Identify poetic devices in "A Doctor's Journal Entry" by Vikram Seth. 

2 Answers

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Vikram Seth's poem "A Doctor's Journal Entry" depicts the aftermath of an atomic bomb explosion. The speaker, who at the beginning of the poem lies in bed looking at "shimmering leaves and shadows," suddenly sees magnesium flares and the world crashing in around him and his wife. The distinct imagery and language provides the reader with an image-ridden picture of the speaker's world as it came crashing down around him. 

Personification- "The morning stretched calm." Here, the morning is personified. Personification is where a non-human / non-living thing is given human characteristics. In this opening line of the poem, the morning is able to stretch calmly. Not only does this personify the morning, it provides the reader with a very distinct (and most likely familiar) image: stretching in the morning. 

Alliteration- "Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly." Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound. In this line, "s" is repeated. 

Metaphor- "I saw the shadowy forms of people, some / Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb." Here, the speaker is comparing one image to another (that of people to ghosts/scarecrows). This comparison helps readers to create a mental image of how the people were walking around after the attack. 
Sources:
cneukam1379's profile pic

cneukam1379 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Reading the poem, one will have difficulty finding a rhythm, though the lines are all 10 syllables and in rhyming couplets. Seth also utilizes enjambment, which is the continuation of a verse beyond the line break. Since the poem is about the destruction of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the speaker's experience in its aftermath, the reader can feel the chaos and confusion that the speaker feels as he attempts to ascertain what has happened through the confusing rhythm.

The poem is also written in a conversational style, which would almost seem to make the speaker appear calm but for the interesting use of dashes. For instance, the speaker comments:

The roof, the walls and, as it seemed, the world

Collapsed in timber and debris, dust swirled

Around me—in the garden now—and, weird,

My drawers and undershirt had disappeared. (7-10)

The dash sets up the speaker's pause in noticing that the destruction is not just centered in his house, but it's what occurs after the dash that is intriguing: he notices that his clothes have disappeared, though he does not seem to show surprise. The  clause is not punctuated with an exclamation point as one might expect; it is stated almost nonchalantly.