The poem “Some People” is written by the Irish poet and playwright Rita Ann Higgins and is based on the humiliation faced by poor people due to differential class classification. It has been published in 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: or How reading Modern Indian Poetry Can Change Your Life and focuses on the problems faced by some people in modern society who have become the target of upper-lower class discrimination.

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary:

The poem “Some People” written by Rita Ann Higgins showcases the struggles of a poor woman who is considered as a backward person in her society. That woman is also a mother and feels pathetic when humiliated in front of her kids but says that humiliation for her and people like her is never going to stop and no one can understand their feelings. To stop that humiliation, their children also make excuses.

Lines 1 to 9

“Some people know what is it like,
to be called a cunt in front of their children
to be short for the rent
to be short for the light
to be short for school books
to wait in Community Welfare waiting-rooms full of smoke
to wait two years to have a tooth looked at
to wait another two years to have a tooth out (the same tooth)
to be half strangled by your varicose veins, but you’re
198th on the list”

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary: Here the mother is saying that some people know how it feels to be called a characterless woman in front of their kids, how it feels to be too poor to afford the rent and the inability to pay for electricity, to not be able to buy books for their kids. All these things have been faced by the mother who has also been tortured during the financial and medical need. She and people like her have to wait in a hospital waiting room that is full of smoke for two long years to get a tooth checked and for another two years to get that tooth medicated. They have to feel the pain in their swollen legs before getting checked but their number, unfortunately, comes in hundreds on the list.

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary - Rita Ann Higgins
Rita Ann Higgins | Source

Lines 10 to 18

“to talk into a banana on a jobsearch scheme
to talk into a banana in a jobsearch dream
to be out of work
to be out of money
to be out of fashion
to be out of friends
to be in for the Vincent de Paul man
to be in space for the milk man
(sorry, mammy isn’t in today she’s gone to Mars for the weekend)”

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary: Banana is a term used in earlier times to call the people who help job seekers in finding jobs over a phone call. Here, the mother is saying that people like her know how it feels to fall in schemes of such Bananas that make you lose confidence but still get you jobs in your dreams. Some people know that how it feels to live without any work, money, clothes and friends. Such people has to go to charity service for living (Vincent de Paul man) and their children make several excuses to save themselves from getting humiliated. In the above stanza, the example is given of the milkman that how when he arrives to collect the payment of milk the children make silly excuses.

Lines 19 to 25

“to be in Puerto Rico this week for the blanket man
to be in Puerto Rico next week for the blanket man
to be dead for the coal man
(sorry, mammy passed away in her sleep, overdose of coal
 in the teapot)
to be in hospital unconscious for the rent man
(St Judes ward 4th floor)”

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary: The mother is saying that once such people start making excuses, the streak of their excuses continues and sometimes the excuses need to be so strong that their children even lie about their mother’s death. Another example of excuses given in the poem is the children telling the rent man that their mother is lying unconscious in the hospital. The term “St Judes ward 4th floor” refers to the financial supporter of the poorest people.

Lines 26 to 33

“to be second-hand
to be second-class
to be no class
to be looked down on
to be walked on
to be pissed on
to be shat on
and other people don’t.”

Some People Rita Ann Higgins BA Summary: Here the mother is expressing the humiliations faced by poor people who are considered as second hand, second class and characterless in society and are walked on and pissed on by the wealthy people. Those wealthy people never have to face such humiliations in their lives that’s why they don’t know how these poor people feel.

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