions to assess your
1. What is the mood of the mob in the square outside the Uncle’s house?
Refer to the poem in your answer.
2. Describe the type of house the uncle lives in. Refer to the poem in your
3. What is your impression of the uncle?
4. What does the Uncle feel he must protect, and from whom, according to
the final two lines of the poem.
5. How are the mob abd the storm similar in the poem? What qualities might
they have in common? Look carefully at the language describing each.
6. What, do you think, are the main symbols in the poem and what might
they be symbolic of?
7. Which one of the following statement best applies to the poem? Explain your
- The poem is about wealth and privilege
- The poem highlights class division
- The poem is about protecting one’s heritage.