Jarrell, Plath and Baldwin

Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell experienced many interesting things in his life that inspired many of his poems. Two of his poems, “Losses” and “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” are based on his experiences in the Second World War. I had read “The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner” in a previous class and I found it to be a little crude; I now see it as I believe it is meant to be interpreted. Jarrell successfully conveyed his message in this poem in such a short and concise way that it comes off as cold and crude but in reality it is not. The poem is the story of a young man barely old enough to fight, going off to war and dying in his plane. It is actually a sad poem but its terse nature mimics the attitude that the military takes on death of a soldier during a war, which makes it seem even more tragic to me. Jarrell’s poem “Losses” was written in the same somber tone and it too chronicles the life of the boys who were too young to die so far from home. The narrator of the poem speaks of things that only a child would have thought; bombing cities they learned of in school or comparing their death to that of a pet or an aunt because that is the only death they had previously known. He also speaks of how impersonal the military is during war; the boys feel that they are only a mistake if they die and they only make the death rate a little higher. Both of these poems seem so tragic to me because they are so true. War is a terrible thing as it is but to take young men from their home and force them to fight and die for their country is even worse if you ask me.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s poetry mirrors her dark life and her tragic end. Her poems are extremely deep and full of profound meaning but they are a little hard for me to understand. One thing that makes her work stand out as much as it does is that she uses so much imagery and description in her work; it fills her poems with emotion and feeling. It is for her use of imagery and wording that I enjoyed reading her work but even though I read the selected poems in the text book, not much of it made sense to me so I looked them up to see what I could find out. One poem that I found especially beautiful was her poem “Ariel”. This poem seems to make use of several different references; the original story of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, her beloved horse named Ariel which means “Lioness of God” in Hebrew and Sylvia herself. Ariel is also the carefree spirit who wanted for release in Shakespeare's “The Tempest”. Sylvia may or may not have used these things in her inspiration for the poem but many speculate that she did. In her poem “Fever 103” she writes about the overwhelming influence that society has on people who are already fighting with self-identity. The speaker doesn’t really have a fever, she is simply attempting to comprehend who she is; she is confused, lost, hopeless in her self-confidence and ego. I personally think this poem is about the tension between good and evil. In the poem, the speaker is torn between her desire for purity and her desire for sexual pleasure; this makes her feel like a feverish person experiencing hot and cold flashes. Sylvia Plath’s poems are great works of literature that have earned their place in the history of American Literature and will never falter.

*I used the Sylvia Plath Forum for most of my information.*

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