Explication of Diane Thiel's "The Minefield"

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Diane Thiel's poem "The Minefield" is about a man who's mind has been ravaged by memories of a war in his childhood. She shows that even though the war had been over for years, the memory of it haunted the man in everything that he did. Through a powerful combination of symbols, dark images, and a split chronology, she creates a full picture of a life changed forever by war.

In the first stanza, the tone is lighter, describing a scene where two boys are running through towns. The boys race, the faster one being described as a "wild rabbit". This stanza feels dream like, the organization of thought is loose, and word choice seems almost erratic, almost unrehearsed. The first stanza ends with a twist. The faster boy is killed by a mine and his friend, just seconds behind, witnesses the whole thing.

The second stanza is only two lines, "My father told us this, one night,/and then continued eating dinner." This stanza breaks up the chronology of the poem, pushing the previous stanza into the past, and making it disjointed, almost like another poem in itself. The result of the father continuing eating after he tells the story shows how dead he is inside, the recalling of the story no longer affecting him in the same way it does the reader and his own family. It is implied that he is the only one able to eat after telling the story. This short stanza foreshadows the father's personality change.

In the third stanza, the language becomes much darker, words like: anger, explode, and against make this stanza seem even more warlike than the first stanza. The minefield becomes a symbol for the war as a whole, representing the feeling of isolation and loneliness caused by the death of the father's friend. The use of the heavier, darker language in the third stanza shows that while the war affected the father when he was fourteen and it was going on, the memory of the war affected him even more.
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