OUTPACE Uncategorized A Critical Appreciation of THE COLD WITHIN ICSE CLASS IX AND X ENGLISH


Author -James Patrick Kinney
An Appreciation

James Patrick Kenney, the author of the poem, the man who warmed ‘The Cold Within’ was an exceptionally talented Irish American poet, born on March 16,1923, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The poem,’ The Cold Within ‘was penned during the Afro American Civil Rights Movement. The poet was outraged by the discriminative attitudes and divisive thoughts lying dormant in people’s psyche. The poem has, therefore a universal appeal with its compelling messages. He wielded his pen against all sorts of racial prejudices, ethnicity, altruism, arrogance, and selfishness.

This alarmingly wonderful poetic parable is an eye opener forcing everyone to introspect. The theme of this simple narrative poem is the death of humaneness, feelings, values, morals, that warm up a human being’s mind. With an eight-line quatrain lining abcb rhyme, this short poem would never dilute the message, he wanted to transact. No meandering metaphors adorn this verse. The language is simple and direct. A deft touch of poetic devices like alliteration, personification, symbols, images, etc. makes this poem a compelling read.

James Patrick Kennedy, the poet speaks as if in a tale. Six men were trapped in a happenstance. They were under the grip of severe and extremely hostile weather which mercilessly has dropped insufficiently low. Each of the humans has a single stick to hold on. The fire, they were standing in front of was mercilessly dying out. And every one of them clearly gauged that the fire needs to be replenished with more of wood. The fire symbolizes common good as it burns for others and the logs that they have in their hands are the resources, skills, qualities to restore something that is going to extinct. But the irony is that they weren’t ready to become one with each other to fight a common enemy. Death is personified and the minds of the six humans were thus designed that they wouldn’t go against their wish. The adamant and obstinate eventually succumb to death and they died because they are already dead in their minds.

No genuine emotions house their minds. It was said that they died not of the unfriendly weather outside but because of the prejudices, selfishness, divisiveness, and lack of genuine passions they fermented inside their minds that led to their miserable death.

The first one was not ready to give up her log because she was a racist and spotted a black man from among their group. She believed that she wouldn’t save someone who is not as privileged as herself.

The second one holds his stick back and realizes that one of those six doesn’t share the same faith he practices. He was orthodox and prejudiced.

The third one, who was seen in tattered clothes, was a real zealous and stupid man. He couldn’t spare his stick for the sake of those lazy rich people who were often indolent.

The next one was a rich man who comfortably, sat back and was busy pondering how to save his money from the poor. He saw the final fight of the flames and still wasn’t ready to feed it.

The fifth man was black by birth. He wore revenge on his face. He knows for sure that his stick could be used as a weapon to show his spite to the white. He never wanted to leave any chance to protest against the white even at the cost of his life. He withdrew his stick from the starving fire.

The last man would only do something if gets anything back in return. He muses on profit and gains and could find no gain in poking his stick into the dying embers. He was cunningly calculative.

Each of their sticks remained frozen in the hands of death. It was nothing short of carnal sin. They died not because of the frozen cold outside. They died because of the lack of warmth in their minds. The underlying values such as compassion, altruism, empathy, tolerance and social conscience were deplorably lacking in.

A timely use of poetic techniques makes the poem unique. Irony, alliteration, symbols, personification, images add charm to this short poem. No zigzag mountainous metaphors block the true appreciation of this poem. 

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