'Shooting Stars'
by Carol Ann Duffy
Learning Intentions
• Begin to analyse and annotate the main
techniques of used in 'Shooting Stars'
• Focus on the key techniques Duffy has used
to convey her message and to evoke a
response from the reader
• Work together to share your ideas and build
on your textual analysis skills
The Persona
Why is the poem written in first person?
• Written in the first person to emphasise the
narrator’s feelings. This creates an intimate
relationship between poet and reader to
increase the emotive effect of the poem.
Feelings are the crux of this poem!
• Why is the speaker not identified?
The speaker is not identified; she is nameless –
like so many of the Jewish victims.
The title of the poem is worth a brief comment in
any essay. Traditionally, shooting stars are seen as
beautiful and special. Conventionally, the stars
image would be a very positive one.
"Shooting Stars"
As a title of the poem, the shooting stars
image functions in an ironic sense.
Literally the Jews - the stars – are being
Clearly, the poem
contains an
extremely negative
message. However,
we can still see the
“stars” of the poem
(the Jews) as
beautiful and
Connotations of
The first stanza opens with the words of the victim of the
Nazis. This is a euphemistic way of saying that she is dead.
The poem reanimates her dead voice.
Her fingers are broken in
She, however values the
order to achieve this
ring for its symbolic and
salvaging, creating the
personal significance and
impression of a scrap heap
not for the money it will
being picked over.
WC - The
After I no longer speak they break our fingers
To salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel Ruth
ring is
Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows
Beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for the
that her
value her
life less
She says that there are
The speaker can protest forever as the
than the
stars of David tattooed
poem gives her eternal life. The list of
gold ring.
on the prisoners’
Jewish forenames, possibly her
foreheads and these
children or family members, draws
provide a shocking target
attention to their cultural identity and
for the soldiers who will
reinforces the idea that there is no
literally be ‘shooting
need for further identifying marks to
be applied to them by their antagonists
This word simultaneously conjures up the picture of her
friend slumping to the ground after being shot + reminds us
of its frequent use as a euphemism in time of war. To fall in
wartime is to die in battle. This is horrific enough in itself but
we are presented here with women who were not even
combatants; they were defenceless and powerless.
The woman addresses her
friend, reminding her of
how she faced death, how
she ‘Fell’
upright as statues, brave. You would not look at me.
You waited for the bullet. Fell. I say, Remember.
Remember those appalling days which make the world
forever bad. One saw I was alive. Loosened
The woman, whose voice sounds
throughout the poem, is emphatic about
the fact that she wants such atrocity
to be remembered
These further explore the atrocities visited on the victims of
war and the heroic bravery of the women who suffered at the
hands of the Nazis. Their stoical endurance allowed them to
wait for their deaths ’upright as statues’ but there is also a
clear implication that they could be frozen with terror.
Duffy uses repetition for
emphasis but, more subtly
capitalises ‘Remember’ at
the end of a sentence as
she is drawing attention to
the vital status of cultural
collective memory.
Also, the crucial need for
the whole world to avoid a
repetition of the
Holocaust is paramount.
From the persona’s
perspective, however,
there is no redemptive
possibility, as the world is
perceived as ‘forever bad’.
The hopeless surrender to fear is
momentarily mediated, though, in the
glimpsed child through the ‘gap’ he
woman can see between ‘corpses’.
This deals with the crime of rape. The sheer
terror of the woman is vividly conveyed
through Duffy’s concentration on its physical
his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.
The word ‘gape’
is often used to
describe a facial
expression, and
this makes the
effacement of
the woman’s
identity by such
brutality even
more shocking.
These events are Between the gap of corpses I could see a child.
no more than
amusement for
The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days separate
the soldiers, who
are intoxicated by
this from acts of torture now. They shot her in the eye.
power which
expresses itself in
sexual attacks
This woman’s observation that ‘Only a
and the
matter of days separate/ this from acts
of torture now’ suggests both
execution of
eyewitness involvement at this time –
The child, embodiment of life
‘this’ and ‘now’ reinforce the sense of
and hope for the future, is
immediacy – and an awareness that
wickedly murdered.
memory is very short in historical terms.
This stanza opens by posing a question already
implicit in the previous three stanzas: ‘How
would you prepare to die…?’ The counter
pointed impulses of life and death are
presented in the season of spring in nature, ‘ a
perfect April evening’ and the ominous
The woman’s ‘bare feet felt the earth’,
indicating that she was sensitive to it, in direct
contrast to the jackbooted, unfeeling and
desensitised aggressors.
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
Down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A trick.
The fear of rape is replaced by the fear of being
shot. The sadistic soldier toys with his victim: ‘I
heard a click. Not yet. A trick.’ The short sentences
at the end of the line create tension and a sense of
the real experience of the woman and the power
wielded by the soldier.
The internal rhyme – ‘trickled’, ‘click’ and ‘trick’ –
rolls easily off the tongue, and recreates the
unexpected near silence surrounding the
moment. This heightens the impression of mental
torture and emphasises the complete contrast
with the soldier who can view such an appalling
act as a game.
This invites us to question how any real
normality can return after such horror but
also to remember that it does, and
frighteningly quickly.
The use of
anaphora is
striking, the
repetition of
that terrible
things have
happened but
are almost
People can soon return to such familiar
domesticity associated with ‘tea on the lawn’ just
as a ‘boy’ can wash a uniform. This could be an
ambiguous use of the words as many soldiers
were little more than boys and a uniform can be
used by schoolboys, too.
After immense suffering someone takes tea on the lawn.
The alliteration of
sibilants phonically
After the terrible moans a boy washes his uniform.
represents sleeping
forgetfulness, while
After the history lesson children run to their toys the world the reintroduction of
Jewish forenames
reminds us that the
Turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara Ezra…
Holocaust was real.
The ellipsis at the end
of the stanza is a stark
There is a clear sense that the memory of ‘terrible moans’,
reminder that the list
representative of all the suffering in war, can be washed
of names could go on
away, cleansed as simply as the Nazis thought they could
and on. There is a
erase the Jews. Children may be taught about the war in
school but they ‘run to their toys’. As children, they might be
presentation of a
forgiven for this but there is no excuse for a world wilfully
world that finds it
ignoring the truth of a past.
easy to forget.
This takes us back to the interior of the
concentration camp. The woman addresses her
‘Sister’, a term more of cultural and religious
significance than the simply familial.
reference to
‘inside the
indicates her
bravery and
the culture
she was
born into
and will not
be subject
to ‘ethnic
A psalm is a song, and communal singing
is an important aspect of cultural
assertion. Many of the psalms share
themes of forbearance and strength in
the face of adversity, as well as absolute
faith in God as deliverer.
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.
Duffy chooses to end the poem with a quotation suggestive of anything
but hope and deliverance. The twenty-fifth psalm, one of King David’s,
pleads with God for deliverance from affliction, shame and death: ‘let
not my enemies exult over me’ (verse 2); ‘Oh guard my life, and deliver
me;/ let me not be put to shame, for I/ take refuge in thee’ (verse 20).
The woman keeps faith with her religion and tradition but her words at
the end of the poem articulate the most desperate facet of the psalm
she quotes from.

Annotations - missgrantenglish