Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall

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The faded voices of choir singers are muffled by a roaring explosion. The sounds from the crumbling building spread down the block. Worn-down bricks, knocked out from underneath each another. Shards of colored glass, shot into the air. Chucks of wood and rubbish litter the sidewalk. Thick smoke and fearful screams saturate the air. A mother’s worse nightmare.
In the poem “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall, a mother attempted to protect her daughter by sending her to church. However, in the end, the child has her entire life stolen from her. The dramatic situation in the poem is portrayed and developed through Randall’s use of descriptive imagery, dialogue, irony, and a tonal shift.
Randall’s use of descriptive imagery shows the mother’s love for her daughter and sets up the dramatic situation. “She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair” (line 17). Through the carefully combing of her daughter’s hair, the reader can tell the mother takes a tremendous amount of pride in her daughter’s appearance. The quote also shows how profoundly the mother loves her daughter. Then when describing the girl’s shoes and gloves, Randall selects the color white. The color is represents of her purity and innocence.
Descriptive imagery is also dominant in line 29 “She clawed through bits of glass and brick,” allows the reader to vividly picture the mother frantically digging through the crumbling remains of the church in search of the daughter she holds dear to her heart. Clearly picturing the frantic mother the readers can feel how dramatic the situation is and the devastating, emotional impact it will have on the mother’s life. The descriptive imagery adds to the dramatic situation by allowing the reader to picture the mother and bu...

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...s “Oh, here’s the shoe my baby wore/but baby, where are you?” The mother then realizes that the church was not a sanctuary as she was led to believe, but a place of extreme violence. The irony of the situation is that in the end, the streets of Birmingham filled with its “clubs and hoses, guns and jails,” (line 7) was a safer place for the child then her local church. The irony adds to the dramatic situation by giving the reader a false sense of hope and then quickly taking it away.
Pushing tears from her eyes, a frantic mother scrambles through what remains of her beloved church. But she does not locate her choir singer. Only a little white shoe and a glove to match. In his poem “Ballad of Birmingham,” David Randall uses descriptive imagery, dialogue, irony, and a tonal shift to give the poem emotion and draw the reader’s attention towards the dramatic situation.

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