Randall Jarrell’s poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” and Cyril Tourneur’s poem “Epitaph on a Soldier” conveys contradicting realities associated with soldiers. The comparison of the poems depicts that both poets adopt a figurative tone to create appropriate language. Different tones, diction, and imagery illustrate different sides of the war. The fiction adopted by Jarrell uncovers the pain and chaos related to war. While Tourneur’s diction represents the elements of pleasure and peace. Jarrell and Tourneur use diction throughout the poem are setting a productive tone for the readers. Though Jarrell and Tourneur address similar topic but differences in tone, diction and imagery lead to different meanings.
The compassion of the tones used by poets in their poems exhibits different meanings. The tone used by Jarrell the poem is satiric and discouraging as he highlights the negative impacts of war on soldiers and their lives. Through explicit one, the poet tries to emphasize on the miseries and pains of the soldiers. The tone frightens the readers as they learn about the practical consequences of war. The inclusion of words ‘state’, ‘froze’ and ‘nightmare’ displays the satire. The poet through a selection of the tone attempts to portray the realities of soldiers that is different from dreams. The tone evokes emotions of fear as he mentions, “I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters” (Jarrell). The tone reflects the emotions of insecurity and pain. The tone used by Tourneur in his poem is extremely different and reflects striking variations. The purpose of the poet in Epitaph is to highlight the positive and bright side of a soldiers life. Tourneur uses an admiring and pleasant tone to portray the role of soldiers. The tone conveys the message of greater virtue that soldiers attain due to their efforts and sacrifices. The pleasant tone is apparent in the stanza, “for aged in virtue, with a youthful eye” (Tourneur). The line conveys a sensational tone demonstrating the lighter side of the war. The tone communicates the feelings of passion and virtue that the soldiers experience in wars. Selection of tone supports the contradicting opinions of poets.
The poems incorporate formal diction in displaying the events. Adoption of appropriate diction allows Jarrell to convey the frightening state of young men taking part in the war. Diction exhibits the effective choice of words that keeps the readers engaged. The diction in the poem serves multiple purposes and ideas related to the young warriors. It permits readers to relate childbirth with the ultimate death. The diction becomes most clear in the line, “from my mother’s sleep I fell into the state” (Jarrell). In epitaph, the author adopts a formal diction and associates death of soldiers with dignity and honor. The inclusion of words, ‘interred,’ ‘virtue’ and ‘mold’ displays the formal diction. The diction conveys the message of greater virtue that soldiers attain due to their efforts and sacrifices. The poems incorporate diction to display the life events of the young men participating in wars. Diction becomes visible in the line, “he welcomed it, being still prepared to die” (Tourneur). The diction makes it clear that the young warriors never protest for a living because they have accepted the miseries and ready to die. It expresses the bravery, courage, and passion of the soldiers. Effective diction allows poets to keep the reader engaged.
Jarrell and Tourneur adopt contrasting imagery to explain the views from practical aspects. Jarrell in his poem conveys the harshness of the war and its consequences through vivid imagery. The selection of vivid imagery allows him to put the readers in a realistic situation where they can assess the miseries of the soldier. Imagery creates a clear picture for the readers thus allowing them to experience the pain and fears encountered by the soldiers. Vivid imagery becomes most apparent when the poet includes the lines, “six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life” (Jarrell). The poet in the stanza puts the readers in the similar situation where they can reveal the miserable fate of the soldiers. The imagery creates necessary settings sufficient for assessing the meaning of war. The imagery conveys the idea of unknown and bad fortune. The stanza permits people to visualize how soldiers survive with hopelessness because they know their ultimate destination is grave. Imagery adds more clarity and makes the message readable for the readers. Compared to Jarrell the imagery adopted by Tourneur represents different perspectives. In Epitaph the poet adopts tactile images to evoke the emotions in readers. Through vivid imagery, the poet manages to convince the reader about the courage of the soldiers. The imagery is also apparent in the stanza, “ready still to drop into his grave” (Tourneur). The poet through tactile imagery puts the readers in similar settings where they explore pride, liberty, and glory. The imagery builds a clear and compelling picture of the soldier’s life depicting amazingness. Through the inclusion of tactile imagery the poet also eliminates the emotions of fear and uncertainty as he manages to convince the people about the positive side of the war. Imagery plays a significant role in Tourneur’s poem as he replaces the feelings of panic and chaos with certainty and passion. As the poets adopt different imagery, they lead the audience to different situations.
The poems adopt different figurative languages as Jarrell focuses on the adversities while Tourneur emphasizes on the glorious side of soldier’s life. Through figurative language, Jarrell tries to put the readers in the similar situation experienced by war. The explanation of the event when gunner sits on turret displays figurative language as the reader assesses the helpless and powerless state of a soldier.Similes and metaphors are common elements of figurative language incorporated by Jarrell. Examples of similes used in the poem include ‘I fell’ and ‘I woke.’ The inclusion of similes makes the poem more readable. Metaphors are also apparent throughout the poem, and the most visible metaphor is mother’s sleep that poet includes to build relevance with death. The speaker’s language reflects the victimized state of the gunner revealing the threatening circumstances of his life. The language displays disappointment, “when I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose” (Jarrell). The figurative language used by poet illustrates the only relief in the life of a soldier is dead. It remains one of the convincing tools in Jarrell’s poem and adds more vividness. Figurative language systematically explores the events thus becoming more appealing to the readers. The figurative language used by Tourneur is entirely different and appealing to the readers. The poet eliminates the idea of fatalities associated with the battles and presents opposing views. The figurative language conveys the idea of peace as he mentions, “he died in the war and yet he died in peace” (Tourneur). In the stanza the poet allows readers to figure the role of war and how it influence the soldiers. The poem allows readers to consider deaths as glorious and peaceful. Compared to Jarrell’s poem, Epitaph ignores the darker side of soldiers life including violence, rage, and fear. Tourneur also incorporates metaphors in the poem to enhance the vividness. The common metaphors used in the poem include; ‘ultimate death’ and ‘died in peace.’ Through metaphors, the poet expresses the deeper meaning of the poem leading to contradictory outcomes.
The inclusion of syntax allows poets to concentrate on different aspects of the war in an orderly manner. Syntax remains one of the striking tools in the poem of Jarrell as it allow him to convey the theme in an ordered form. Through appropriate use of syntax, the poets try to convince the readers about their perspectives. Syntax allows Jarrell to draw attention as he creates an effective order apparent in, “I fell into” and “I died.”Words order created by Jarrell is sufficient to draw the attention of the readers. Syntax adds more effectiveness and beauty to the poem. Syntax also helps Tourneur to persuade the readers as he creates the order, “still prepared” and “died in peace.”Syntax adds more clarity to the poems however both poets convey different meanings.Syntax permits Tourneur to generate certain feelings associated with particular events. The syntax is also apparent in, ‘living so,’ ‘did not suffer’ and ‘we may say.’ Syntax plays a significant role in developing pleasant rhythmic impacts thus adding to the strength of the poems. Syntax is useful in setting the appropriate and convincing tone for the readers. Both poets incorporate different syntaxes to evoke the emotions of the readers and set certain moods leading to clarity.
The comparison of the poems depicts that Jarrell and Tourneur use rhetoric tools differently thus allowing them to convey contradicting themes. Through the effective choice of tone, diction, imagery, figurative language and syntax both poets represent different ideas associated with war. Jarrell uses an aggressive tone to uncover harsh realities replaced with Tourneur’s pleasant tone to express pleasant feelings of the soldiers. The purpose of using formal diction in Jarrell’s poem is to convey the miseries and pain endured by soldiers. Tourneur’s diction involves the choice of words that support his beliefs of virtue and glory. Through figurative tone and syntaxes, the poets illustrate the realities of war and their views.
Jarrell, Randall. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. 2018. <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57860/the-death-of-the-ball-turret-gunner>.
Tourneur, Cyril. Epitaph on a Soldier. 2018. <https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/epitaph-soldier>.