“Ballad of Birmingham” Explication

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Dudley Randall’s “Ballad of Birmingham” is a look into the effects of racism on a personal level. The poem is set in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The tone of the title alludes to the city of Birmingham as a whole. The poem gives the reader, instead, a personal look into a tragic incident in the lives of a mother and her daughter. The denotation of the poem seems to simply tell of the sadness of a mother losing her child. The poem’s theme is one of guilt, irony, and the grief of losing a child. The mother feels responsible for the death of her child. The dramatic irony of the mother’s view of church as being a “safe haven” for her child is presented to the reader through the mother’s insistence that the young girl go to church to sing in the children’s choir instead of letting her go to the Freedom March in Birmingham. While the poem does not seem to contain many poetic devices, it seems to be full of imagery. The poem is divided into eight stanzas with each stanza containing four lines (quatrain). Each stanza has an identical rhyme scheme (abcb). The poem is written mostly in iambic tetrameter, though some of the feet actually transition from an iamb to a trochee and back. For example, the second line of the third stanza is a trochee when the daughter says, “Other children will go with me,” obviously referring to the Freedom March. The poem is written in the third person. The first stanza is spoken by an innocent young girl that assumes a role of maturity with exuberance and youthfulness. The girl wants to participate in a Freedom March in downtown Birmingham rather than play with her friends. The second stanza is spoken by the mother as she rejects the idea of her sweet little girl attending a Freedom March. She tells her daughter she may not go and tells of the ferocious dogs, clubs, hoses, guns, and jail that could possibly await her. The mother paints an accurate picture of the dangers of the Civil Rights Movement. The third stanza...
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