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The Poem Shooting Stars English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1311 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The poem title ‘Shooting Stars’ paints a number of graphic images in the readers’ mind. The title could depict the harrowing shooting of the Jews, who had to wear the Star of David on their clothing, or it could have an alternative meaning. Picture a beautiful and ephemeral ray of light travelling through the starry midnight sky and you have Duffy’s metaphor of life itself. The shooting star is a vision to see as well as unique, but as it travels in the distance it is slowly fading away like death itself. Duffy looks upon the life of the world itself with a short blast of passion and light, which ultimately comes to end all too soon. The poems title vividly highlights that death in war is ultimately brave and heroic.

The undoubted bravery of the Jewish woman portrayed in C-A Duffy’s poem is absolutely frightening, what she has see and go through, is absolutely devastating. C-A Duffy, herself, takes on the dramatic role, in which she becomes the dead Jewish woman, telling us her story from beyond the unthinkable mass grave along with her country folk.

The poem begins with the phrase “After I no longer speak, they break our fingers to salvage my wedding ring. The image immediately painted in the mind of the reader is grotesquely horrific. The word ‘salvage’ shows the reader that everything had a value to the brutal and greedy Germans who did this to her. Duffy writes in the present tense, bringing the events of the Holocaust nearer to the reader and shocking us unimaginably with imagery of how this poor defenceless woman’s fingers were broken, whilst she remained somehow, still alive.

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This poem is not just the story of the persona’s undoubtedly act of bravery. The Jewish woman remains unnamed throughout this poem, therefore, for me, she could be any of the five million Jewish people who died throughout World War II, in the Holocaust. This is a deeply moving reminder of all the Jewish people who sadly died out of no fault of their own.

For me the persona comes across as a heroine, as she succeeds in giving the reader a sad and very important reminder. She lists the names:

…Rebecca Rachel Ruth Aaron Emmanuel David.

This lack of any punctuation reminds the reader that this list of fallen hero’s carries on and on, and that the people who were murdered were not just statistics, they were real people who with had families and loved ones who had the right to live and breath like everyone else.

The persona tells us to”…Mourn for the daughters, upright as statues, brave”.

That not only was it men who were dying, but women, children and generations of families too were being killed. The phrase pushes the readers to ask question about themselves – would I be so brave if I was in this position and that at any moment I could die? Would I in this situation stand up and be as brave, ‘upright as a statue’? This quote shows us that these people were strong and proud before they died-they were not shaking with fear of death or falling about. These graphic images make their horrific and totally needless death and waste of innocent life even more tragic.

The persona shows me that she a very brave, particularly, with what she has had to witness. She speaks to her friend:

…You would not look at me. you waited for the bullet…

The woman stands proud but frightened, without showing this to her captors, watching as her friends, family loved ones are being shot. ‘The bullet’ shows a shocking reality that it only takes one small bullet to destroy a life that had so many years still to enjoy. The persona is forced to watch as ‘Fell’. Her friend is gone, felled like a tree in the forest. This single word sentence graphically emphasises the immediate and shocking death of a friend which the persona had to witness.

She will not let us forget …I say Remember, Remember these appalling days which make the world for ever bad…

The capitalised ‘Remember’ takes us to Armistice Day, in November each year, where we remember out fallen soldiers The use of repetition of the word ‘Remember’ could be the final dying word of a fellow human being at the hands murderers.

…One saw I was alive. Loosened

his belt.

The use of these two words ‘loosened’ and ‘belt’ triggers your attention to the undoubting fact, this woman is about to be horrifically raped. Duffy achieves this in a very subtle way, the graphic description we get next is enough to make most people sick:

…My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.

The use of the long vowel sounds and the unimaginable images of the event are etched into your mind. This makes us feel so sorry for this woman as well as getting angry with the people who could do such a thing like this to her, the

…young men gossiping and smoking by the graves.

This description shows a total disrespect for the dead Jews again made me sympathise with Duffy’s persona, and highlighted her bravery and how she continued, no matter how they degraded her.

What happens next is devastating. The persona tells how her

…bare feet felt the earth and urine trickled

down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A trick.

The soldiers have totally degraded and treated her in a way that no human should treat another. Degrading her to the “Untermenschen” low life the German soldiers believed her and the Jewish people to be. Anyone reading this poem can not help but feel the greatest of sympathy for the woman and the others who horrifically suffered.

Not forgetting, what really highlights Duffy’s persona as a heroine is that she maintains a firm grip and holds on to her religious belief. All around her people have been murdered, many such people in this position would question whether there is a God. But the persona holds on:

Tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk

inside the wire and strong men wept.

She tells of how her psalms made strong men cry. Her detailed account unimaginable and sad, but she will never let us forget. At the end of the poem her final lines repeat the words of the 25th psalm:

…Turn thee 

unto me with mercy, for I am desolate and lost.

The Bible’s 25th psalm is one that is read out at most funerals asking for forgiveness to our enemies who caused us harm. It not only reminds the reader that this woman held on to her religious beliefs but also asks that we should not feel ashamed for our own wrong doings in life. The persona is finally telling us of how she is ‘desolate and lost’, this is a sad and reflective ending which makes the persona seem nostalgic but also unforgettable, her voice remain in our head as a reminder.

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‘Shooting Stars’ is a story of everyday life being destroyed because of religious beliefs of individuals. This is a poem with a difference. It does not tell the story of the glory’s of war what everyone wants to hear, it tells factually how it is. It describes how there are a lot of really heroic people in this world. It asks the question has anything really changed? There is still innocent blood of men, women and children, being spilled on the ground in countries like Afghanistan and Syria, and Duffy lets us know that these events are still going on and ‘The world turns in its sleep’ do we care or do we forget the terrible events that are happening a turn a blind eye. Duffy says we must ‘Remember’ and her haunting words from the grave will never be forgotten. We can never be allowed to forget.

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