Not My Best Side by U.A. Fanthorpe (pg 25)
Not My Best Side
by U.A. Fanthorpe (pg 25)
Not My Best Side
This poem is based on Uccello’s painting St George
and the Dragon.
The poem’s three stanzas are monologues from
each of the three characters depicted in the
painting – the dragon, the maiden and the knight
It subverts (breaks) the stereotypes associated with
the characters so that the traditionally evil,
fearsome dragon is a vain, thoughtful loser; the
maiden is feisty and crude and the knight is
arrogant and shallow.
Subject and Themes
Note how the poem is divided into three stanzas like chapters –
each is narrated as a dramatic monologue by the characters in
Not my best side, I'm afraid.
The artist didn't give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
As if posing for the painting
Demonstrates the dragon’s
vanity (or maybe selfconsciousness?)
triangles – look back at the
We hear the chatty, friendly
tone of the dragon
Opening establishes the comical tone
of the poem
I didn't comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
rhetorical question – used in
brackets (parenthesis). It is
like he is asking the reader for
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
ostentatiously – means deliberately trying to attract
attention – the dragon thinks the knight is vain and
arrogant. Ironic because the dragon is also very
concerned with his own appearance
The dragon speaks very
well, using quite
sophisticated language –
he is presented positively
again, obsession with appearances –
he doesn’t fancy the girl much…
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don't mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.
creates a sense of performance; maintains
humorous tone – the dragon thinks more blood
in the painting would make him be considered
more of a martyr like Christ
like Christ, the dragon
will be resurrected –
he is an immortal
figure unlike the
knight and maiden.
He says this very
don’t mind dying’, as if
he has been here
many times before
subverts stereotype –
she preferred the
dragon to the knight
It's hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It's nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He wassense of loneliness
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
she sees the dragon as an object of desire – she
misunderstands his intentions
And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
as if she is winking at the reader – sexual innuendo.
This demonstrates she is not the stereotypically
innocent, naïve virgin but a modern, honest woman
dual meaning. She is
crude and ‘eat me’
implies oral sex to her
drive word ‘so’ – moves the narrative on – it is as if she was going off on a tangent
‘boy’ - negative? Would the knight see himself as
a boy or a man?
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn't much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
implies the horse is more dangerous than the knight
sexual innuendo again – she
compares him unfavourably
with the dragon – addresses
the audience as all the
characters do at some point.
‘Hardware’ refers to his
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon-Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl's got to think of her future.
she ends up being pragmatic (sensible, thinks things
she is fussy;
despite her crude honesty
she is still helpless and
must fit in with the ‘story’
alliteration on ‘d’ – harsh, aggressive –
like his arrogance
I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
‘automatic transmission’ – like a car
humorous – sees his role as a
dragon slayer and a taker of
virginity. Note the modern
use of words like
he is shallow – all he cares
about is having the latest
gadgets – modern way of
‘obsolescence’ – means that the horse is
replaced when it becomes out of date
continues to be obsessive about his equipment
arrogance is misguided – we
already know that the girl prefers
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can't
Do better than me at the moment.
I'm qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don't you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don't
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
‘don’t you want to…for you?’ – this pokes fun
at the whole idea of the story. We have
already seen in the poem that the ‘roles’
designed for the characters have been
‘and/or’ – he speaks like a robot
– lacks personality
Don't you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You're in my way.
ends in a completely dismissive tone – ‘you’re in my way’.
humorous – he sounds
Links to other poems…
This poem is all about the way people’s true
identities are hidden and that we never truly
know what people are like. In this way, the
poem links with the ‘faces’ people wear in
‘Once Upon a Time’.
The subversion (breaking) of stereotypes links
with ‘Warning’, where the narrator looks
forward to breaking the tradition of a safe,
cosy life in old age.
Hints and Tips
This is an enjoyable, clever poem which uses humour to
make the point that people do not necessarily conform
to stereotypes. If you wish to write about the poem in
an exam you must be comfortable with the way
humour is used: the irony of the girl admiring the
dragon over the knight, the quite crude sexual
innuendo, the use of rhetorical questions to address
the audience. Other poems that use humour are
‘Warning’ and ‘I Shall Paint My Nails Red’. It is
interesting to ask yourself which character you ‘side’
with the most. It is clearly not the traditional ‘hero’
figure of George.
1. U.A. Fanthorpe uses humour to make a
statement about people’s identity. Explain
how this use of humour is effective.
2. Look again at this poem and ‘Once Upon a
Time’. What do these poems reveal about
the way people are expected to conform to
stereotypes in society?