The Relentless Machine
Through satire and irony using her perspective as an Iraqi woman, Dunya Mikhail personifies war as a machine, rather than the traditional masculine perspective of heroism on the battlefield. In “The War Works Hard” war is never ending; it is relentless and without mercy as it destroys everything in its path, leaving an endless generational wake of scars among the civilian victims caught in the zone that the war has chosen. The war scars forever. Wars are often glorified in tone to give praise and respect for those on the battlefields. There is an overall understanding that there are sacrifices needed in order to accomplish a larger goal. Excluded from this understanding is the realization that the effects of war reach farther than the military and the government. Mikhail’s civilian and female perspective in this poem unearths the destructive aspects war has on those not directly involved in the violence. Involuntarily, those encompassed by a war zone experience the tragedies accompanying war. Mikhail depicts war as a machine that “urges families to emigrate” (24), “… contributes to the industry / of artificial limbs” (35-36), “accustoms young women to waiting” (42), and “builds new houses / for the orphans” (45-46). Mikhail’s choice in satirical diction throughout “The War Works Hard” creates a sense of irony towards the traditional idea that war can re-invigorate the economy but rather it “invigorates the coffin makers,” (47) and “builds new houses / for the orphans” (45-46). Mikhail continues to use words with positive connotation such a “magnificent” (1), “efficient” (3), “inspires” (31), “provides” (37), “achieves” (39), and “diligence” (52) to compliment dark vivid imagery of the dreary aspects of life the war has affected. This stark contrast in diction throughout the poem could allow one to think the positive words stand in place of what the leaders and tyrants claim to be the positives of war, but then are overshadowed with...
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