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Analysis and comments on The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

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Comment 14 of 74, added on April 14th, 2007 at 6:08 PM.

This isn't about abortion listen to what Jarrell himslef said. A ball
turret was a plexiglass sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and
inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man.
When this gunne tracked whith his machine-guns a fighter attaking his
bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-deown in his
little sphere, he looked like the foetus in the womb. The fighters which
attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a
steam hose." No where in there does he mention abortion. (This is from the
notes of his book The Complete Poems by Randall Jarrell)

Matt from United States
Comment 13 of 74, added on April 2nd, 2007 at 9:52 PM.

Yes i agree with Darkbeat from the United States on the subject of
abortion, "in that time, no such things could be done, and in that itme no
such things were said..." Darkbeat, refresh my memory, what was one of Anne
Sextons most famous poems again?

Comment 12 of 74, added on April 2nd, 2007 at 3:04 PM.

Jarrell himself wrote extensively on the meaning of this poem, and nowhere
does it include abortion. This was the war poem of a man who was too
gentle, too tender of heart, to be a warrior. Its greatness lies in the
universal "gut shot" of that final, cold line which gives an unforgettable
image for the banality of war. Over-analysis is a dangerour thing.

Meg Scott from United States
Comment 11 of 74, added on April 18th, 2006 at 1:52 PM.

To characterize this poem as a metaphor for abortion is overreaching. As
an aerial gunner in WW II, I was very impressed by the poem. I still take
it for what I think it was intended to be - an illustration of the horror
and senselessness of WAR. I will admit that it can certainly be regarded
as an anti-abortion message. But, I really don't think that was the poet's

David Sullivan from United States
Comment 10 of 74, added on April 6th, 2006 at 8:02 PM.

Well first of all, abortion was an issue long before this poem was written.
Laws were passed way back in the 1800's that made abortion illegal. It must
have been a big deal if they made laws to stop it. Whether or not the poet
intended for the comparison to be made is not anything we can prove, but
when you are a "writer" or a "poet" you don't write things haphazardly.
Every word and space is important. The punctuation, syllables, and even the
spaces are a part of your masterpiece. I find it highly improbable that it
was not intentional for the reader to make the comparison.

Ajaya from United States
Comment 9 of 74, added on March 15th, 2006 at 3:48 PM.

Truly i am amazed to see these ridiculous references to abortion being
pulled from sucha simple and straightforward poem. In teose times, as a
previous commenter stated, Abortion was not even a practice in medicine,
let alone done unprofessianally in such a way. There may be metaphorical
references available now but in that time it was not possible to draw such
conclsions and anyone whom did could be simply summed up as ludicrously
misguided. I am not scholar btu even i am not so stupid as to make such
judgements on a poem wihtout thinking of the time in which it was
written... Adn in that time, no such things could be done, and in that
itme no such things were said...

Darkbeat from United States
Comment 8 of 74, added on February 9th, 2006 at 10:57 AM.

Jarrell's poem is about the pointless and inhumane waste of life that is
both abortion and war. He likens the belly of the plane to the womb of a
mother inorder to make the gunner seem like a child, which makes his death
that much more upsetting to the reader. He says "they washed me out with a
hose" because that is truly what they did. The hose here though, is
metaphorical and can be compared to a vaccum cleaner because back in 1945
when he wrote the poem, it wasn't uncommon for a young girl to perform her
own abortion with a wire coat hanger and a vaccum cleaner.

David from United States
Comment 7 of 74, added on January 6th, 2006 at 7:49 PM.

Actually this poem being about abortion is abosolutely butkiss- this poem
focuses on one thing and that is that in war some people are more
expendable than others. Case in point, only the most inexperienced and
youthful troopers were given the job of being a ball turret gunner. Due to
the fact that they were smaller and easily replaced. This is what the poet
refers to when he speaks of "falling from the womb into the care of the
state." Not only was the poem written in a time when modern abortion was
not even in existence but a time of war- more importantly a time in which
the draft had been established. So look elsewhere for ridiculous ways to
tie abortion and the abhorance there of, because frankly trying to tie it
to this poem is just plain ridiculous.

Joshua from United States
Comment 6 of 74, added on December 26th, 2005 at 9:58 PM.

I went through that phase, it got me an A in college. In fact the 'serious'
reading of personal meanings into poetry seems only a display of
uncuriosity. It gives endless opportunities for writing 'criticism' without
actually understanding things. Also it shields poets against having to do
good work, and lets them write nonsense verse without being honest about
it. (Nonsense verse as such is something I like.)

Any association of the death of the ball turret gunner with abortion
politics is a closure of the 'mind' to the actual subject. Ball turret
gunners were _real_ people who _really did_ get killed and _really did_
have to be cleaned out with an air hose, because they _really were_ turned
into goo. So what if there is some superficial resemblance in someone's
'mind' to abortion? I mean that: So what? This is a poem about a ball
turret gunner, written as if from the point of view of that gunner, in
other words the writer imagines it his himself.

Bojo from United States
Comment 5 of 74, added on December 7th, 2005 at 7:12 PM.

THANK YOU! abortion only became an issue when everything had to be
"politically correct". Jarrell is just simply describing what could go
through a ball turret gunner's mind when he gets into the heat of battle.
that is ALL!

Bill from United States

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Information about The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner

Poet: Randall Jarrell
Poem: The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner
Added: Feb 20 2003
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