Study Guide

The Last Words of My English Grandmother Power

By William Carlos Williams


Gimme something to eat—
They're starving me—
I'm all right—I won't go
to the hospital. No, no, no (9-12)

The grandmother seems to have lost any of the personal power she ever had. She's apparently bedridden and completely dependent of others to feed her. She tries to assert her power by saying "no" over and over again. But when somebody has to say something over and over again it usually means they don't have much power at all.

Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please— (14-20)

The speaker and his grandmother have a total power negotiation over the course of these two stanzas. Ultimately, it seems like the grandmother loses, and she ends up agreeing to go to the hospital like her grandson wanted her to (even if she's possibly being snarky about it in these lines). But maybe the speaker isn't as tricky as he thinks he is. Maybe, the grandmother knows she won't make it to the hospital anyway. Is this the first sign that the grandmother is ready to give up all power? That she's ready to let go of life?

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher— (21-23)

The speaker's grandmother is totally in the power of the ambulance guys. It has to be no fun when you have to rely on other people to get where you're going. And it's really no fun when you're being taken somewhere against your will. And it's the total opposite of fun when you know you'll probably never come back alive. It's like the grandmother has lost any power she ever had. She's on the fast track to death, and she's powerless to stop it.

Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away. (39-40)

In her last moments, the grandmother seems to take what power she can. Sure, her body is failing her, but in the end, she's the one who says whatevs to the land of the living. She's had her fill, and now she's peace'ing out. She's going when she decides to go.

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