Babi Yar Essay

Published: 2021-07-17 16:25:06
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by Yevgeny YevtushenkoYevtushenko speaks in first person throughout the poem.
This creates the tone ofhim being in the shoes of the Jews. As he says in lines 63-64, “No Jewish blood ismixed in mine, but let me be a Jew . . .
” He writes the poem to evoke compassionfor the Jews and make others aware of their hardships and injustices. “Only thencan I call myself Russian. ” (lines 66-67). The poet writes of a future time when theRussian people realize that the Jews are people as well accept them as such. If youhate the Jews, he asks, why not hate me as well? True peace and unity will onlyoccur when they have accepted everyone, including the Jews.
Stanza I describes the forest of Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev. It wasthe site of the Nazi massacre of more than thirty thousand Russian Jews onSeptember 29-30, 1941. There is no memorial to the thirty thousand, but fearpervades the area. Fear that such a thing could occur at the hands of other humans.
The poet feels the persecution and pain and fear of the Jews who stood there inthis place of horror. Yevtushenko makes himself an Israelite slave of Egypt and amartyr who died for the sake of his religion. In lines 7-8, he claims that he still barsthe marks of the persecution of the past. There is still terrible persecution of theJews in present times because of their religion.
These lines serve as the transitionfrom the Biblical and ancient examples he gives to the allusions of more recent actsof hatred. The lines also allude to the fact that these Russian Jews who weremurdered at Babi Yar were martyrs as well. The next stanza reminds us of another event in Jewish history where a Jew waspersecuted solely because of his religious beliefs. The poet refers to the “pettiness”(line 11) of anti-Semitism as the cause of Dreyfus imprisonment.
Anti-Semitism ishis “betrayer” (line 12) when he is framed, and anti-Semitism is his “judge” (line 12)when he is wrongly found guilty. Lines 13-14 claim that even the fine andsupposedly civilized women of society shun Dreyfus because he is a Jew and fearhim like they would fear an animal. In stanza III, Yevtushenko brings himself to the midst of the pogroms of Bielostok. He gives the readers the image of a young boy on the floor being beaten andbleeding while he witnesses others beat his mother. In line 24, he gives the readerthe rationale of the Russians who are inflicting such atrocities on the Jews.
“Murder the Jews! Save Russia!” They view the Jews as the curse of Russia; a Jewish plague that must end in order to save their country from evil. In a waythey think that they are acting in patriotism. The poet transports us to Anne Franks attic in the fourth stanza. He describes tothe reader the innocent love that has blossomed between Anne and Paul.
Her loveof the world and life and spring has been denied her (line 30). Yet, she manages tofind comfort for her loss in the embrace of her beloved. In line 33, Yevtushenkoshows the reader Annes denial of what is going on around her. She tries to drownout the noise of the Nazis coming to get her.
When her precious spring comes, sodo the war and the Nazis to take her to her death. Stanza V brings us back to the ravine of Babi Yar. In line 40, the poet chooses topersonify the trees. They “stare down” on him in judgement as G-d would. Line 41is oxymoronic. There is a silent mourning for the martyred Jews by the air; a forcein nature.
The air around Babi Yar howls for the massacre it has witnessed. Thepoet himself claims to be “an endless soundless howl/ over the buried” (lines43-44). He is a mourner for the thirty thousand, but there is nothing that can besaid. He writes that e is every one of thirty thousand and feels their pain andinjustice. “In no limb of my body can I forget. ” (line 57).
His physical body feelstheir pain. “Limbs” depicts an image of mangled bodies in the mass grave of BabiYar. Stanza VI begins with Yevtushenko reminding the Russian people of their ability tobe good hearted and moral. He speaks of “men with dirty hands” (lines 52-53). Fascists, Nazis whose hands are covered in the blood of the innocent, come toRussia and cause the Russians to close their magnanimous hearts. The tone of lines52-54 is cruel and harsh like the actions of the Nazis.
These hateful people claim tobring “the union of the Russian people” (line 59). He makes a point of referring tothese people as “anti-Semites” (line 57) because the Jews are Russians, too. TheNazis in effect have turned Russian against Russian – hardly a “union. ” In the last stanza, the poet calls for world unity which will only occur whenanti-Semitism has ended.
He is not a Jew, yet he equates himself to one. If allRussians are people, then the Jews are no less Russian or less human than hehimself. If this is the way you treat these Russian people, he is trying to express,then treat me, a “real” Russian, as you have treated the Russian Jews. Only thenwill all Russians truly be united and equal.
Yevtushenko is a supporter of the Jewish plight. He sees the injustice that theyhave been subject to and feels responsible for it in a way. He tries to rationalizewhy his people, the Russians, have acted so immorally and blames their actions onthe influence of others. He calls to his people to reform; simultaneously urging theJews not to blame them entirely for their actions and to show that they do havenatural goodness within them.Category: English

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