An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

by William Butler Yeats

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How does Yeats's "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" represent modern Irish life?

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Yeats' "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" represents modern Irish life (i.e., life in Ireland circa 1920) by illustrating the bondage Irish citizens had to endure living under the oppressive control of the British Empire. 

The poem describes an airman's experience fighting in World War I, and it would have been indicative of many Irish citizens' attitude toward both the war and Great Britain. In the poem, the narrator asserts "Those that I fight I do not hate/ Those that I guard I do not love" (2-3). In these lines, he's referencing the fact that he, like many Irishmen, is compelled to fight a war he does not agree with for an oppressive regime he hates. Moreover, it appears that the airman has gone to war in order to die and escape his miserable existence (13-16). As such, Yeats illustrates the oppressive yoke that Irish people of his day had to endure, as he shows an Irish man choosing death in battle over a life lived beneath the heel of Great Britain's political domination. 

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