Explication of ‘Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of 1941’ This poem is about the World War ? especially in Leningard(1941. 09. 08~1944. 01. 18) in winter of 1941. Leningrad which is now St. Petersburg is once former capital of Russia and Russian Revolution so it was strategically important place for Hitler to have war with. German army siege this city almost 900 days and over 650,000 people are dead from this war because of starvation, exposure, disease and so on. However, Leningrad did not surrender against the enemy and bear all hardships and difficulties, later called ‘city of hero’.
How extremely difficult and severe situation it was in World war ? is depicted in this poem. There are a lot of dead bodies needed to be buried but impossible because ground is frozen and grave digger became weak from hunger. Also coffin could not be made because there was lack of fuel to heat and wood should be used for fuel. Instead of coffin they put the corpse on the child’s sled and take it to the cemetery. Child sled is the symbol of joy and happiness in winter snow but in the war time that kind of joy is disappeared but only degenerated to tool of moving the dead body.
There are some analogies with the dead. First they are metaphored as ‘tree’s ball of roots when it waits to be planted’ and cocoons that will split down the center when the new life inside is prepared’. Those are very similar to appearance of the dead and characteristics such as stiffness however it also contains the meaning of life and prosperity. In contrast, the expression of ‘pale gauze, tapered shapes’ make us think of mummies. Writer tried to mummify and dehumanize the dead.
Furthermore, ‘naked calves hard as corded wood spilling’ means piled corpses like stiff, dry wood with no life. Contrast in the metaphors tells us that the dead once having had vibrant life and had desire to restore vitality inevitably became very cold, rigid, abandoned dead body. ‘From under a cloak, a hand reaching out’ means that they are not ready to die and want to live more. Speaker of this poem is third person narrator so hard to know the dead’s mind exactly however we could analogize their thoughts on their death.
They would want to come back to life even if they have to eat the bread made of glue and sawdust and live in the severe cold and siege. ‘Bread made of glue and sawdust’ is nonsense but it means stale bread that is so dry and hard to eat. Narrator says having a life is better than death even if it becomes hard or difficult. It shows us that they really didn’t want to die in the war and life is so precious itself. It is composed of only one stanza. It makes reader to be focused on the situation that writer explain with tension.
Omniscient third person narrator speaks in the poem so we could not hear their direct voice but relying on what speaker says. Thesedays, there are still many threats on war outbreaks but as a generation not experiencing war yet, we have tendency to consider war as relatively light event and are not so alert or worrying compared to old generation. This poem reminds us with extreme hardships stealing a lot of innocent people’s lives that war can bear and arouse our attention again on the war.
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