Study Guide

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Power

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The "State" in line 1 gets a lot of attention (first line, end word, capitalization). When reading "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," Jarrell wanted us to think about the power of the state, of nations. The poem, then, seems to get at the power that states have to send countries into war and the power they have over individuals, sending them into horrific battles and, often, certain death. Come on, states. Knock that off, will ya?

Questions About Power

  1. Why does the speaker say he "fell" into the "State?" How would the poem be different if the speaker entered or joined "the State" instead?
  2. What connection does Jarrell make between motherhood and the state? In what ways are their roles similar? How are they different?
  3. A literal reading of the poem's last line is quite shocking. But what does a figurative reading of the last line say in terms of states and how they view their citizens?

Chew on This

Despite the critique of "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," the job of the state is not to protect and nurture its citizens. A state's first priority is the survival of the state itself, even if that survival costs the lives of some of its citizens. Tough love, y'all.

As "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" suggests, the notion of the state as a nurturer and protector is fundamental. States should put the lives and well-being of their citizens first. Show us love!

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