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War Photographer
- Carol Ann Duffy

Summary:

The poem focuses on a man who recalls the horrors of war when he develops the photographs he took

Themes:
  • War

  • Solitude

Structure:
  • Four stanzas of fixed lines- this represents the control attempted to impose on the chaos of war.

  • The poem has a cyclical structure which emphasises how futile his efforts are.

  • A caesura is used ‘Now. Rural England. Home again’- the quote emphasises the separation and difference between home and the war front. It also highlights how he feels that the people are separated from the war.

  • It is written in third-person narrative which highlights how photographers are the observers but here the photographer is observed. No pronouns of ‘I’ has been used which illustrates detachment from the poem.

Tone:
  • The first verse portrays a sinister tone with its use of sibilance. ‘Spools of suffering set out’

  • ‘He has a job to do.’- emotionless tone. The sentence is also short to bring the reader back on track. The war photographer has to do his job despite the difficulties of his job.

  • ‘Impassively’, ‘they do not care’- defeated tone.

Imagery:
  • Imagery of war graves. ‘Ordered rows’- how order is given to soldier’s grieves which is ironic considering the chaotic nature of war. This imagery juxtaposes with what the photographer would have been exposed which may be frustrating to the photographer who is trying to bring order to chaos which is really impossible.

  • ‘Half-formed ghost’, ‘blood stained’- imagery of death.

Language:
  • Theological language is used ‘church’, ‘priest’, ‘mass’ which highlights how he sees his work as sacred and worthwhile to bring photos back home away from the front lines. It is there to highlight how important the photographer believes his work is.

  • Plosives such as ‘Belfast’, ‘Beirut’, ‘Phnom Penh’- the plosives used highlight the harsh nature of war. It can also be said that the plosives are used to mimic gunshots/ quick fire pace.

  • ‘All flesh is grass’- bible reference to how life is transitory. This is used to highlight how a photographer’s mind is exposed to death more than the average person so he is reminded how quickly life can end.

  • The use of the word ‘tremble’ indicates how the author is in fact emotionally affected.

  • ‘Home again’- highlights the cyclical nature of job.

  • ‘Ordinary’, ‘simple’- highlights the simplicity of life and rural england which is represented by rural england. It helps contrast how the photographer has come from a world where explosions take place ‘beneath of running children.’

  • ‘Running children in a nightmare heat’ the emotive language used helps pull the heartstrings of the reader and emphasises on the horror and pain of war.

  • ‘Stranger’, ‘foreign’-otherness

  • ‘Hundred’, ‘five or six’- contrast

  • ‘Pick out’- simple, emotionless language

  • ‘Tears’, ‘beers’- midline rhymes highlight how quickly people forget the horrors of war as they don’t experience it firsthand.

Effect on the Reader:
  • The poem has a disturbing effect on the reader as it portrays the horrors of war with a hybrid of tones. The language used further helps highlight how the photographer feels almost traumatised by the atrocity of war while comparing his life to ordinary peoples who haven’t experienced war like he has.

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