Have we ever wondered where we have lost our childhood? Markus Natten, the Norwegian poet, has the same question. He believes that he has lost the innocence and purity of his childhood to some unknown and unforgettable place. Through his poem “Childhood,” the readers are confronted with a question as to when and where we have lost our childhood. The answers lead to self-discovery.
The poet is curious to know when he lost his childhood. He tries to find out the answer of his own question. He feels it was perhaps that day when he discovered the theories of Heaven and Hell and that Geography did not provide him any information about the existence of such a place. Education has made the poet look at the world differently, with more reason and logic. The poet feels that he had probably lost his childhood when he had acquired rational thinking towards his surroundings.
In this stanza, the poet figures out that the adults around him did not practice what they usually preached. They taught others to be loving and caring when they themselves were violent and mean. This is when the child lost his trust and faith in the adults. The poet realizes that probably the loss of faith and trust might have been the major steps towards losing his childhood.
The poet, while growing up, realizes that his mind is powerful and it takes its own decisions. His own opinions and thoughts have earned him individuality, free from the biased notions of others. This is when he thinks that his individuality and experiences have taken away his childhood from him.
Finally, in the ending stanza of the poem “Childhood,” the poet changes his question from ‘when’ to ‘where’ he has lost his childhood. The answer is an easy one. Markus Natten says that his childhood has gone hiding in some forgotten place. It can be found in an infant’s face. The last lines can be interpreted as that childhood is a lost memory. We recall the fantasies and the moments associated with it, but at the same time, the innocence and childhood are irrevocably lost.
The poem “Childhood” focuses on the theme of the loss of innocence. Markus Natten, the poet, wonders when and where he lost his childhood. He ponders over this question and highlights the loss of innocence and faith in the quest of growing up. Adolescence or childhood is a puzzling time when a child is unable to settle with the physical, psychological, and other changes in his personality. He becomes a ‘young adult’; he neither wants to call himself a child nor is he completely an adult. He finally finds his answers that he lost his childhood to some forgotten place and that his childhood has become a memory.
The repetition of the lines, usually at the end or the beginning of the poem, is called the ‘refrain.’ Refrains carry the central message of the poem. Here, the lines “When did my childhood go?” and “was that day” are examples of refrain. The first refrain is the central theme of the poem as to when the poet lost his childhood, while the second refrain ends with an exclamation which brings out the poet’s realization.
Questions for self-practice:
1. What is the poet trying to discover in the poem ‘Childhood’? What significant occasions has he mentioned?
2. What did the poet notice about his mind? How important was this discovery?
3. Where can the poet find his childhood?
4. Identify the stanzas that talk of the following:
Suggested Reading: Summary of Childhood by Markus Natten in Hindi
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Updated by Anjali Roongta on 29th April 2023.
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