Research Paper On The Poem "What Were They Like?" By Denise Levertov.

1099 words - 4 pages

Denise Levertov wrote "What Were They Like?" in protest against the Vietnam War. She had strong antiwar feelings that she expressed through her poetry. The message to the reader is that war only causes death and destruction. She deliberately used the matter of fact questioning to portray what Americans were seeing every night on television. By using this format she recalled from the readers mind images seen on television that would promote her antiwar position.In knowing a little bit about Denise Levertov's life we can understand her antiwar position. She opposed the war because she was no stranger to the horrors of war. She was born in Ilford, Essex, England on October 24, 1923. She was sixteen when on September 3, 1939 Britain had declared war on Germany. Levertov became a civilian nurse serving in London. (Academy of America Poets 3) Being a nurse she had a first hand look at the catastrophes of war on civilian life. I think it was this experience as a nurse that enabled her create a vivid image of death and destruction in her antiwar poetry and the strength to be so open about her antiwar feelings.The tone of "What Were They Like?" is very harsh this is probable because Levertov believed that The Vietnam War was going to be genocide to the Vietnamese. As proven by her response to NBC after they asked her not to comment on Vietnam in a scheduled interview she had with them. "It seems to me that a "balanced" view of genocide and of actions which are leading directly toward the extinction of life on earth is itself a kind of insanity" (Gifts of Speech 3). History has proven her wrong in regard to the genocide of the Vietnamese. But, the gruesome deaths of the Vietnamese, is not to be taken lightly. Women, children, and even little babies all died during this tragedy, just because they were thought to be Vietcong sympathizers. When thinking about these deaths it is natural to be angry and the harsh tone used by Levertov reflects that anger well, without being overly emotional.As stated by Robert Brigham, "by 1968 every corner of the country seemed to have felt the war's impact"(3). Denise Levertov was not an exception, like herself many people opposed the war and felt the United States Government was the enemy. On April 15, 1970 Levertov gave a speech at an Antiwar Rally held at the University of Massachusetts. In her speech she blamed war on the American government. "Today, I believe we cannot bring the wars to an end - - and I use the plural "wars" because there are wars going on in many countries, and in all these wars the United States has a hand - - we cannot bring the wars to an end without bringing the capitalist-imperialist system to an end. These wars, whether in Asia or Latin America or wherever they erupt, are wars of national liberation, in which people are fighting for self-determination against America's puppet government" (Gifts of Speech 3). We can see by this statement that Levertov was very active in politically opposing the...

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