Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Wood on A Snowy Evening”, Thomas Hardy’s “The Man He Killed” and Randal Jarrelle’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” are three literary pieces that are linked by similar moods applicable to life and death theme. Nevertheless, the linkage of the poems’ moods somehow is ‘broken’ from the way the mood of each poem is established, conveyed, developed and concluded through dissimilar literary devices which will be the main focus of this paper. Kirszner & Mandell (2007) defines mood of a poem as an establishment of imaginations and emotions associating in a poem. Frost’s “Stopping by Wood on A Snowy Evening” implies a serene, almost mystical mood (Kirszner & Mandell, p.923, 2007), to opting for an option in his poem. Hardy’s “The Man He Killed” meanwhile presents chaotic moods of a war experience in his work and Jarelle on the other hand entails an atrocious mood of death in “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”.
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Imagery is a language that evokes a physical sensation produced by one or more of the five senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell (Kirszner & Mandell, p. 922, 2007). In “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening” (Kirszner & Mandell, p. 1180-1181, 2007), Frost evokes physical sensations of his readers by imaging stunning images of winter and its surrounding nature and charming dark woods throughout his poem, creating a quiet and serene mood in general, as calm as the season itself. Initially, Frost establishes the serene mood of his poem via the title of the poem itself, “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening” and later retains the mood by employing sense of darkness (line 8 and line 16) and sense of freezing (line 7) in which natural occurrences of the winter take place. The mood of the poem however shifts when Frost images an idea of being in between two things; easy wind and downy flake (line 12) and the woods and frozen lake (line 7) which associate readers’ emotions and imaginations to opt for a choice between life and death. In short, Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening” reflects other literary pieces of him such as “The Road Not Taken” and “Fire and Ice” which also image natural phenomenon to establish and associate the moods of the poems.
In “The Man He Killed” (Kirszner & Mandell, p.865, 2007), Hardy ascertains the mood of the poem dissimilarly from Frost as he uses tone of the poem to ascertain the mood. A tone of a poem can be explained as the poem’s speaker attitude towards his or her subject (Kirszner & Mandell, p. 864, 2007) in which the poem’s speaker is a post-service soldier. Hardy establishes a cynical mood at first when the soldier’s attitude towards his foe who was once his accommodation mate (line 1 and line 2) has ‘ranged’ to become his foe (line 5) using a colloquial language which is indicated by an apostrophe. The soldier’s attitude then move simultaneously with the poem’s mood into an aggressive state when the soldier has shot his foe to death without any hesitation in the third stanza of the poem. In the next stanza, Hardy shifts to a distressing mood as he expresses the soldier’s attitude towards the speaker’s purposes of killing his foe are no other than economical and ideological reasons. The senseless mood of war experienced by the speaker finally concludes the mood of the poem ironically as the speaker’s attitude towards the war as a whole is revealed since he does not ‘say’ what actually he wants to ‘say’ about his war experienced indicated by “quaint and curious war” (lines 17-20). In deduction, “The Man He Killed” mirrors several Hardy’s literary works such as “Drummer Hodge” and “The Going of The Battery” which also evoke readers’ moods using the tones of the poems towards life and death in wars as the central subject.
Another literary device uses to institute moods of a poem is known as figures of speech, expressions of words to achieve effects beyond the power of ordinary language (Kirszner & Mandell, p. 939, 2007). Jarrelle’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” (Kirszner & Mandell, p.947, 2007) employs this literary device to establish the atrocious mood of death encounter from an air force army’s point of view using metaphor, an imaginative comparison between two unlike items does not use ‘like’ or ‘as’ and personification, a comparison that gives life or human characteristics to inanimate objects or abstract ideas (Kirszner & Mandell, p.940, 2007). An establishment of the poem’s mood curtains up with a joyous mood of the speaker as Jarrelle metaphorically conveys the mood “from mother’s sleep” (line 1) as “a full-grown man” and “fell into the state” (line 2) as “serving the country militarily”. The air-force army’s joyous mood further develops into the atrocious mood of death encounter in which Jarrelle gives human characteristics to the air force plane in which the air-force army flies (line 2). Jarrelle then maintains the vital mood of the poem metaphorically, comparing distance – dream (line 3) and anti-craft fire – nightmare (line 4). Still retaining the vital mood of the poem, the death of the air-force army closes the poem as Jarrelle personifies the speaker as a functional no more World War II turret gunner (line 5). In brief, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” echoes other Jarrelle’s poems such as “Gunner” and “Losses” which also associate readers’ imaginations and emotions using metaphors and personifications.
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In a nutshell, the three literary pieces which underlying the similar life and death theme are connected by individual moods relating to the theme, whereby the poets establish, convey, develop and conclude the mood of their poems dissimilarly, employing the literary devices; imagery, tone and figures of speech into their poems to intrigue readers’ imaginations and emotions to finally grasp the underneath theme successfully.
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