Carol Ann Duffy
After I no longer speak they break our fingers 1
to salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel Ruth
Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows
beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for the daughters,
upright as statues, brave. You would not look at me. 5
You waited for the bullet. Fell. I say, Remember.
Remember these appalling days which make the world
Forever bad. One saw I was alive. Loosened
his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.
Between the gap of corpses I could see a child. 10
The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days separate
this from acts of torture now. They shot her in the eye.
How would you prepare to die, on a perfect April evening
with young men gossiping and smoking by the graves?
My bare feet felt the earth and urine trickled 15
Down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A trick.
After immense suffering someone takes tea on the lawn.
After the terrible moans a boy washes his uniform.
After the history lesson children run to their toys the world
turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara Ezra … 20
Sister, if seas part us, do you not consider me?
Tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk
inside the wire and strong men wept. Turn thee
unto me with mercy, for I am desolate and lost. 24
How does Carol Ann Duffy bring to life the experience of a Holocaust victim? And what does CAD want us to learn from this? (The central concern and/or impact of the text.
"Shooting Stars’ is ironic / ambiguous.
Expectation is of good luck, fireworks, wonder
But ‘Shooting’ refers to Nazis with guns
‘Stars’ refers to Star of David, mark a bullet leaves on a forehead
2. Persona (use of 1stPerson Narrative / Dramatic Monologue)
“After I no longer speak” (see notes on importance / impact of 1stline)
3. Imagery also brings the character / experience alive.
“Upright as statues, brave” (simile) – dignity, defiance, bravery, gives readers a quality to respect. “statues” to commemorate an important death, gravestone, honour
“My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear” (metaphor) – a humiliating experience, “ragged” suggests the violence, roughness of the rape, “gape” suggests wide opened mouth – silent screaming
“Urine trickled down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A Trick”
“Rebecca Rachel Ruth Aaron Emmanuel David” (list) – effect of the absence of commas a) puts the persona into a community being persecuted (all Jewish names) b) suggests the vast limitless numbers of people being destroyed (and the speed of their destruction, not slowed down by commas)
“Remember, Remember” (repetition) a) repetition and capitalisation show the importance of the central concern that we don’t forget these “appalling” days.
“The spades shovel soil, Sarah, Ezra”… ellipsis is used here to show the never ending list of victims (not just of Nazi persecution but also of our forgetfulness over time)
Alliteration of “s” sound recreates the rhythm of digging, helps us to hear it, and draws attention to “Sarah” – female victims
Persona is characterised as a victim
“they break our fingers to salvage my wedding ring”
Persona also characterised as brave
“upright as statues, brave”
“How would you prepare to die on a perfect April evening?”
-“prepare” suggests she was ready, brave in the face of extreme violence
-“perfect April evening” (irony) you would expect something pleasant to happen
On the other hand the German (Nazis) are characterised as inhumane, cruel
“they” – nameless, draws attention to their inhumanity
“one saw I was alive” –furthers the idea of namelessness
“the soldiers laughed” – suggests their inappropriate inhumanity
“a boy washes his uniform” – “boy” takes us into the idea that Nazis too may have been victims having their innocence taken away from them
Repetition of “After … After …. After” in final verses takes us into the central concern of the text that after the passage of time (reinforced with the metaphor “Sister, if seas part us” the loss of these people and their tragedy (“tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk and strong men wept” (an instruction) is not forgotten and lost in time.
The Importance of the first and last lines in “Shooting Stars”
“After I no longer speak they break our fingers to salvage my wedding ring.”
Links to the Holocaust and suggests that a number of things have already happened to her
Poet takes on a persona to enter into the victim’s situation
First person narrative, Dramatic Monologue
No longer speak
Suggests she is near to death, a victim of extreme brutality
Germans are not named – dehumanises them and suggests their inhumanity
Break our fingers
Theme of persecution, suggests violence
Searching through rubbish to find something of value
My wedding ring
Suggests she was once loved, shocking that they was treated in this way
Impact – creates our sympathy
“Turn thee unto me with mercy for I am desolate and lost.
A command to the reader, links to others such as “How would you prepare to die …”
“Thee” language of the Old Testament, the Jewish Song Book
Command, a religious register is created in this line
First person narrative / Dramatic Monologue
Forgiveness, takes us into ideas of the persecution of the Jews and the guilt of the Germans,
A religious concecpt
For I am
First person narrative / Dramatic Monologue
1. deeply unhappy – creates sympathy for the persona
2. empty of people – not only being unhappy but also being rubbed out of history
Word choice, theme, central concern
1. Unless we remember she will be forgotten, gone forever
2. Thrown away – takes us into the inhumanity of the Nazis
Theme, central concern
Student Essay (2)
Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Shooting Stars’ is a poem in which human suffering is effectively portrayed. Duffy uses the situation of Nazi persecution of the Jewish people to underline this. Duffy’s use of an ambiguous title, together with her imagery effectively explores this theme of human suffering.
The poem’s title ‘Shooting Stars’ creates a sense of ambiguity. The general connotations applied to this phrase are that of a falling star or perhaps the beauty and brightness of fireworks. However it is not until we reach the actual content of the poem that we realise that the stars in question are those Stars of David, sewn on to the garments of Jews on the order of the Nazi regime. Duffy establishes the darkness and horror of the Holocaust immediately in the first line of the poem in the phrase ‘After I no longer speak’. Here Duffy creates an incredibly strong image of silence and death when the voice has been stilled permanently. The horror is continued in the image created by ‘they break our fingers’ and there is in this the onomatopoeia of the sound of snapping bones as ‘wedding rings’ are ‘salvaged’ for profit. Here again the poet uses the two conflicting images of the wedding band, a symbol of eternal love and theft and profit through death in juxtaposition.
The first two lines create a vivid picture of man’s inhumanity to man, the unthinking, uncaring cruelty with which one race imposes on another.
As the first stanza develops Duffy uses traditional Jewish names, all unpunctuated to remove the idea of them being individuals, but a huge collective dead. Yet despite this she reveals the courage with which these woman faced death ‘upright as statues’, individuals who looked straight ahead waiting for death with calmness. The poet intensifies her images in her demand of the reader and to the wider world to ‘Remember’. This demand is repeated least the world forget for the narrator of the poem states that the ‘world’ is now ‘for ever bad’.
Duffy’s word choice within the poem effectively introduces an impersonal note. The narrative given from the point of view of one of the suffering allows the reader, however, to appreciate the scale that inhumanity can inflict and in turn the scale of this suffering. As the poem progresses Duffy personalises the horror of the holocaust. The child seen between a gap in ‘corpses’ is shot, her ‘eye’. She used as a target. The narrator too whilst still alive is seen as little more than a sexual object as one soldier seeing she was ‘alive…loosened his belt.’ The detail in stanzas two and three appal the reader and force him or her to recoil at the bestiality that is conveyed so bluntly in the poem. She closes the third stanza again with a warning note that such cruelty still applies in the world today – she states that ‘only a matter of days separate/this from acts of torture now.’ The adverb ‘now’ brings us to the present day and the poet asks us to consider just how little mankind has changed, perhaps implying that humans as a species are ignorant to their transgressions and fail to learn from the past.
In stanza four Duffy uses contrast to emphasise the monstrosity of the time further. The reference to ‘April evening’ with its connotations of springtime, Easter and beauty is set against the ‘gossiping and smoking by the graves’ and the deplorable image of the soldiers tormenting those already wounded, or those who escaped death by feigning the bullet shot, by using an empty chamber. The onomatopoeia of ‘click’, ‘trick’ and trickled’ mirrors the short sharp sounds of the empty gun, the harshness and inhumanity of the trick and the final humiliation of the ‘trickled urine’, the last indignity. Perhaps this more than anything, this ‘trick’ of pretending to shoot but using an empty bullet chamber, the toying with the lives of those already suffering is the most dreadful of all. The waiting for death is lengthened and so suffering is also elongated.
In the closing section of the poem the poet’s description of the suffering of the Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1944 is made even more dreadful when Duffy reminds us that the enormity of the Holocaust has made little impact, for the human race is still intent on inflicting human suffering.In the closing stanzas of the poem Duffy once again highlights the immensity of the horror of those events by contrasting them with the civilised activities of the human being i.e. the ‘tea on the lawn’ and the ‘boy washing his uniform’. And these activities apply to the reader, as they read of such events and yet return to their everyday lives, they ‘run to our toys’ to the oblivion that forgetfulness brings. She uses ellipsis once more, only this time the ‘soil’ of time is shovelled over ‘Sara Ezra’…We forget all too quickly.
The final lines end on a note of tragedy for the poet returns us to the inside of the concentration camp where ‘inside the wire …strong men wept’. The poet again emphasises the extent, the immensity of this event, when strong men are unable to
tolerate this. This return back to the concentration camps also shows the cyclic nature of suffering in Duffy’s message to the reader, humans inflict suffering unto other humans and then when the events have been forgotten they are repeated. The closing lines of the poem ‘Turn thee/unto me with mercy for I am desolate and lost’ is a reworking of verse six-teen Psalm twenty five which is a prayer from King David to God in which David places his absolute trust in God. Extending this idea in that the Jews themselves ask the rest of the world to be merciful and this request has not been granted.
The poet is an address from woman to woman for men are seen to be the inflictors of the inhumane actions that are the centre of the poem and perhaps she sees the possibility of salvation through women. Yet the poem ends on a sense of desolation and loss for nothing seems to have changed in the world. The holocaust is repeated all over the world constantly and the voices raised in protest do not seem to be heard. Duffy’s verse is extremely powerful and we wonder why the world does not listen to the lessons of the past for today in the 21stcentury we constantly read and see of human suffering on a similar if not a greater scale than that of the Holocaust.