Every poem usually has elements of form that help bring out the message that the author has in mind. These elements help shape out the story and if well presented, they effectively contribute to ease of understanding, on the part of the reader.
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This essay seeks to analyze and explain the literary elements present in Dudley Randall’s Ballad of Birmingham, as well as their relevance in making the message of the story clear. The poem tells the story of a young girl who asks for permission from her mother to participate in a march taking place in down town Birmingham (Randall, 1).
This was in a time when anti-racism protests were the order of the day in the region. In a bid to contain the protestors, the authorities at the time used to use any amount of force, to get them to relent, sometimes having to use live ammunition. The mother fearing for the life of her daughter gives a number of reasons to discourage her from joining the march. She (the mother) tells the daughter that physical attacks will be lodged on the protestors, including clubbing and dog bites.
The daughter tries to explain that there will be other children in the march and therefore relatively safe for her to participate. Strongly, the mother says the child cannot go and instead advices her to go to the church and sing in the choir. The daughter heeds and cleans up before going to the church. Later, a bombing occurs at the church and the mother rushes only to find that her daughter was among the victims (Randall, 2).
One of the literary devices that the author has used to make the poem interesting to read is rhyme. Throughout the poem, we can see a peculiar rhyme scheme, which binds the second and fourth lines of each stanza. In the first stanza, the word ‘play’, in the second line, rhymes with ‘today’ in the fourth line.
In the second stanza, we have ‘wild’ and ‘child’, in the third, ‘me’ and ‘free’, in the fourth ‘fire’ and ‘choir’, in the fifth ‘sweet’ and ‘feet’, in the sixth ‘place’ and ‘face’, in the seventh ‘wild’ and ‘child’ and in the last stanza, ‘shoe’ and ‘you’ rhyme together.
The author of the poem also uses a unique point of view to tell the story. Sitting as an omnipresent observer, he makes the reader visualize the occurrences at every instance. For example, as the mother rushes to the church after the explosion, the author offers a description of the situation in a manner that suggests that he was standing right next to the woman, observing her every action.
As far as character and characterization is concerned, the two persons in the poem, the mother and the daughter have been given different personas. The mother presents the image of a caring and protective parent, who does not want to have any harm to befall her daughter.
This is shown by the way in which she tries to deter her from going to place full of danger. The mother knows from experience that the protestors are not treated kindly and she would do everything possible to keep her daughter from getting herself into harm’s way. The daughter on the other hand is presented as naïve. She is yet to experience the dangers of the world and that is why she thinks going out to take part in a march would be exciting.
The daughter is also insistent, and she goes on to push her mother to allow her go out, even after her request has been turned down. She knows that by insisting that her friends will be there, she might get her mother to relent. Unfortunately, for her, the mother stands her ground.
The one literary device that stands out and sums up the entire poem is irony. In the opening stanzas of the poem, the child is the one who offers to help fight for their rights as the mother chooses to stay away. In essence, it is the mother, who has experienced the pain of discrimination, who should be willing to join the march.
Irony also distinctively comes out in the fact that as much as the church would have been the safest place for the daughter to be during the protest, it turns out to be the fateful area where she would meet her death. After the end of the poem, one hopes that the mother should have let the daughter go to the march, instead of the march, because then she would had a much better chance of escaping with her life, even if dogs had been let loose on the group.
In order for the author to make the reader relate to and feel the impact of the settings being described, a difference in tone is presented depending on the situation. For instance, in the first stanza, one can easily pick out the excitement in the voice of the child as she makes the request to be allowed to join in the march. In the last stanza, a somber tone comes out as the author describes the mother’s searches for her daughter and the final revelation that the daughter perished in the bombing.
In his poem, Randall repeats the line March the streets of Birmingham, in order for the reader to get a clear picture of what was happening in downtown area. This line is used in stanza one and then repeated, for emphasis in the stanza three. Another incidence of repetition is shown in the line No baby, no, you may not go which is used in the second and fourth stanzas.
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In this situation, the author is trying to give emphasis to the mother’s view, regarding the participation of her daughter in the march. This line is supported by the subsequent reasons that the mother offers to deter the daughter from taking part in the protests.
This essay had set out to explain the usage of literary techniques in a poem. An analysis poem Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall was used to exemplify the usage of literary elements in conveying a message. The discussion came to a conclusion that proper usage of narrative strategies, helped the author bring out the theme he had in mind, in a manner that is easily picked by any reader.
By lifting particular examples from the poem, an all-encompassing analysis was presented. It is easy to come to the conclusion that this poem was very well written especially because the author cleverly used literary devices to make his story even stronger.
Randall, Dudley. Ballad of Birmingham: On the Bombing of a Church in Birmingham. USA: Broadside Press, 1965. Print.