Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner Essay

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20th century American poet Randall Jarrell’s The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner is a harrowing single stanza poem dealing with the fate of a war-time ball turret gunner. In line 1: “From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State” readers are immediately introduced to the poem’s major metaphors; ‘mother’s sleep’ and ‘the State’. Falling from his (male pronouns used as war-time flight crews were usually all-male) mother’s sleep may mean the speaker left his home while his mother slept in order to join the State—the armed forces. In line 2: “And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze” the ‘hunched’ and ‘wet fur’ imagery elicit visions of a cornered animal; in just two lines the speaker has left his mother and transitioned into a beastly figure. Reading lines 1 – 2 together, ‘mother’s sleep’ may be representative of something more like a mother’s womb. This is juxtaposed with the womb of ‘the State’—a ball turret nestled in the belly of a bomber plane.…show more content…
The ‘loose from its dream of life’ suggests that he was dreaming of life, of going home. Snapping back to reality, the speaker is suddenly awoken by anti-aircraft fire (flak) and fighter planes—the nightmares—the enemy ball-turret gunners are there to shoot down. On the topic of using metaphors as a tool for understanding, Lakoff and Johnson say: “Metaphors, as we have seen, are conceptual in nature. They are among our principal vehicles for understanding. And they play a central role in the construction of social and political reality.”

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