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The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner Poem Analysis

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As Adolf Hitler and his National-Socialist party rose to power, along with the Japanese Imperial Army in the 1930's, the fear of a second World War was quickly becoming a reality. In 1941, that reality became a living nightmare, and once again, the world was engulfed in war. World War II would soon become the most costly and intense war in human history due to its many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new and extremely devastating

weapons such as the machine gun, and the atom bomb.

"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" gives a small insight to such chaos. It is a poem written by Randall Jarrel while he served in the Army Air Force during World War II. It is a poem about the thoughts the gunner might have felt as he carried out his mission, and is probably based on firsthand experience with a ball turret or a 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 from its dream of life,

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."

A ball turret is exactly what its name implies: a plexiglass sphere with two .50 caliber machine guns each holding 500 rounds, mounted on the underside of American B-17 or B-24 bombers, and capable of rotating 360o. It was used to defend against attacking enemy aircraft during bombing missions, and was operated by one person sitting inside the ball itself.

"From my mother's sleep I fell into the State"

In this line, the author is metaphorically comparing and constrasting a mother's love to a soldier's duty. He is showing how being cramped in a sphere attatched to the underside of a plane reminds the gunner of embracing his loving mother's warmth by being inside her womb, only to be woken up from this daydream and realizing once again that he is just another expendable soldier. He has abandoned his civilian "state" of mind, only to become a product of a cold dehumanizing "State". The use of the word "fell" may show that the gunner is having second thoughts, and may feel that he has been tricked into risking his life.

"And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze."

Right now, the gunner is describing his position, or rather his disposition. The ball turret is very cramped, and only allows enough room for a very short person, which is why he is hunched. The frozen "wet fur" is condensed moisture freezing to his bomber jacket, due to the low temperature at high altitude. The gunner is uncomfortable.

"Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life"

The gunner is starting to lose hope about surviving the mission. "Loosed from its dream of life" means that he has abandoned his civilian way of life, a way of life where he may have had a chance at a successful

and prosperous future, and trading it in for a path where death is imminent. His location, "six miles from earth", may be symbolic, meaning that he has reached the point of no return, that he has succeeded

in permantly separating

himself from what life and peaceful society has to offer, like a dismembered fetus without its mother's life supporting it. It is starting to seem to him that his destiny is to die and eventually will. The gunner is drastically losing hope.



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