Vancouver Lights Questions and Answers
by Earle Birney

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Please identify five metaphors in Earle Birney's poem "Vancouver Lights." How does each metaphor influence our understanding of the element within the poem to which is applied?

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The theme of Birney's poem, written shortly after the start of World War II, is that humankind has self-destructive tendencies and has only itself to blame for the situations it finds itself, such as war.

A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words like or as. Five metaphors that Birney's speaker uses that are important to his theme are the following:

Light is important to this poem, and in the first stanza, the speaker compares the city he sees below him to a web of golden lights—"golden strands." That is an apt metaphor because it is what a city looks like seen from above. It emphasizes that the web we see is human made, not natural, pointing to the theme that we are responsible for what happens on our planet: we built the culture that goes...

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