Study Guide

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Summary

By Randall Jarrell

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The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Summary

We know two things right away about "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." First, we aren't going to miss the new episode of Glee because it was assigned for homework reading (seriously—this thing is only 5 lines long). And second, it isn't going to be a unicorns and rainbows kind of poem. The title sets us up for war and death and that's what the 5 lines deliver. That's not to say there aren't still some surprises in this pint-sized poem.

First off, the speaker is, well… dead. The "gunner" from the title is actually the speaker. Through the use of birth imagery and figurative language, the poem takes us along on the gunner's last flight and down to an ending that most readers don't soon forget. Spoiler alert: The gunner dies, and in a way that's not for the faint of heart. Don't read it right before lunch—unless you're dieting, in which case you should read it before every meal.

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