31 pages • 1 hour readFrank O'Hara
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The TV set appears toward the end of the poem: “your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set” (Line 34). Here it represents the cinema in microcosm but also a sense of degradation; it is smaller, duller, and less exciting than the theatrical experience the children were denied. At the time this poem was written household televisions would have been in black and white (rather than the technicolor popular in cinemas) and of low image and sound quality. Rather than being a delight of the senses, this moment shows how the children—now adults—have fallen into banal mediocrity. It is not a delayed reward, but a sorry compensation for something that was taken away from them in their youth.
Ironically, this seems to be the moment where the children’s innocence is lost forever. While the poem as a whole has distinct sexual overtones, it’s never really presented as a loss or a descent the way so many sexualized narratives are. Instead, it’s an embrace of freedom. Without that freedom, the children’s innocence erodes slowly over time until they grow “old and blind” (Line 34). It’s this erosion that causes the hatred and isolation the speaker is cautioning against.