About the poet: Robin Klein is an Australian children’s writer. She was born in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1936. Before becoming a writer, she had several different jobs, such as working as a nurse, at a bookstore, and as a teaching aide at a school for the disadvantaged. Her writing often features young protagonists who rebel against their structured environment.
Klein’s first book, The Giraffe in Pepperell Street, was published in 1978. Her works range from picture books such as Thing to the series of stories featuring the ten-year-old Penny Pollard, to young-adult novels such as People Might Hear You, Games, and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly. A unique feature of Klein’s “Penny Pollard” books is their use of diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and other print materials to tell Penny’s stories. In addition to her many novels and picture books, Klein has also written a three-book series of historical novels that draws on her memories of growing up in the 1940s.
Setting of the poem:
This poem is set in 4 different settings. The 1st setting is that of the real world, in which Amanda’s mother is forever trying to correct her posture or her behaviour. On the other hand, the other 3 settings are fanciful ones constructed by Amanda in her own mind. These are the realms to which she escapes when she is tired of listening to her mother finding faults in her. One of these settings is that of the sea, in which Amanda imagines herself to be a mermaid. Another one of these settings is that of the street, in which Amanda imagines herself to be an orphan child. The last of these settings is that of a tower, in which Amanda imagines herself to be the imprisoned princess known as Rapunzel. These 3 settings form a contrast to that of the real world in which Amanda and her mother live.
The poem consists of 7 stanzas. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th stanzas are made up of 4 lines each, and are spoken by an authoritative person in Amanda’s life, perhaps her mother. The 2nd, 4th and 6th stanzas are written within brackets, are made up of 3 lines each, and are spoken by Amanda herself. Hence, the entire poem consists of 25 lines in total.
Amanda by Robin Klein Summary and Meaning
Don’t bite your nails, Amanda!
Don’t hunch your shoulders, Amanda!
Stop that slouching and sit up straight,
In this stanza, we hear Amanda’s mother speaking to her. She tells Amanda in a very strict voice not to bite her nails. Then she tells Amanda not to slouch her shoulders. Instead she wants Amanda to sit up with her back straightened.
(There is a languid, emerald sea,
where the sole inhabitant is me—
a mermaid, drifting blissfully.)
In this stanza, we see Amanda’s reaction to her mother correcting her on the proper way to sit. She withdraws from her real life to an imaginary world. She imagines that there is a beautiful green sea, in which only she lives and there is nobody there to bother her. Moreover, she is no longer a human being, but has taken the form of a mermaid, and is drifting along in a relaxed fashion within that sea.
Did you finish your homework, Amanda?
Did you tidy your room, Amanda?
I thought I told you to clean your shoes,
In this stanza, we again hear Amanda’s mother speaking to her. She takes on an authoritative tone like before and asks Amanda whether she has completed the homework given to her by her teacher at school. Following this, she asks Amanda whether she has cleaned up her own room. Finally, she tells Amanda that she had commanded Amanda to clean her shoes, but that Amanda has not done so yet. At this point, it is clear that Amanda’s mother is both irritated, and angry at Amanda.
(I am an orphan, roaming the street.
I pattern soft dust with my hushed, bare feet.
The silence is golden, the freedom is sweet.)
In this stanza, we once again see Amanda’s reaction to her mother’s harsh words. Amanda withdraws into another imaginary world. She imagines that she is an orphan and that she is romancing around on the street. She has no shoes on her feet at all, and instead, she is getting them even dirtier by making designs on the dusty ground with them. However, she makes no sound while making these dusty designs. She cherishes the silence as well as the freedom to do as she likes in that world of her imagination.
Don’t eat that chocolate, Amanda!
Remember your acne, Amanda!
Will you please look at me when I’m speaking to you,
In this stanza, Amanda’s mother is once again telling her what to do and what not to do. She tells Amanda not to have any chocolate for they might cause her to develop acne on her face. It seems that acne is a recurring problem for Amanda because her mother warns her to remember how they had looked on her face at some previous time, confident that she cannot have forgotten the sight so easily. Perhaps this unpleasant memory has made Amanda turn her face away, for her mother then tells Amanda to look at her while she is speaking as a sign of respect towards her.
(I am Rapunzel, I have not a care;
life in a tower is tranquil and rare;
I’ll certainly never let down my bright hair!)
In this stanza, Amanda withdraws into her fantasy world for the last time in order to escape from her mother’s ragging. She imagines herself to be Rapunzel. She imagines that she is perfectly happy to live alone in the tower, for she has nothing to worry about. Life over there is peaceful, and not too many people know what that is like. In fact, she is so happy with her life that she will never let down her hair in an attempt to escape from the tower.
Stop that sulking at once, Amanda!
You’re always so moody, Amanda!
Anyone would think that I nagged at you,
In this stanza, Amanda’s mother tells her to stop sulking. She also accuses her daughter of having mood swings very frequently. Finally, she tells Amanda that anyone who saw her would think that her mother has been nagging at her. It is obvious that Amanda’s mother feels it is her duty to correct her daughter and to teach her the proper way to behave, and she does not believe that this can be an exhausting or irritating experience for Amanda.
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