A Century Later: AQA Worlds and Lives

A Century Later

Behind her, one by one,
the schoolgirls are standing up
to take their places on the front line

Imtiaz Dharker

Join us as we deconstruct AQA Worlds and Lives poetry at GCSE level. This A Century Later poem analysis takes the spotlight today, with the following explorations:

A Century Later Poetry Analysis – Overview

The poem is concerned with the female struggle historically and across the globe to access an education. Knowledge is power, and the battleground of the school is compared to the more traditional battleground of armed warfare and the conflict between opposing (male) soldiers.

The oppressive forces of kyriarchy surround the subject of the poem but she is immune to them, so that missiles cut right through her but her imagination remains unscathed because she has been empowered by books, and nothing can kill what is in her head.

Progress has been made but Dharker gives the impression that a revolution is still in motion with further ground to be won in the concluding image of girls lining up behind her ‘to take their places on the front line’.

A Century Later Context

Dharker was born in Pakistan in 1954 but grew up in Glasgow and now splits her time between London, India and Wales while describing herself as a ‘Scottish Muslim Calvinist’.

She is an artist and filmmaker as well as a poet, and common themes of her work include identity, displacement, conflict and gender.

A Century Later was written in 2014, 100 years after the start of the First World War. It clearly references Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth (1917), which dealt with the horrors of war and wasted lives. It also references the case of Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who in 2012 was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Dharker’s native Pakistan but survived and has been internationally honoured for her continued educational activism.

Form and Structure

The use of free verse is an expression of the poetic voice escaping oppressive

Similarly, the organisation of the stanzas, alternating between quatrains and couplets, suggests a power imbalance between the oppressors and the oppressed, but the tercet breaks this pattern, the form of the final stanza reinforcing its lexical message of strength in numbers.


Knowledge and education: Many people, especially in the modern Western world, take education for granted. Dharker reminds us that access isn’t always a given, especially for females. Knowledge is power and education is the key to unlocking it. It is therefore a human right that must be fought for.

Power and oppression: Education and conflict are juxtaposed throughout the poem. Those with knowledge are able to exert power and oppress those without.

Gender politics: The echoes of Anthem of Doomed Youth remind readers that social conflict is not always gender-specific, yet Dharker’s primary concern for female rights is evident in the echoes of Malala Yousafzai’s fight for education and the clear gendering of the subject of her poem.

Linking to other Poems

This A Century Later poem analysis is one of a range of GCSE English revision posts that’ll help prep you for your exams. You can find more of our blogs here! You can also subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.

Leave a Reply