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The Jewellery Maker: Worlds and Lives Analysis

The Jewellery Maker is written by Louisa Adjoa Parker, a poet of English and Ghanaian heritage. The poem was published in 2018.

Poem Summary

A jewellery maker walks to his workshop, continuing the profession undertaken by his father and grandfather. He cheerfully greets those he meets on his way to work. In the workshop, he works with great skill to make the jewellery. The man wishes he could make his house as beautiful as the objects he creates. He also wishes his wife could wear this beautiful jewellery, but knows they cannot afford it. He imagines the privileged women who will end up wearing the jewellery he creates.

A jewellery maker walks to his workshop, continuing a craft practised by his father and grandfather. He cheerfully greets people he meets along the way. In his workshop, he skillfully crafts jewellery.

Despite his talent, he wishes he could make his home as beautiful as the jewellery he creates. The man also dreams of his wife wearing the beautiful pieces, but knows they cannot afford them. He imagines the privileged women who will wear the jewellery he has made.

The poem’s key message:

The poem highlights the disparities in wealth and illustrates how societal structures often result in some people benefitting unfairly from the labour of others.

Language

Language featureExamples and the effect of this
SensesParker uses sensory details to describe the man’s journey to work. He hears the “slap of sandals on heat-baked stone” and a “wild dog” barking, smells the “blossom”, and sees a “plate-blue sky”. This sensory imagery enhances the reader’s immersion in the setting and highlights the man’s appreciation of beauty. It is evident how this adds to his happiness when he “greets his neighbours with a smile”.

In the workshop, sensual imagery is used again; the man enjoys the “hot metal, the smell, the way it yields/ to his touch”. These descriptions provide a vivid impression of his workday and emphasise the pleasure he gains from his craft.
SimilesSimiles are used to highlight the jewellery maker’s skill. His precision with tools is likened to “the way a surgeon might” use theirs, and they are organised “neat as soldiers”. The comparison to a surgeon shows the great dexterity he possesses, while the analogy with soldiers emphasises his discipline and organisation.
ListsIn the final stanza, Parker uses lists to contrast the modest lifestyle of the man’s wife with the wealth of the jewellery buyers.

He thinks of his wife’s “skin wrinkled by sun, in simple cotton dress,/ her only jewellery a plain gold band, worn thin.” This language conveys a lack of luxury, with terms like “simple”, “plain” and “worn thin”.

Conversely, the wealthy women who are likely to buy the jewellery are depicted with “clear-eyed, bird-boned and unlined skin”, suggesting their wealth has provided them with a more leisurely life. This is in contrast to his wife’s appearance, described as “wrinkled”, presumably caused by a life of hard work and exposure to the elements.

Structure

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each focusing on a different aspect of the man’s day:

  • The first stanza depicts the man’s journey to work.
  • The second stanza describes his activities at work.
  • The third stanza reflects on the wealth disparity between him and the eventual buyers of the jewellery.

Form

  • The poem is written in free verse, with no regular rhythm or rhyme scheme. There are many instances of enjambment, reflecting the man’s smooth transition through various stages of the jewellery-making process.
  • The use of caesura (pauses within lines) may symbolise the man’s internal conflict and unhappiness as he reflects on his financial status compared to that of the jewellery buyers.

Themes

ThemeAnalysis
CommunityThe first stanza illustrates the man’s connection to his working-class community. As he walks to work, he happily greets his neighbours, demonstrating his sense of belonging. He also takes in and appreciates the beauty of his neighbourhood, including its sights, sounds and smells.

The jewellery-making profession was inherited from “his father before him, and his father too”. This adds a layer of heritage and continuity to his community identity.
WorkThe man gets immense satisfaction from his work. His positive demeanour while walking to his workshop reflects his anticipation for the day ahead. He takes pride in the craftsmanship of his jewellery-making, which is evident by the rich poetic language used to describe his creations:

“gold butterflies dance; flowers bloom; silvery moons wax and wane”

This language not only illustrates the beauty of his work but also injects it with a sense of natural wonder and magic.
ClassAlthough jewellery making is a proud family tradition for the man, it also shines a light on the firmly established class system in his society. His continuation of the family trade highlights the lack of social mobility, as he remains within the same working class with a low likelihood of ever becoming one of the wealthy people who can afford to buy the jewellery.

The contrasting descriptions of his wife’s “wrinkled” skin and “simple” possessions with the “unlined skin” of the wealthy customers emphasise the wealth disparities. The man’s wish to “drape his wife in fine-spun gold” contrasts sharply with the reality of her wearing a “plain gold band, worn thin.” This emphasises the stark divide between the working class and the wealthy, who enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Key Quotes to Learn

QuoteWhy is it important?
“the smell of blossom, a plate-blue sky”The man appreciates the beauty of his surroundings as he walks to work, reflecting the joy he finds in his daily life and work.
“lays out pointed tools/ the way a surgeon might – as neat as soldiers”This simile highlights the precision and discipline of his craftsmanship. It compares his precision to that of a surgeon and the orderly arrangement of his tools to soldiers.
“he’d decorate/ his house in this, drape his wife in fine-spun gold”The man wishes that he and his wife could enjoy the beauty of the jewellery he makes, but knows they could never afford this. This highlights the economic divide between the creator and the consumers of his jewellery.

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