'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 shot. Clearly, the poem contains an extremely negative message. However, we can still see the “stars” of the poem (the Jews) as beautiful and special. Connotations of preciousness. 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. fetch. WC - The After I no longer speak they break our fingers woman’s To salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel Ruth wedding ring is Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows “salvaged”, Beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for the indicating that her daughters, tormentors 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 stars’. 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 effects: 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 indiscriminate of torture now’ suggests both execution of eyewitness involvement at this time – civilians. 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 ‘graves'. 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 ‘After’ emphasising that terrible things have actually happened but are almost immediately effaced. 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 depressing 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. Her reference to singing ‘inside the wire’ indicates her bravery and defiance. She champions the culture she was born into and will not be subject to ‘ethnic cleansing’, 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.