It seems odd that thischild would even know what a freedom march is, but this would be considerednormal back in the early 1960’s, when Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. had rallies andfreedom marches to free the African American people from discrimination andsegregation (Hunter 6). It also seems very ironic that the young child is actinglike an adult in this particular situation (Hunter 12). I think the mother wouldbe the one who would want to got to the march to free her people, not the child. In the poem “Ballad of Birmingham”, by Dudley Randall, written in 1969, Mr.
Randall uses tone and irony to describe the events of the mothers decisions, andas well as her concern for her child’s well being. In the first stanza irony is used in order to makereading the poem more interesting. The situation in this first stanza is alsovery important. The little child is in a desperate situation and wants to helpbetter the lives of the African Americans. Randall also focuses on specificculture here.
The speaker is allowing the reader to make a mental picture of onespecific march in Birmingham (Hunter 17). But, you know as well as I, that withpeace marches and rallies comes violence and hostility. This is exactly what thelittle girls mother is afraid of, this is why she will not let her go to themarch. It also seems weird that her mother is so sure that going to church,instead of going to the march, will be the best thing for her. (Hunter 19-20). Typically, a church is to be a very safe and sacred place where no-one wouldimagine a bombing or any other type of violence to happen.
What is ironic aboutthis is that going to church turns out to be the worst place for her to be(Hunter 21). Something else that strikes me funny is that her mother dresses herin her daughter in her best clothes to go to church with her. What is ironichere is that she ended up wearing them to her funeral instead (Hunter 26). Thereis also a shift in dialogue here in the fifth stanza(Hunter 27). Here thenarrator starts to take over.
The narrator’s tone shows the reader the pride andjoy that the mother takes in her child’s appearance (Hunter 29). It also givesthe reader some sense of reassurance and cleanliness as the mother is brushingher daughters night-dark hair. She also dresses her in the same fashion (Hunter36). She tries to dress her all in white, which is the symbol for purity.
But nomatter how hard the mother tries to have her daughter conform to the “whites”,they are ultimately the ones who kill her (Hunter 41). Something else that is ironic comes about in the sixthstanza. The mother smiled to know her child was in the sacred place, but thatsmile was the last smile to come upon her face. This gives the reader a sense ofwhat is about to happen(Hunter 44).
This stanza is ironic because if the motherthinks her daughter is going to be in a safe place, why would this be the lasttime she would ever smile?The figures of speech that Randall uses in this poemalso give the poem a touch of irony. He uses two types of figures of speech, andhe uses them very well. First, he uses the metaphor. A metaphor is a figure ofspeech in which one thing is likened to another, different thing by being spokenof as if it were that other; implied comparison. He uses this in stanza five tohint to the reader that the child is an African American female(Hunter 47). Healso uses it in stanza seven to show how angry, afraid and worried her mothergets when she hears the explosion.
The other figure of speech that Randall usesis repetition. He uses the saying, “No, baby, no, you may not go”, in stanza twoand then again in stanza four. This saying expresses the worries and fear thatthe mother has for her little girl. Another big factor in this poem is the use of tone.
First, there is a tone of innocence in the first stanza (Hunter 51). The youngchild tries to act nice and innocent to her mother, in the case that her mothermight let her go to the march(Hunter 55). Secondly, there is the tone of concernfor her child’s safety. Her mother tells her that there are dogs, clubs andhoses. These things were used on protesters and marchers to control the crowdswhen they grew too large and had gotten out of hand.
Next, there is the tone ofjoy in the fifth stanza and in the first half of the sixth stanza. Her mothertakes pride and joy in getting her daughter ready to go to church. She is alsojoyful that her daughter is going to church instead of going to the march(Hunter 59-61). But, if you notice, in the seventh stanza that tone ofjoy immediately turns to grief and loneliness.
The move from the sixth to theseventh stanza is when the explosion occurs(Hunter 64). The mother doesn’t knowwhat to do. The mothers tone in the last two lines of the poem gives the readera feeling of grief and guilt. The word baby the mother uses implies the mothersaffection for her lost daughter. I don’t know how, but for some reason hermother feels that something has happened to her child, so she runs through thestreets of Birmingham, Alabama calling for her child.
She clawed through bits ofglass and brick, then lifted out her child’s shoe. From this finding the motherknows that she has lost her daughter forever. In conclusion, I personally thinkthat this poem was well written for the simple fact that Randall is not afraidto confront the problems that these two races had between them. He describesthings that had happened in this time period to get his point across vividly tothe reader. With that said, I leave you with one last question: If her motherhad let her go to the march like she asked, would she still be alive? Category: Social Issues