Thursday 14th January 2015
Unseen Poetry: Children in Wartime
How does the poet present the ways children are affected by war? (18 marks)
The poem ‘Children in Wartime’ by Isobel Thrilling is about the experience of children throughout the war. It presents the view of a child through first person narration, and highlights the issues with the reality of war and the confusion it brings for children.
The poet immediately shows the effects of war on children by using “siren” as her very first word; this gives the impression that the children are in danger as “sirens” are associated with urgency or damage. Thrilling then goes on to say “Sirens ripped open the warm silk of sleep”. The use of the adjective “ripped” is violent and severe which implies that the children are being abruptly taken from their beds. “The warm silk of sleep” creates quite an angelic image that is almost ruined by the previous sentence; this reflects the way the children were affected and their childlike innocence being destroyed. It is not only their sleep being disrupted, but it is their lives. Furthermore, the sibilance used in “silk of sleep” can be described as mimicking their soft breathing, which adds to the innocent imagery.
This is a preview of the whole essay
In addition, Thrilling states “we ricocheted to the shelter”. The use of the word “ricochet” usually relates to the movement of a bullet. It also means to almost bounce off of things, which suggests that the children were confused on where to go, what was happening and were literally running looking for shelter. It implies that they were looking for a safer place to get away from the outside world. This action is quite an adult thing to do; to look for somewhere safer, which shows how the children are being forced to grow up quickly as a result of war having broken out and being forced upon them. They have no other choice than to behave like adults to keep up as the world changes so quickly around them.
The bombings also had a huge impact on the lives of children. Parents would have tried to protect their children from the reality, however they “knew this was no giant playing bowls”. The poet uses this line to shows that for a child, everything is considered a game, and the imagination of a child can invent games for any situation. However, even the most imaginative child could not pretend that the bombings were anything else. This again shows how greatly a child is affected by war. They must leave their childhood behind, no longer able to laugh and play games as the bombings have scarred them for life.
The final lines act as a reminder of how war affects not only their childhood, but the rest of their lives. A window is described by the child as a “jaw of glass, where once had hung my window spun with stars”. This image is used by the poet to represent the child’s future, which once seemed full of opportunity. Yet war has reached this as well, and to the child it seems as if “the sky lay broken on my floor”. The poem is ended with this metaphor how there is nothing the child can do to fix what has happened, therefore making the reader consider the devastation that war causes for the innocent people caught up in it.
In conclusion, the poet presents the way that children are affected by telling the poem from a child’s perspective, showing how their whole world is broken down around them.