The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
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"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from Earth, loosed rom its dream of life.
I woke to the black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell is a poem about
a soldier dying in the ball turret of a fighter plane during what was most
likely World War II. The poem tells of the fear of young soldiers being sent
to war and their thoughts of dying.
The poem is told from the point of view of a young fighter aboard a
bomber during World War II. The fighter is positioned in the ball turret
which was an enclosed bubble with a swivel gun in the belly of the plane.
This poem reads like a nightmare or dream being told by a soldier
who has been taken from his childhood and thrown into war. The soldier
describes the fear of awakening from the naive state of childhood into the
preeminent likelihood of his death during the "State" of war (line 1). He
describes the disconnection he feels from Earth and what he calls it "dream
of life" as if life only existed in birth and death (line 3). When he awakens
to "black flak" and "nighmare fighters" he seems to imply that all that lies
between birth and death is war (line 4).
The theme to this poem emerges in the last line with almost a plea that
he not be forgotten. When he says "they washed me out of the turret with
a hose" he implies that there is nothing left including the memory of him and
the war goes on.
Jarrell, Randall. "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." The Harper
American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade. New York: Harper
Collins , 1996. 2594.
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