Stylistic Analysis of “All In A Lifetime’’ by Zulfiqar Ghose, Zahra


Roll No: 13

Stylistic Analysis

MPhil Part-1


“All In A Lifetime’’ by Zulfiqar Ghose


During my lifetime there has been a World War

And several other wars killing millions;

I was a boy when Hitler blitzed London

And the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,

I came of age when France and Britain

Attacked Suez. A little later, India invaded

Pakistan; then Israel and Egypt

shared a murderous week. Then there

Have been Kashmir, Korea, Biafra and, of course,

Viet Nam and Viet Nam and Viet Nam.

A lot else by way of killings:

The Congo, Cyprus, Sharpeville, the Mau Mau,

Cuba, Ulster, Hungary, Czechoslovakia,

the names tumble into one’s mind at random,

Algeria, Angola, the Spanish Civil War,

East Bengal, Iraq.


I remember all these wars

for the remarkable fact that I escaped them all.

It’s like having been constantly under

a cloud but always out of the rain.

Then there have been riots. Hindus and Muslims

in India, Negroes and Whites in America,

general butchery on the whole bloody planet

from dictators. There have been riots at football

stadiums where the innocent have been trampled

to death, demonstrations that have turned

into riots, thoughtless killing by mobs

and the police. And some unfortunate who’d not meant

to be there happened to be there and got shot.


During my lifetime too, there have been earthquakes,

hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, droughts,

all of which  have been barbarous killers.

In California, Japan, Peru, Bengal, Malaysia

there have been great natural catastrophes.


Or there have been accidents. Plain Crashes,

train derailments, buses falling down ravines,

mines collapsing, bridges falling, dams bursting.

And road accidents, of course, the good old highway

of life on which you can vanish in a moment.


Again I’ve always been in the position of one

who reluctantly cancels a flight and then

hears on the news that the plane has crashed,

killing all. I don’t know how I manage this.



This poem is not available online; it is only available in the book 50 Poems by Zulfiqar Ghose that has been published by Oxford in 2010.

This poem is written in first person narrative, ‘I’ has been used several times and it is quite clear that the poet himself is the narrator.

Lexical Analysis:

Vocabulary is simple, it is related to events that are related to our daily life and for this reason it is not difficult to understand the words and phrases used by the poet. The tone of the poem is serious; the language of the poem is declarative and conversational because it is a conversation between the poet and the reader.

Idiomatic Phrases:

It’s like having been constantly under

A cloud but always out of the rain.

Under a cloud is an idiom that has been used by the poet here within a sentence, it signifies that although the poet has always been under the shadow of troubles but he has somehow managed to stay safe.

Semantic field:

War, death, destruction, bloodshed, existentialism, daily life.

Morphological Categories:

Free and bound morphemes have been used in this poem, some of these have been mentioned below:

  • Free: way, mind, all, remember, fact, during, random, tumble, police, mobs, shot, earthquake, hurricanes, life, vanish, flight, plane, know, this, mines, road, etc.
  • Bound: Killing, Blitzed, bombed, attacked, invaded, murderous, remarkable, escaped, constantly, butchery, trampled, happened, falling, etc.
  • Root: Kill, Blitz, Bomb, Attack, Invade, Murder, Remark, Escape, Constant, Butcher, Trample, Happen, Fall, etc.


Ed, s, ing, d, un.

Derivational affixes:

Un-fortunate= unfortunate

Thought-less= thoughtless

Remark-able= remarkable

The three above mentioned derivational affixes show that when the root morphemes ‘fortunate’, ‘thought’, and ‘remark’ are joined with other morphemes ‘less’, ‘un’, and ‘able’ their meanings are changed.

  • Nouns:

(Names of Places and historical leaders)

  • Hitler, London, Japanese, Pearl Harbor, France, Britain, Suez, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Kashmir, Korea, Biafra, Viet Nam, Congo, Cyprus, Sharpeville, Mau Mau, Cuba, Ulster, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Algeria, Angola, Spanish, Civil War, East, Bengal, Iraq, America, football stadium
  • Other Nouns:

Wars, cloud, rain. Hindus, Muslims Negroes, Whites, planet, dictators, mobs, police, earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves. Floods, droughts, killers plane, buses, bridges, mines, dams, road, highway.

  • Verbs:

Bombed, attacked, killing, invaded, shared, tumble, remember, escaped, tramples, falling, bursting, collapsing, was, can, know, crashed.

The poet has used nouns and verbs to relate to prominent political leaders and events of the past, he has mentioned countries and places that have fallen victim to war and other calamities during 20th and 21st centuries.

  • Prepositions:

On, for, of, at

  • Pronouns:

I, there, one

  • Articles:

The, a

  • Conjunctions:

And, when, then, but, where

Grammatical Categories:

Sentence structure is not complex because he talks about one event or thing and ends it within a sentence. The period ‘.’ has been used several times by Ghose in the poem, each sentence except one ends with a period to show the effect of different thoughts that are meant to be digested one at a time. Commas, colon and semi-colon have been used to give certain necessary pauses in the poem; it is done by the poet due to the fact that the reader is not meant to directly continue on to the other following line. In essence, the comma or semi-colon provide a very brief pause so that the reader will check their speed and not proceed too quickly.

Noun Phrases:

During my lifetime,

I was a boy,

I remember all these wars, etc

Verb Phrases:

It’s like having constantly been under a cloud,

Killing all, etc

Prepositional Phrases:

For the remarkable fact.


Figurative Features:

  • Imagery:

Visual: war imagery, images of destruction, images of events related to our daily life.

  • Simile: “It’s like having constantly been under a cloud (Idiom) but always out of the rain’’
  • Personification: Highway has been personified as “the good old highway of life’’

This personification is ironical because the good old highway where life can vanish in a moment cannot be called ‘good’ because if this highway is responsible for taking away life from people, it can never be anything ‘good’.

  • Reflections of death, war, destruction, accidents, existentialism.


Phonological Sound Patterns:


‘Then’ has been used twice in the beginning of the sentences in the poem

  1. Then there have been Kashmir… (08)
  2. Then there have been riots… (21)

Journey from Climax to Anti Climax:

The poem is a journey from climax (beginning) to anti-climax (end) where suspicion of the reader is brought to an end because the poet declares that he has managed to survive in this existentialist world, the reader and the poet both are survivors.


  • Repetition of ‘I’ that reflects the poet’s own presence in the poem
  • The last line of the poem raises several questions in the mind of the reader, ‘’I don’t know how I manage this’’
  • Repetition:

Buses falling (line 26)

bridges falling (line 27).

  • Repetition:

During my lifetime, twice (line 1 and 30)

There there, falling falling, and and

  • The poem has been written in free verse
  • Irregular rhyme scheme
  • 6 paragraphs that differ in length
  • Alliteration

World War, Was When, Age Attacked, India Invaded, Kashmir Korea, Algeria Angola, Remember Remarkable, Then There, Death Demonstration, Spanish Civil.

  • Assonance:

Hitler Harbor Later, Riots Negroes,


  • Semantic coherence: link between the sentences has been developed

hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes, floods, droughts (weather)

Plain crashes, train derailments, buses falling down ravines, mines collapsing, bridges falling, dams bursting, road accidents (Death and destruction)


*Trauma of existentialism, uncertainty, survival.

“All In A Lifetime’’ is a remarkable poem written in free verse, it has six loosely knit paragraphs that vary in length. The poem is rich with the images of destruction, existentialism, uncertainty and war. The poet has not told a partial story in this poem, he has mentioned the miseries of almost every country and community that has had been once on the verge of complete destruction.  He has talked about the event of 1947 Partition also, he comments on our daily life insecurities, plane crashes, road accidents, uncertainty, lack of security and protection. Living in this existentialist world where life is like ‘having been under a cloud of troubles’ but always out of the rain means that the poet like all of us has managed to survive here.

The last line of the poem, “I don’t know how I manage this’’ is a question “how I manage this, for the poet as well as the reader. This question gives rise to many other questions in the minds of the readers, how do we escape all this? What has God kept us alive for? What is the purpose of this life? These questions have no answer, hence these questions give rise to anxiety, uncertainty, and we find our minds affected by the trauma of existentialism.


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