Faces of War

Wislawa Szymborska in the poem, “The End and the Beginning” symbolically depicts several themes of war. In her view, war is like love. It has been one of the most adamant features in human existence. Thus, a war has been a common phenomenon among various nations. As a result, poets have found the war as a common topic. Szymborska states that from the Greco-Roman world to the modern world, a war has been occurring every now and then. Due to the fact that war has the same effects, poets have found themselves developing the same themes while writing on war. Therefore, irrespective of the time when the war took place, the aftermath of war is often the same.

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Szymborska uses a unique approach in developing her poem. She establishes her intimacy with war experiences as she seems to be highly objective. However, her point of view is more poignant than that developed by Jarrell and Owen. The poem starts with the following stanza, “After every war/someone has to clean up/Things won’t/ straighten themselves up, after all” (line 1-4). This introduces some form of power and forces through her observations in delivering her message concerning war occurrences. She continues to state that,” Someone has to push the rubble/to the side of the road,/so the corpse filled wagons/can pass” (line 5-7). These two stanzas introduce the weight of the subject of war and how it can affect those involved. A close look at the two stanzas shows that the line,” “Someone has to” is repeated. This vividly depicts a form of pressure that overwhelms those who are supposed to engage in such an activity. Indeed, it is evident that the sentence evokes a question as the reader is left wondering, who is this someone to take the responsibility of these tasks. Thus, the poet establishes the act of war as a gruesome task that everyone dreads to undertake or be responsible for.

In stanza seven Szymborska develops the topic of survivors. She shows some survivors who can clearly recall the events at the war field (line 27). On the other hand, she accuses people who were involved in the war. The accused are said to have, “starting to mill about and find it dull”. Although she accuses other individuals, she does not let the poem to concentrate more on the horrors of war as well as depict the reality of the war. She maintains the focus of the poem avoiding losing the hook. In this case she establishes some of the outcomes of war. She states that the outcomes are always unbelievable and disappointing to those infected and affected. Nevertheless, as soon as the cleanup has been done, people begin to forget about what had taken place and the damage incurred.

The writer states, “Those who knew/what was going on here/must make way for/those who know little./And less than little./And finally as little as nothing” (line 37-42). She discourages the act of forgetting. She argues that as soon as people forget, they can easily find themselves starting another war that always culminates in the same outcomes. Indeed, Szymborska’s poem is all about forgetting and how it can lead to another war. She testifies that forgetting should not be condoned. She maintains that individuals should always remember the effects of war to other personalities and the society in general. Love and war is another theme evident in the poem. In this case human beings are inevitably prone to persist in war unless they are able to remember the earlier occurrences – something that may convince them to recede from war.

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At the end, the Szymborska leaves the reader with powerful and haunting themes and feelings concerning the outcomes of war. The main urge of the poet is that human beings should not forget of it. Thus, through the poem, the writer provides vivid images to the reader something that enables the message to linger in their minds for long.

Just like Szymborska, Randall Jarrell in his poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”   depicts several themes about war. The poem focuses on the traumatic effects of war and the human spirits behind it. His poem moves back in history to establish some effects of war and personal trauma. As a result, he depicts a sense of hopelessness for those involved to deal with the past experience. This is achieved through the use imagery that shows harshness and reality of the events involved. Therefore, the poet seems to be providing the reader with a form of an agonizing existence while at the same time providing a way of survival.

The poem commences with a structural analysis of war and the trauma behind it. He states, “from my mother’s sleep I fell into the State / And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze” (line 2). He uses the word “belly” as a technology to show a close association with the physical birth and the metaphorical gestation that mainly leads to war. The writer uses the images and action of birth as a basis to show the beginning of trauma. He uses a description of him falling from the mother’s sleep. This is an indication of an inevitable fall from the grace. In this case he is directly subjected to the rule of the government. He shows the decreasing sense of individual power to control his or her actions. As a result, people become a government tool through which death and destruction is exercised. This is depicted through the use of the imagery of puppetry and what the government can use to punish innocent individuals.

Jarrell uses the image of birth to show that after birth the promises of hope and happiness begin to dwindle. He describes gunner’s wait within the ball turret that eventually leads to the metaphorical birth. Unfortunately, the birth of Gunner occurs during the “black flak and the nightmare fighters”.  As a result, the man is born in the traumatic awakening, something that imparts a sense of hopelessness in the entire life. Thus, images of birth and death are used to show the sense of hopelessness and how trauma can affect the whole life of an individual.

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Jarrell observes images of deceased soldiers, as he states, “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose”. This is an imagery that shows that despite the fact that this man had given a lot of service to his nation, he was not given a respectable memorial by his country. He establishes the detached nature of humanity and lack of respect to some people despite their service to the nation. He argues that government does not appreciate the service that the military personnel had given. This is the same case in the postmodern world where the government does not support its key men especially in the military who had died fighting. This gives a vivid picture of both the murderer and the murdered on the battlefield. Neither of them is given attention as their identity has been shuttered by the complexities in human existence. Jarrell depicts life that has no meaning in the event of war. As one falls from the mother’s womb, troubles begin. This marks the trauma right from the moment of birth until death. This evokes a sense of lost hope and identity in realization that life is meaningless.

In conclusion, Jarrell uses disturbing images to illustrate violence and loss of personal identity. In the event of violence and war people are likely to lose significance as well as they will experience lack of support from others. As it is evident in the war, individuals will continue to survive horrors. Moreover, Jarrell attests that any form of human destruction such as war may not be the end in itself. Human beings have a way of coming through them despite the resiliency of evils committed. Thus, Jarrell wishes to help the reader to confront broadly traumatic events of war throughout life. Although he empathizes with the character’s experience as a military man, he does not advocate for loss of individual’s significance.

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