Conflict is a verywidespread topic portrayed in distinctive ways in the poems, War Photographer, Motherin a Refugee Camp, and, Prayer Before Birth.
It has a substantial impact on thereader, as the epilogue of conflict may result in suffering and hardship. Thisemotionally drains the reader as it consumes them with overwhelmingly difficultfeelings. Conflict could also be interpreted in ways, such as disputes, with lovedones, or minor disagreements about certain subjects. The poems, ‘WarPhotographer, ‘Mother in a Refugee Camp’ and ‘Prayer before Birth’, are perfectrepresentations of this topic. In ‘War Photographer’ the persona is reminded,by the authentic insight of the harsh realities of war and the approach the photographertook to endure his pain. ‘Mother in a Refugee Camp’ describes the tragic lifeof a lonely mother who cannot seem to erase the thought of her one and only sonwho is no longer in existence, who depicts her affection towards him. ‘Prayerbefore Birth’ shows the unwillingness of an unborn child facing the terrors ofthe world, but also describing the reasoning behind it.
The first poem on thelist is ‘War Photographer’, written by Carol Ann Duffy. This poem portraysconflict in several different ways, and language techniques like ambiguous textused in certain sections of the poem, which shows more than one idea to thereader. Ambiguous text is used so that the theme of conflict can be seen indifferent views, according to how the reader interprets it. A prominent waythis has been used is “Half-formed ghost”. This can be connoted to twodifferent understandings. First being, the individuals who fought through thewar weren’t rest in peace as they knew that the destruction has not ended,hence the significance of the word “ghost” from them passing away without theirsoul being at ease. Next being, that the soldiers might be as good as dead as theymade the decision in risking their sole life in fighting for victory. Althoughthe perks of building up courage for the army, the position comes alongside poolsof bloodbath and mass danger.
This ends up with soldiers that are dissatisfiedwith the atrocious way their life has come to an end, feeling like their inputfor the army was not sufficient to make positive effects for their country. Duffy’s poem isthought out very well and has a quite powerful opening sentence, ‘In hisdarkroom he is finally alone’. This line is significant as the opening line ofa poem is what sets the entire mood and tone of a poem, and Duffy did this welland made sure the mood of the poem was melancholy.
The words, ‘darkroom’ and’finally alone’ had a huge impact on why I suggested this. Wecan obtain a pertinent illustrationin the words ‘finally alone’, which suggests that the photographer is relievedto escape the chaos and suffering that he witnessed. Although the sense ofrelief, the ‘darkroom’, reminds him of the mass amount of innocent bodies thatare deceased, which is why the ‘darkroom is a deliberate hideout, to block theunpleasant views he cannot seem to erase. Another view that I like to look at’darkroom’ is through a metaphor of the photographer’s head. The level oftrauma and damage his head held could have been remarkably excessive,considering the many victims he captured getting massacred. This might havebeen the reason of which he associated his head with a ‘darkroom’ because ofits pitch-black appearance which indicates dark, negative thoughts.
Additionally, Duffyuses juxtaposition to show the readers how two different parts of the poem thatcontrast. If a wealthy individual who has all the comforts required for humansurvival, and are capable of paying for their daily expenditures, come across alone homeless beggar that cannot even fathom the concept of paying for a bottleof water, the superior one would certainly feel empathy and sorrow for the inferior.This is why Duffy is very clever to make the reader empathetic by making thefollowing contrast.
In the fourth stanza, ‘bath and pre-lunch beers’, which iscontrary to the mood of the people’s lives that are captured by thephotographer. On the third stanza Duffy described the soldier’s unforgettablememory ‘how the blood stained into foreign dust’. The use of the word ‘stain’,illustrates the conflict and the gory, violent memories of the war that havestayed with the war photographer. As an alternative, ‘Dust’ could represent thedesensitised feelings of the viewers, their empathy and care is easilyforgotten; blown away. ‘War photographer’ and’Dulce Et Decorum Est’ are very similar in terms of the topic. They bothportray the topic of war. War photographerdisplays this topic through captured pictures of war by the photographer, andDulce Et Decorum Est depicts the horrors of war seen by a soldier in WW1. Oneway they are contrary is; the war photographer is not a soldier in the army anddoes not fight in the war, which suggests he does have a clear insight of whatthe government really teaches and tells the army.
On the other hand, thesoldier in Dulce Et Decorum Est, does know exactly what goes on in thegovernment and what they learn. By physically fighting in the war, the soldierin ‘Dulce’ proves that war in not heroic at all. The next poem is ‘Motherin A Refugee Camp’, written by Chinua Achebe. In this poem, the mother isrefusing to formally accept the fact her son is no more, but simply recalls allher memories with him, that are small like bathing him, but worth the memory. Theauthor cleverly directs the readers to the son’s tragic death, whilstdescribing the horrific conditions that were present at the camp. Presentingemotion was not a tricky technique for Achebe, he used pathos, which evokespity or sadness to the reader. He did this by implementing the powerful word’children’ into the poem.
The specific word ‘children’ tends to make readerssympathize as children tend to be seen as innocent and vulnerable, this createsconflict for the readers because if anything was to happen to the children, thereaders would feel a sense of guilt and the reader is forced to feel attachedto the children, this creates conflict when something bad happens to them. The first line of thepoem ‘No Madonna and Child’, is in my view a direct metaphor of the famousItalian painting symbolizing a great mother, (Madonna being Mother Mary). Themother of Jesus, expresses a soft, tender, caring feeling because Mary hasalways been seen as a lady that is sinless, with a pure heart, devoted to the righteousways of living. These are the personality traits the mother is trying toperceive. The author is defining the excessive amount of love she has for herson, and how it does not even level with the love ‘Mary’ had for ‘Jesus’, it ismore. The author may have tried to make the readers appreciate their own mothermore by, displaying the amount of compassion the mother showed for the son. Also,it creates a sense of thankfulness for the readers, as it ensures that theyknow how blessed/lucky they are, for living in the conditions that don’t makethem agonise.
Also, there is a comparison between the conditions of howthe son died and Jesus. They both had a painful death. The son may have had apainful death of starvation and indecent care in the camp, and Jesus wascrucified on the cross, which in undoubtedly agonizing. Throughout the poem, thereaders can really evaluate the deepened love for her son especially comingtowards the end when the author mentions ‘Like putting flowers on a tinygrave’. This line is very significant, as it sets the ending mood for thereader. Even though the mother is not in the right financial state to afford acoffin, the author compares combing his hair as a mark of respect, which iscompletely acceptable due to her current situation. The poems ‘Mother in aRefugee Camp’ and ‘The Right Word’ differ in a few different ways.
The concept behind ‘Theright word’ tells us how individuals perceive threat in different ways. Itexplores people’s simultaneous way of labelling one another, and how common ithas grown through the years, especially after the disastrous event of 9/11.These two poems have another quality with makes them different, they both talkabout ‘children’ in different scenarios. At the end of ‘The right word’, the child is welcomed into the ladies’household, which is completely unexpected judging the readers did not expectthe ‘shadow’ to be a child, which is significantly different from ‘aterrorist’. On the other hand, ‘Mother in a refugee camp’, takes a differentdirection, in terms of the mood of the poem. The mother’s child, passes away inher loving arms, leaving her unwilling to erase her vivid past with him.
The final poem is ‘PrayerBefore Birth’, written by Louis MacNeice. The conflict displayed in this poemis through the thoughts of an unborn child, who pleads his/her hatred ofviolence to God. The unborn child fears the big bad world, that is drowningwith corruption, and injustice. MacNeice portrayed the ‘unborn child’ as allchildren, as a symbol of innocence and purity. The structure of the poem ismade up of eight stanzas with the common use of repetition, ‘me’ at the end ofeach stanza, suggesting it’s a rhythmic prayer, that the child may be devotedto. This emphasizes the level of innocence the unborn child has, and byrepeating the word ‘me’, it makes the readers feel a sense of guilt, that we humansare the sole ones that make the world so corrupt.
Also, the intensity of prayerthroughout the poem shows how petrified the child is for what is about to come,thus being so dedicated in his/her plea. Another rhyming effect used is in the firstand last line of each stanza is, ‘O hear me’, ‘Come near me’, and this giveseach stanza a sense of finality. The structure is laid out in a very unusualway using cascading lines. Each cascading line could represent a differentplace, where a series of crime took place.
The placement of each line isdisorganised showing that the earth does not have its moral rights organisedand clear. The syntactic parallels add a rhythmic and hypnotic effect, ‘O fillme’, ‘O hear me’. This shows the amount of fear the unborn child is goingthrough, which automatically changed her/his mind-set to be hypnotised and repeatwords that have a strong implication, in this case ‘hear me’. The hypnotisationis the reason for the child being so arrogant about being right about howinhumane earth is. The readers might have hugely impacted from this, as theymight be feeling like the ones that influenced the child to feel like this,making them feel guilty and helpless.
MacNeice uses a range ofliterary devices to show a sense of conflict. There is a usage ofpersonification on the third stanza, ‘Trees talk to me’, ‘Skies to sing to me’.The unborn child’s utter hatred is towards human race is dramaticallyemphasised which is the sole reason why he/she would rather be socialising withinanimate objects, (‘tree’). The author is indirectly getting across thathumans have fewer moralistic values than a non-living object, and that wereaders should be learning a lesson to have a positive influence on youngerones. Paradox is used in the next stanza, ‘white waves call me to folly’.
Thiscontradicts the personification used earlier. The word, ‘white’, juxtaposes tothe entire poem as the colour ‘white’ has a positive connotation that isusually associated with purity and innocence. The entire poem depicts theabhorrent earth, and associating purity with it, is completely contrasting.
Iwould describe the tone of the poem as apocalyptic due to the hopelesssituation of the manipulative world. ‘Prayer before Birth’& ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ both have similarities, in terms of them beingwritten at war. Prayer before birth was written towards the end of WW2, and”Dulce et decorum Est” was written at the start of WW1. They both accentuatethe horrors of war. In ‘Dulce et decorum Est’ it is clearly evident in, ‘Asunder a green sea, I saw him drowning’. The ‘green’ may be chlorine, which isharmful to breathe in, the soldiers in war may have been drowning in the fumesof chlorine, that would go to their lungs and cause difficulty to breathe. Thisline could also indicate the soldiers drowning in fear, of what they are goingto go through in war, or of the evil situations they have witnessed. One waythe two poems differ is, ‘Prayer before birth’, is entirely an unborn child’splea of the reasons why he/she does not want to be born into this world, but in’Dulce et decorum Est’, the soldiers are experiencing the gruel sights inreal-life, and they aren’t just praying for the inhumane behaviour to end, itsreality for them.
Conflict is a truly dauntingtopic that is distinguished in all poems that we have explored. We learn thatconflict is portrayed in different ways in the poems, whether it’s through asimple plea, or an intense bloodshed. ‘War photographer’ conveys the obscenerealities of a war, that have made a permanent stain on the photographer’smind, while ‘Mother in a refugee camp’ highlights a perplexed mother who cannotseem to determine whether to let go or block away the truth. ‘Prayer beforebirth’, where innocence is the only concept a soul wants to be associated with.
These poems serve to remind the readers the importance of appreciation for nothaving unbearable conflict to trouble us in life, and value the way this ispresented in poetry.