The Clown’s Wife Sample Answer


Johnson Agard’s The Clown’s Wife represents the difference between the personal and public lives of many people. Do you agree? Justify with reference to the text.

I agree with the above statement. The poem uses the image of a clown to expose a common reality faced by ‘many’ people as the question states.

‘On stage he is a different person.’

The wife narrates how her husband is a different person on the stage, possibly at a circus, where the clown works. Clowning is his occupation, and two words stand out in this quotation: Stage and Different. The word stage implies performance. The clown performs in front of an audience, trying to entertain them. This is his function as a clown, as an employee at the circus. It is his livelihood. But the action of performing creates a distance between what is real, and what is enacted. It tells us that the performance is not the real self. The wife says, he is a different person: his identity does not reflect his genuine self which she sees at home. There are certain expectations that need to be met at the circus, during his performance. His value as an employee to the organization depends on his ability to perform the tasks with efficiency and efficacy. These demands are at times at odds with the way he feels internally, and when he is on the stage, there is no space in it for him to be himself, or to express himself. His emotions or struggles do not matter. He is forced to swallow them and perform the role of a clown.

This scenario is applicable to every person who works, especially people who have to interact with others in their line of work. Usually, work involves human interaction and one cannot escape it. But there are certain fields of work where the work is mostly based on human interaction. Under these circumstances, people are forced to downplay their emotions and perform the tasks required, when dealing with their clients. Celebrities, actors, musicians, sales persons, teacher and other professionals who work directly with a relatively large(r) number of people often have to sacrifice their own emotions and mental well-being in order to fulfill their roles. While they are at their work place, they may be professional and composed, efficient and productive: however, because of the mental strain they undergo at their workplace, they may be ‘a different person’ when they are able to let down the mask of professionalism.

The Clown is like a king on a throne, indicating the authority and confidence he has of himself. He is able to control the tasks under his supervision. His responsibilities are written down, and clear cut. But at home he moans, indicating pain and disappointment – his pining at life ‘O life! Ah life!’ seems to indicate the existential conundrum of meaninglessness in life, of trying to find a purpose. His angst and general ennui at home, where he is supposed to find fulfillment and rest, overwhelms him: this affects the people around him as well. This is also a common experience for many people, whose roles are clearly defined at work and fulfilling their tasks and the completion of work is clear. However, beyond the workspace, finding fulfillment is more complex and this can lead to depression or a lack of purpose, resulting in desperation.

The opening line ‘my husband, the clown,’ reflects how a person’s occupation can come to define that person – here, the wife speaks of the husband, and the first thing that she says about him is the fact that he is a clown. He is defined by his work – it is as if the price he pays for the performance he does at the workplace inevitably affects his life at home.

But he doesn’t say exactly how he feels,

doesn’t say what’s bothering him inside.

This quotation captures the struggle to articulate all the complexities that one faces in life. At the work place or in public life, people project themselves and behave in such a way that conforms to the expectations. This is to entertain the people around you, just like the clown entertains the audience. The poem exposes how people also attempt to maintain this role while entertaining people. However, when the show is over, when the individual is back at home, they have to deal with the real issues they face. While these struggles are pushed aside and never really discussed or addressed in public spaces, it is in the private space of the home that these struggles have some room. But as the poem notes, even when you are in the comfort of your home, articulating these complex feelings is not easy and the efforts that people who love you take to lighten your burden does not always help. But no one who encounters the clown while he is on the stage will ever be able to guess the struggles that he endures.

Therefore, as discussed above, it is clear that people tend to separate their private and public life. However, the stress and demands they need to meet in their public life may affect them as a whole and even their private life where they have the freedom to be themselves.

7 comments

  1. tysm for the analysis and can u please give me a similar answer for the poem ‘The Hunstman’ I would be really grateful if u could and thank you again

    Like

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