Ballad of Birmingham

by Dudley Randall

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What are the similes and metaphor in the poem "Ballad of Birmingham".

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Dudley Randall's narrative poem about the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, is written in stanzas that form a dialogue between the mother and daughter, who later becomes the bombing victim. This use of dialogue gives life to the voices of the youth who wished to participate in the Freedom Marches of the Civil Rights Movement. Ironically, in her effort to keep her daughter safe, the mother inadvertently sent her child to her death.

As in most poetry, figures of speech are employed. Both simile and metaphor are comparisons between two unlike qualities or things. However, a simile is a stated comparison in which the words like or as are used; a metaphor is an unstated comparison in which an implied comparison is made between two things that are essentially unlike. A metaphor may take one of four forms:

  1. the literal term and the figurative term are both named
  2. the literal term is named and the figurative term is implied
  3. the literal term is implied and figurative term is named
  4. both the literal and figurative terms are implied.

While there are no examples of similes, there are several metaphors:

  • "night-dark hair" - an example of type #1, this metaphor compares the girl's hair with the color of night.
  • "rose-petal sweet" - another example of #1, the hair is compared to soft and redolent rose petals
  • "sacred place" - an example of #3, the literal term of "church" is implied.
  • "bits of glass and brick" - an example of #4, as both implied the literal term of the church that is reduced to glass and brick and the girl's body that has become part of this rubble, as well, as compared to the glass and brick fragments.


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