The Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall
- Pages: 4
- Word count: 781
- Category: Novel
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In Dudley Randall’s poem, The Ballad of Birmingham, many different things can be analyzed. The poem was written to honor the victims and their families of a church bombing that took place during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. This poem is not only about the tragic events of a hate crime during this time, but by use of word choice, symbolism and imagery. All tied together, this shows a conflict between a child who understands racism during this time and a mother who is trying to protect her child from these very real and frightening issues that were being faced during this era.
The language and writing style of this poem is modern English. This approach leaves it being very straightforward for the reader to understand. This also allows the reader to be able to identify literary devices used as well. Additional emotion is added to the poem by Randall’s use of dialogue and descriptive imagery found intertwined throughout. The poems title gives the reader the inclination that its tone is fateful and will end in tragedy. The poem’s tone ends with sadness, but initially leaves a sense of impending doom and tragedy.
The dialogue gives the poem emotion because it set ups the tone of the poem. Rhyming is used to make it easy to remember the poem and the message it is delivering to readers. Rhyme is the repetition of words that sound the same and this poem does use the device of rhyme, by having the ending words of each line rhyme. In the Ballad of Birmingham, the speaker is a mother and her child while it is assumed that the setting is in their home. In this poem, the author’s use of irony is very important.
The first stanza of the poem suggests a possible ending of the story to be told. The little girl in the poem begs and pleads for her mother to allow her to go to a Freedom March “Mother dear, may I go downtown Instead of out to play, And march the streets of Birmingham In a Freedom March today? ”. The child appears to have at least a basic understanding of racism and the problems being faced in her world. However, many metaphors are used to illustrate the mother’s deeper knowledge of the potential dangers to her child and wanting to keep her safe.
In an attempt to protect her child, the mother suggests that her child go to church where she feels her child would be safe and not exposed to any danger or violence. In response to her child’s request, the mother says, “No, baby, no, you may not go, For I fear those guns will fire. But you may go to church instead And sing in the children’s choir. ”. The people who are committing the hate crimes are the dogs and pose a huge threat to the safety of the child and people participating in the marches.
The fact that the girl is still involved as a victim of violence is the irony because a church is thought to be a safe place and would keep anyone out of potential harms’ way in the streets. In order to portray the child’s innocence, the author uses the white gloves and white shoes. White is often times used as a symbol for being pure and innocent. The mother finds one of the shoes after digging in the rubble after the explosion, and it is now a symbol of her child’s innocence taken away by a horrific act of violence. “She clawed through bits of glass and brick, Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore, But, baby, where are you? ”. Randall uses this descriptive imagery to help the reader have a clear vision of the mother desperately digging through the debris in search of her child. By being able to have the reader clearly picture the distressed mother, it can easily be perceived and felt how dramatic the situation is and the devastating and pure emotional impact it will have on the rest of the mother’s life. The descriptive imagery enables the reader to not only picture the event but feel the same emotions portrayed.
The author’s ability to tie both irony and symbolism to the theme makes the poem flow and easy to read. The dramatic situation is developed through Randall’s use of descriptive imagery, dialogue, irony, and a tonal shift. Randall’s use of metaphors pairs well with the descriptive imagery used to paint the picture for the reader and leaves very little room for misinterpretation. The simplicity and style of the poem allows it to be interpreted easily and clearly, not requiring a second look or read.