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“The Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall Analysis Essay

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Updated: Sep 5th, 2022

“The Ballad of Birmingham” was written in 1969 by Dudley Randall in response to a real church bombing in the city of Birmingham and became his best-known and most brilliant poem. One of the reasons why this literary work touches people’s hearts and makes its readers emotional is its tone, or in other words, the way the author seems to feel about the poem’s subject. It is rather evident that the tone of “The Ballad of Birmingham” is sympathetic.

The author feels sorry for the dead child and her mother, who was sure her daughter is safe in the church and who will never be able to smile again (Randal). Also, by the end of the poem, its tone gets angry shades as the author is furious because of the injustice that all African-American people have to face violence, and because of children’s sufferings.

As for the irony, the author uses this device to draw the readers’ attention to the injustice of the situation described in the poem. As the mother did not want her child to be endangered, she kept her away from the “fierce and wild” dogs, “and clubs and hoses, guns and jails” (Randal). That is why the mother sent the girl to the church, a place which is considered safe and free of any evil things, but which was bombed on that day and turned out to be dangerous and deadly.

Finally, this poem has symbolism that is using various symbols for signifying qualities and ideas and giving them new meanings different from their literal ones. In this poem, the church symbolizes religion, hope, and safety; white is the symbol of purity and innocence – that is why the girl’s shoes and gloves were this color (Randal). Another symbol is the march the child wanted to go to – it symbolizes freedom.

To conclude, one may say that a literary work’s subject and theme are not the only ones that make it famous and evoke readers’ emotions. For most of the poems, it is of vital importance to have some literary devices, for example, symbolism, irony, and tone, that add more feelings, ideas, and meanings to them. As for “The Ballade of Birmingham,” the literary devices used there make this poem not only a terrifying story of one family but a description of all African-Americans who suffer injustice and violence.

Work Cited

Randal, Dudley. “ Poetry Foundation. Web.

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