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Themes

Babies and bombers just don't mix well. You can't get more innocent than a newborn baby. They are vulnerable and oblivious to the evils of the world. The birth/womb imagery that Jarrell uses puts this notion of innocence in the reader's mind. In "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," these ideas of innocence are juxtaposed, and then combined with, images of violence, heightening the reader's sense of war's horror.

Questions About Innocence

  1. What words or images in the poem suggest innocence or have an innocent tone?
  2. Is losing an innocent perspective on life a good thing or a bad thing? Do you ever long for simpler times, those days long ago when you could get excited about a new Superman lunchbox or a coloring book?
  3. Why does Jarrell include the element of innocence in"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"? How would the poem be different without any mention of mother or birth imagery?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Despite what the poem seems to lament, innocence is meant to be a temporary state and the sooner our eyes are opened to the harsh realities of the world, the better. So toughen up, kids!

As the poem shows, even after losing an innocent perspective of the world, we long for the comfort an innocent perspective allows and we try to recapture it. (Come on now, we can't be the only ones with a Star Wars figure collection.)

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