An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

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An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

In William Butler Yeats' poem, "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," he focuses on man's inner nature. He touches on the many jumbled thoughts that must race through one's mind at the point when they realize that their death is inevitable. In this poem, these thoughts include the airman's believed destination after leaving Earth, his feelings about his enemies and his supporters, his memories of home, his personal reasons for being in the war and, finally, his view of how he has spent his life. Through telling the airman's possible final thoughts, Yeats shows that there is a great deal more to war than the political disputes between two opposing forces and that it causes men to question everything they have ever known and believed.

At the beginning of the poem, Yeats offers the reader the airman's first believed inner thought. The airman has come to the conclusion that he is going to die. In the words, "I know that I shall meet my fate / Somewhere among the clouds above," the airman seems to have accepted this destiny (lines 1-2). He does not talk about fighting it or wishing it away. He knows the realities of the position that he is in and has decided to fully accept the unavoidable outcome. Although one might envision the airman flying his plane into dangerous territory or possibly imprisoned by the enemy, the poem does not tell the reader what is happening to him. This is consistent with Yeats' style of describing the inward versus the outward events in his poems. Knowing what is happening to the airman would probably not enhance or even affect the poem because Yeats wants the reader to know what is taking place inside this man. It does no...

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...t in it. He seeks to discover the thoughts that one must have as they prepare to die in combat. The airman seems to go through a series of thoughts during the poem as he accepts his fate, touches on his numbness to human life, reflects on his home and his fellow people, cites his reasons for even being in the war, and then claiming his dissatisfaction with his entire life, but not his death. Although Yeats does not tell about the airman's life, the reader is likely to assume that it was the war that caused the airman to think in this way. This shows the profound and dramatic effects that war has on the minds of its prisoners.

Work Cited:

Yeats, William Butler. "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death." The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. 2nd ed. Ed. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988. 154-155.

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