Shooting Stars

Report
Carol Ann Duffy
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The Nazi Holocaust 1939 – 1945
Link to a particular place and time
Europe 1939 – 1945
The concentration camps where an estimated 6
million Jews met their deaths
“I sang the ancient psalms at dusk inside the wire
and strong men wept”
Have we learned the lesson of history? “After the
history lesson children run to their toys the world
turns in its sleep …”
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Persecution – “acts of torture”
Bravery “ Upright as statues, brave”
Remembrance “ Remember these appalling
days”
Passage of time “If seas part us, do you not
consider me?”
‘Shooting Stars’
 Duffy uses ambiguity here. The title has
several different meanings.
1. The Star of David- national symbol for Jews,
but also used by the Nazis as an
identification badge on Jewish people’s
clothing, or tattooed on their bodies.
2. Sense of the temporary nature of life in
metaphorical comparison of people to
meteors/shooting stars.
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3. Outstanding individuals have been
annihilated.
4. Irony as shooting stars are often
associated with beauty and good luck.
After I no longer speak they break our fingers
to salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel
Ruth
Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows
Beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for
our daughters,
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‘After I no longer speak’
Euphemism for the narrator’s death.
From the poem’s outset, it is established that
she is speaking form beyond the grave. The
Nazis robbed their victims of voice. Through
her poetry, Duffy attempts to restore one of
those voices; her poem is an act of
remembrance and resistance.
‘they break our fingers
to salvage my wedding ring.’
Word choice of ‘break’ and ‘salvage’ make it
appear that the woman is but scrap to the
Nazis. Her life is of less value than her ring.
The wedding ring would traditionally be a
symbol of love and companionship.
Rebecca Rachel Ruth
Aaron Emmanuel David,
This is a list of traditional Jewish forenames. It
is unpunctuated, suggesting that the Nazis are
seeking to rob the Jewish people of their
individual identities. It also mirrors the
overwhelming number of victims.
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stars on all our brows
This suggests that the prisoners have had
stars of David tattooed on their foreheads.
The soldiers will literally be shooting stars
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
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upright as statues, brave.
This simile conveys both the courage and the
fear of the women meeting their deaths at the
hands of the Nazis.
Petrified-to feel extreme fear- comes form
the Greek word petros, meaning rock. The
women are frozen with fear, but are also
robbed of their life, much like a statue is an
inanimate object.
“You would not look at me.
You waited for the bullet. Fell.”
The woman addresses her friend.
‘Fell’ conjures up an image of the friend being
shot and also is a euphemism for soldiers who
die in battle. However, these women are not
armed combatants: they are defenceless
victims.
“Remember.
Remember those appalling days which make
the world
forever bad.”
Repetition and capitalisation of ‘Remember’ at
end of sentence emphasise its importance.
Duffy is drawing attention to the need for the
whole world to avoid a repetition of the
Holocaust.
Yet, for the persona there is no possibility of
redemption.
his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of
fear.
Between the gap of corpses I could see a child.
The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days
separate
this from acts of torture now. They shot her in
the eye.
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One saw I was alive. Loosened
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his belt.
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Enjambment across two stanzas is used to
introduce the horrific rape of the persona.
Rape is often used as a weapon in war.
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My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.
In this metaphor Duffy concentrates on the
physical effects of rape. Terrorised by the
sexual attack, the woman soils herself. A
gape can be a wide opening, but it usually
describes a facial expression. This suggests
that the attack erases the woman’s identity.
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‘Between the gap of corpses I could see a
child.’
Children symbolise life, hope and renewal.
This acts as a temporary relief form the
brutality of the rape. However, this is
removed when the child is murdered.
‘Only a matter of days separate
this from acts of torture now’
A very short period of time is used to suggest
the immediacy and relevance of these events.
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. I heard the click. Not yet. A
trick.
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with young men gossiping and smoking by
the graves?
The deaths do not seem to affect the soldiers.
The act as normal. The word choice of
‘gossiping’ suggests actions of little
consequence.
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How would you prepare to die, on a perfect
April evening
April symbolises life and rebirth. Here there is
an ironic contrast with the murders taking
place. This line balances the impulses of life
and death.
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My bare feet felt the earth
In contrast to the desensitised, jackbooted
soldiers, the woman is sensitive to the earth.
Duffy suggests a connection between the
victims and nature. The Holocaust is a
violation of nature.
and urine trickled
down my legs. I heard the click. Not yet. A
trick.
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Internal rhyme and onomatopoeia are used to
mimic the sound of a gun being fired. Short
sentences are used by Duffy to heighten the
tension.
After immense suffering someone takes tea on
the lawn.
After the terrible moans a boy washes his
uniform.
After the history lesson children run to their
toys the world
turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara
Ezra…
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This stanza asks us to question how any real
normality can return after such horror.
The use of anaphora/repetition of ‘After’
emphasises the contrast between the terrible
events that happen and the almost immediate
return to domesticity.
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After immense suffering someone takes tea
on the lawn.
Contrast between the emotive word choice of
‘immense suffering’ and the banality of ‘tea
on the lawn’.
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After the terrible moans a boy washes his
uniform.
The second part of this sentence is
ambiguous. It could refer to Nazi soldiers,
many of whom were little more than boys.
However, it could also refer to a boy washing
his school uniform.
There is a clear sense that the memory of the
suffering of the Jews (represented by ‘terrible
moans’) is being washed away.
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After the history lesson children run to their
toys
Children are taught about The Holocaust at
school, but choose to escape to more trivial
things. This wilful ignorance is mirrored by a
world that ‘turns in its sleep’. This suggests
that we choose to ignore the painful truth of
the past.
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turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara
Ezra…
Sibilance phonically represents sleeping
forgetfulness, while the reintroduction of
Jewish forenames reminds us that the
Holocaust had real victims. Again the list is
unpunctuated. The ellipsis at the end of the
stanza reminds us that the list could go on
and on.
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.
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This stanza takes us back to the interior of a
concentration camp.
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Sister, if seas part us, do you not consider
me?
Moses parted the Red Sea to lead his people
away from the Egyptian Army and to safety.
Tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk
inside the wire and strong men wept.
‘ancient psalms’ are songs from the Old
Testament. They have particular significance
for the Jewish people. Also, many of the psalms
share themes of forbearance and strength
when faced with adversity. There is also often
an absolute faith in God as a deliverer.
Turn thee
unto me with mercy, for I am desolate and lost
 This comes from the twenty-fifth psalm. It
pleads with God for deliverance form shame
and death.
 The woman keeps faith with her religion, but
the most desperate parts of the psalm are
quoted.

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