"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," by Randall Jarrell is a poem that speaks of both the roughness of war and sometimes the all too real worthlessness of life. A ball turret gunner is one of the most dangerous jobs of any airborne crew member. Upon squeezing into this Plexiglas dome, the gunner has little or no room to maneuver. Most of the men choose the fetal position to compensate for the cramped area and extreme weather they have to endure. "From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, / And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze" (1-2). The first line seems to show that no sooner than he was born, he was thrown into this predicament, he is just another number. You must eventually abandon the "womb," either from the fuselage of a plane or your own mother; from that instant you may instantly face death.
However, Jarrell may be sending another message. He may be trying to show the unforgiving roughness of war itself, most soldiers being young and straight out of boot camp. Jarrell is trying to channel the fear and mystery of thousands of young combatants. These young men are shoved into this unexplainable and disturbing environment.
The line, "Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life" (3), also displays the worthlessness of one's life. The gunner, in his Plexiglas confinement, so far away from anything comforting or familiar to him, feels disassociated. The gunner knew it was only a matter of minutes before he and his comrades would be in the midst of battle.
"I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters" (4). The opposing forces fighter planes are referred to as "nightmare fighters" because they violently awoke the gunner from his dream-like state when...