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"Carl Sandburg's Motif Of Blood As A Symbol Of Both Life And Death" (Title Pretty Much Nails It.) Didn't Get As Good A Grade On This One. Lost Pts For 1st Sentence. Five Pages. American Poetry.

1191 words - 5 pages

Carl Sandburg's Motif of Blood as a Symbol of Both Life and DeathThe image of the color red is presented in at least 25 of the poems of this collection. In some instances, red is a symbol of passion and life, but in others it is offered as a symbol of suffering, death, and waste. Sandburg frequently presents this motif with the image of blood, especially in War Poems. The blood image also has a dual meaning for Sandburg. He uses it to represent both life and death as well. While these two images are offered together in many instances, they are also presented as independent images even in the same poems in which they are combined to create a single motif. An analysis of this motif provides a clear view of Sandburg's struggle to reconcile his longing for both peace and progress, which must have seemed like a paradoxical ideal at the beginning of World War I. The three poems that contain this motif are "Dynamiter," "Killers," and "Buttons."In the poem "Dynamiter," Sandburg first uses the image of blood to describe life. He describes the dynamiter as "an unshakable man knowing life to be a rich and red-blooded thing" (Line 3). This dynamiter is described as a tough guy figure. "His name was in many newspapers as an enemy of the nation and few keepers of churches or schools would open their doors to him" (Line 5). Through a shared enthusiasm for "the red-blooded thing," or life, Sandburg finds common ground with this man who is considered by many to be "an enemy of the nation." The man is a "lover of life...lover of red hearts and red blood the world over" (Line 7). The hearts here are red because the color itself is a symbol of passion. "Red blood" is synonymous with the idea of living not just as it pertains to simply being alive, but with approaching life aggressively, with an appreciation for the ability to laugh or to indulge in a meal of steak and onions in a German saloon. If he had just said "blood" he would have only made the point that we all have it in our veins and need it to keep breathing. With this deliberate reminder of the color of the blood, Sandburg is emphasizing the role of passion in life as well as the role of blood as a biological necessity.The poem "Killers" presents the motif of blood as both life and death. It is offered first as life in the description of the soldiers, or the killers.Under the sunAre sixteen million men,Chosen for shining teeth,Sharp eyes, hard legs,And a running of young warm blood in their wrists (Lines 5-9)."Warm blood" is used here in the same way that "red blood" is used in "Dynamiter." Again it is admired by Sandburg as a symbol of life and of health.However in the stanza that follows, blood is presented as "red juice" and is representative of a waste of valuable life. "And a red juice runs on the green grass;/ And a red juice soaks the dark soil./ And the sixteen million are killing...and killing and killing" (Lines 10-12). This time Sandburg doesn't even use the word "blood." The two images of the...

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