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The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

by Randall Jarrell

Warfare Theme

Don't let the size fool you. Anyway you slice it,"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is about war. War is in the title and, figuratively at least, it's in every line. Jarrell wanted everyone to know, without question, he was addressing the horror and brutality of war. And after that last line, we think he achieved his goal.

Questions About Warfare

  1. The language in the title and lines 4 and 5 very clearly refers to war and war imagery, but in lines 1-3 the language is much more figurative. In what ways do you think this shift from literal to figurative to literal language helps or hurts the poem?
  2. How would you describe Jarrell's attitude toward warfare based on this poem? What elements (language, structure, tone, etc.) in the poem suggest this attitude?
  3. Warfare is a big, emotional theme, but Jarrell wrote a very short, controlled poem. Should this be a longer poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

Nice try, Randall, but the emotional and ideological complexities of war are impossible to capture in a poem, especially one as brief as "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner."

No, really, we're serious this time. Way to go, Randall! Poetry is the perfect genre for dealing with things, like war, that feel unspeakable.

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