Irony in "Soldier's Home" -- Irony is a device used by writers to let the audience know something that the characters in the story do not know. There is usually a descrepancyt between how things appear and the reality of the situation. Often the characters do not seem aware of any conflict between appearances and the reality, but the audience or reader is aware of the conflict because the writer has used irony in the story. Whatever the emotion of the story is, irony heightens it.
There is a strong element of irony in Ernest Hemingway's painful story "Soldier's Home." Harold, who served in the Army in World War I on the bloodiest battlefields, comes home too late to be welcomed as a hero. We know he needed to be treated as a hero (because he makes up lies about himself) but the townsfolk and his parents do not. While Harold appears to his family to be okay and just leading a rather "lazy" life, in actuality he is mentally still living in Europe and still dealing with the emotional issues of the war. He reads books about the war and looks at maps of the places where he served. He finds this reading the most interesting reading he has ever done and hopes to understand the war in which he fought. Because of these issues and his intense experiences, he is unable to invest himself in relationships, unable to love others, unwilling to "get involved." He is not ready to take up a normal life. His parents do not see this. They want him to get a job, socialize with others, meet girls, settle down and get married. Harold cannot explain all this to them. How could he tell them "that he had been badly, sickeningly frightened all the time"? Irony greatly increases the painful quality of the story.
6. Symbolism in "A Rose for Emily" -- A symbol is something arbitrarily chosen to stand for something else. The American flag, for example, is a symbol of the United States and to many people stands for liberty, freedom, justice, and equality. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner has many symbols in it. The house itself, for example, is a symbol of the Grierson family, living in the post-Civil War South in a small town where secrets are almost impossible to keep. Like the "big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies ... set on what had once been our most select street," the family, which had once been very influential, rich, and pretentious is impoverished. Now, only Emily is left with a black servant, no longer a rich or entirely white household. Emily's boyfriend, Homer Barrons, is a "rat" (as the poison bottle says "for rats.") As a foreman on a construction crew, he is socially beneath her but seduces her -- at least, that's the way the townsfolk see it. He has no intention of ever marrying Emily. The new suit and the beautiful toiletry set she buys for him are symbols of what could have been -- love, a marriage, a family, and the emotionally rich life Emily hoped for. But it was not to be, and at the end of the story these objects (symbols) are covered with dust and tarnish, symbolic of what happened to her hopes and to their relationship.
7. "Popular Mechanics" - The theme of Raymond Carver's story deals with breaking up a home and what happens to children in a divorce. The family comes apart, and the children are pulled in all directions. Usually, the pulling is emotional. One parent plays the child against the other, or they compete for the child's allegiance, or they go to court in a custody battle, but in this story the pulling is physical. The father struggles to pull the baby out of the mother's arms. (Perhaps he wouldn't have taken the baby, if the mother had allowed him to have the picture of the baby, but she wasn't about to give him anything.) The title of the story "Popular Mechanics" implies that the physical (mechanical) struggle for possession of the child is not uncommon, but widespread (popular). The last line in the story says, "In this manner, the issue was decided." In other words, custody was not determined on the basis of who would make the best parent, or with whom the baby would be better off, happier, and more well cared for, but rather on the basis of physical strength, persistence, and determination. The parents are as immature as the baby, fighting over it like two-year-olds. The story can be seen as a social and legal commentary on contemporary life where divorce happens more than 50% of the time. The parents think only of themselves and what they want. Both want the baby, but they are not willing to stay together and make a home for it.
8. Imagery in "The Trains" -- Imagery is a word picture that evokes images in the mind's eye. In other words, imagery causes the reader to imaginatively "see" what is happening. In order to fully understand a poem, it is essential to understand how the imagery is used. The author uses imagery to show his/her intentions and emotions -- and to reveal the meaning and significance of the poem.
In "The Trains," the images are both visual and auditory. The visual images are of clothing taken from the Jews before they were exterminated at Treblinka, their gold watches which were confiscated, and the hair which was shaved from the heads of the women for use as stuffing in mattresses and dolls. Jewish women's hair was also used for insulation in the pipes of German warships, although the poem does not say that. Perhaps, the poet chose to tell us about the more everyday uses because most people are not likely to be on a warship with pipes insulated with hair; whereas, it is possible to own a doll or a mattress stuffed with human hair. The narrator questions whether the reader might own one of those watches, or sleep on a mattress stuffed with human hair, or own a doll stuffed with it. The question implies a common responsibility for what happened, and not just the responsibility of officials, although the reader definitely gets a feel for the bureaucracy which impersonally reported every detail of the holocaust numerically.
The auditory image is the word Treblinka, which the poet says sounds "like freight cars straining around a curve." Anyone old who has heard a train would immediately be transported by the memory of the sound of trains. In the poem the trains were coming back from Treblinka loaded down with stolen goods, but the poem with its auditory images evokes memories of black and white 1930s and 40s films, and the Nazi trains carrying thousands of people to their deaths. When they got off, music was being broadcast over loud speakers. The prisoners went first to "Intake" rooms where they were stripped of their clothing and possessions, and the women's heads were shaved. Then men, women, and children were offered a nice "shower" (of poison gas) after their long trip on the train.
9. The speaker/listener relationship in "Bored" -- A speaker/listener relationship depends mostly upon what connotative meanings each one brings to the conversation. The conversation then brings about a shared meaning. Both speaker and listener bring feelings, attitudes, experiences and beliefs with them with ideas already formed about the topic. How each one responds to the topic depends on where each one is coming from. In Margaret Atwood's poem "Bored," the speaker is a wife who eventually leaves her husband because she can't stand life on the farm. The speaker's husband obviously loves the outdoor life and points out to her the details of nature. He likes the work, the carpentry, the planting, cultivating, and picking. She describes her life as one of helping and "watching" while he lived, and "looking, looking hard and up close at the small details," looking for something more interesting and intellectually stimulating than "the boring rhythm of doing things over and over, carrying the wood, drying the dishes. Such minutiae." The narrator seems to be speaking to other female listeners. Only females understand what it means to be "the little woman behind the man" and his success. It is a secondary position men do not generally find themselves in and might have difficulty relating to. Men do not have the connotative experience of devoting all their energies to someone else's happiness and success. Women do -- so they can relate to the feelings (frustration, boredom, and dissatisfaction) of the poem.
10. Setting in "Dulce et Decorum Est" - Setting provides a backdrop or context in which the action of the poem takes place. It is the time and place in which the poem is happening. The title of "Dulce et Decorum Est" refers to a popular saying…