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Commentary On What They Were Like

4 Pages 925 Words

A commentary of the poem “What Were They Like?”
The poem, “What Were They Like?” by Denise Levertov was written to shed light on the forgotten culture of the Vietnamese, a culture that had been developing for centuries. The people of the Vietnam had their lives destroyed through a tragic 15-year civil war that started in 1954. The war dividing North and South Vietnam was over political conflict and clash of cultures.
This poems format is six questions followed by six answers. Speaker One asks the questions, while Speaker Two answers them. The relationship between Speaker One and Speaker Two is at first difficult to understand. They create a conflict by discussing a subject Speaker One, the journalist, is oblivious to, and Speaker Two is testy about answering. The journalist seems to be very innocent, like a child, who is ignorant of what happened during the tragedy of war. Speaker Two, however, takes on a persona of an elder, someone who was somehow emotionally attached to the Vietnamese. He saw it happen. He was there. The journalist seems to be the same age or maybe younger than Speaker Two. However, Speaker Two, seems reverent by the casual asking of the questions. He answers the questions with a seemingly hostile tone, as he remembers the horror and terror of the war, “Sir, Their light hearts turned to stone.” (__)
The tone of the poem is emotional. It brings back a feeling that Speaker Two would like to forget about. He will never be able to forget what he saw. He has to tell the journalist about all the death and poverty during and after the war, that way it will never happen again.
Levertov creates many feelings in her poem. She gives the sense of being inquisitive, solemn, formal, and reflective. She is investigating the culture between the past and present, “Had they an epic poem?” (__) She is solemn in the remembrance of the answers. She is formal by the use of “Sir” in answers on...

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