Analysis of Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" and Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est"

Essay by lmrdivaCollege, Undergraduate October 2003

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In today's society, war is often perceived as glorious and mighty. Many movies leave out scenes of young soldiers throwing their lives away and thousands of people dying systematically in unheroic deaths. The poems, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" and "Dulce et Decorum est" attempt to touch on the issues of war. In these poems, the narrators uses imagery, diction and sorrow to show the brutality and sorrow of war.

"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," by Randall Jarrell speaks of both the futility of life and the callousness of war. The ball turret gunner had perhaps the most dangerous job of the crew. Once inside the ball turret, the gunner had little room to move and was very cramped. In this cramped space, the gunner faced extremely cold temperatures and had to squeeze into a fetal position: "From my mother's sleep I feel into the State, / And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze" (1-2).

These lines can be attributed to futility of life in that, in most cases, and especially in this poem, when the ball turret and gunner leaves the "womb" of the Air Force plane, by dropping out of the fuselage, he faces death. In relating this to actual childbirth, Jarrell was perhaps stating that whoever is born into this world must eventually face death, some sooner than others. Jarrell could also be giving us an insight into the callousness of war, himself being a combatant. Many times, those fighting are very young, barely out of training. Perhaps Jarrell is using this poem to convey the fear of many young airmen who were taken away from their mother's comfort and shoved into this harsh environment. The next line, "Six miles from earth, loosed...