Themes

Mother-Daughter relationship

The relationship between mother and daughter is a key theme in this poem. It is clear the speaker has a close connection with her mother.

quote
I am scared my mum is going to die

At the beginning of the poem she is clearly worried but by the end she is elated. Her mood closely reflects her mother's health. She takes in the details of the hospital room and everything her mother says - as if concentrating intently on a situation of great importance to her.

By removing all the unwanted gifts the speaker displays her love for her mother. She also frees her mother from the burden of illness. Her mother is rejuvenated and waves to her daughter with energy restored and a positive attitude to her situation.

It is the daughter who carries the nostalgia home - almost protecting her mother from sentimentality and depressing sympathy.

The repeated tell your father and tell him suggest that the mother-daughter bond may be even closer than that between wife and husband - the daughter who provides support and who passes messages to the father.

Illness and death

The speaker’s mother is obviously very ill in this poem. The opening image of the sad chrysanthemums prepares us for the subject of death.

However, as the poem progresses, the mother refuses her situation and the traditional images of illness. Rather she wants to embrace the enjoyment of life - luxuries and indulgent food and drink.

It is not the traditional gifts associated with illness and recover that help the mother - in fact they remind her of illness and depress her mood. Ironically, it is their removal that gives her a real boost of energy. This perhaps suggests how we should handle illness and death: defy convention, starve tragedy of our usual response instead of lying waiting on it, sipping orange nostalgia.