The narrator imagines climbing his grandfather using the extended metaphor of his grandfather as a mountain and himself as a climber. The narrator may have imagined this or recounted this, picking out details from observing his grandfather.

Ideas and Themes:

  • Family relationships
  • Getting older


  • Poem highlights the child’s progress from bottom of mountain to top. He gets higher with each line of the poem.


  • Written in the present tense as if he’s imagining this.
  • Enjambment imitates the motion of climbing and emphasizes steady progress.


  • “to do it free, without a rope or net”- “Free” creates a sense of suspense while the latter makes him feel confident but risk weary. Climbing vocabulary shows it will be an extended metaphor
  • “dusty and cracked”- shows age and compares shoes to mountain
  • “Trying to get a grip”- trying to know his grandfather
  • “I change…direction”– enjambment reflects him changing direction perhaps moving onto a new stage of his grandfather’s life
  • “Earth-stained hand” possibly gardening showing he has a close bond to nature
  • “the nails are splinted and give good purchase”- splintered nails are often ugly but here they are used usefully reflects old people- they may not be valued but have a lot to offer
  • “like warm ice” oxymoron creates a child-like simple simile showing his father isn’t cold like ice is
  • “smiling mouth”- shows that he enjoys the time they spent together
  • “drink among teeth…refreshed” showing him taking on his grandfathers’ wisdom
  • “watch a pupil slowly open and close”- shows him as a pupil eager to learn
  • “(soft and white at this altitude)”- his grey hair is compared to snow on top of a mountain
  • “gasping for breath” shows his exhaustion and that it was a lengthy process.
  • “knowing” this provides a contrast to “trying to get a grip” earlier showing he has learned something and sets up a conclusion
  • “the slow pulse of his good heart” final line slows the pace of the poem to his grandfather’s heartbeat. Also displays his steady and warm love for his grandson.
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "‘Climbing My Grandfather’ by Andrew Waterhouse: Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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