Poetry Analysis – Ballad of Birmingham Essay Example

In “Ballad of Birmingham” poem, the poet, Dudley Randall, uses imagery to describe the effect of conflict. The author illustrates how war leads to violence, sorrow, and inequality in the entire poem. This poem is about a girl who asks her mother to join other children in a freedom demonstration. The mother rejects her request and asks her to go to church, which she considers safe (Randall, 1965). The daughter did as instructed but met her death due to the bombing of the church. The poem’s tone is sad since it tells of a tragic event. The poem’s persona is the mother and her daughter. The poetic devices used in the poem are imagery, which creates a mental picture of a mother and her child. Another device in the poem is repetition. An example is “No, baby, no, you may not go” (Randall, 1965, line 5). The poet also uses irony whereby the girl met her death in the church where she was supposed to be safe. In addition, the use of symbolism, such as white shoes and gloves, symbolizes the girl’s purity. The poem’s rhyming scheme is ABCB because the second and fourth lines in every stanza rhyme, but the first and third lines fail to rhyme . The poem’s theme is that racial violence can result in the loss of innocent life and demonstration.

The conflict leads to violence which is evident in the entire poem. For instance, the mother rejects her daughter’s request to join other children in protest. She claims that there was a chance of conflict breakdown. “For I fear those guns will fire” (Randall, 1965, line 14). In addition, there is the bombing that destroys the church, where the mother instructs her daughter to go. The mother does not want her child to go down the street for a demonstration because that will endanger her life. The mother fears, too, that her child might be fired in the process of protesting.

Conflict leads to sorrow. The same is evident in the last two stanzas. Here, the mother hears an explosion and immediately knows something is wrong where she had instructed her daughter to go. The mother rushed along the street, calling her daughter, looking at her desperately, only to get her child’s shoes. Her words, “but, baby, where are you?” expressed pain and desperation (Randall, 1965, line 32). Ironically, where the mother expected her daughter would be safe turned out to be her sorrow. It is painful that the smile the mother gave her daughter was the last one.

The conflict led to inequality, which resulted in a freedom march. The daughter requested her mother to join other children in the freedom march. It, therefore, implies a state of inequality, which is why children decided to hold a freedom march. Moreover, the mother advises her child to go to church because it is safe. That show that there was inequality in security because some places like church were considered safe compared to others. “And clubs and hoses, guns and jails” (Randall, 1965, line 7). The issue of inequality also emerges in situations where the people who are supposed to offer protection to the citizen are shot and put in jail

Essentially, the issues of conflict results in violence, sorrow, and equality. Notably, violence results in massive destruction of property and loss of life. “For when she heard the explosion, her eyes grew wet and wild” (Randall, 1965, line 25 and 26). The explosion of the bomb in the church caused the death of an innocent girl leaving the mother in sorrow. If there are issues of inequality in a country, cases of protesting will be inevitable. On the other hand, using stylistic devices such as imagery has made the poem enjoyable as the reader can create a mental picture of the whole episode. Everyone is affected regardless of age, love, or place in a state of conflict. The poem teaches the importance of giving each person equal opportunity because they require freedom irrespective of age.


Randall, D. (1965). Ballad of Birmingham. Detroit, MI: Broadside Press.