Kamikaze - Beatrice Garland (Born 1938)

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  • Created on: 23-05-19 02:20

Summary and key Ideas in Kamikaze

In Beatrice Garland's Kamikaze, the speaker describes her father, a Kamikaze pilot, heading out one day on a suicide mission but then turning back.

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Context

  • Kamikaze pilots were Japanese pilots that were expected to fly into their enemy to destroy them, killing themselves in the process.
  • It was part of their duty to their country and to turn back on a mission would have brought shame to your family and community.
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Memory and childhood

  • The power of memory and the allure of childhood are key themes in the poem.
  • The poet presents memories of childhood as something that lures the pilot back from his mission and triggers his change of heart.
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Duty and community

  • The poem explores the pilot’s ostracisation (isolation) from his community because of failing to do what was seen as his duty.
  • His own wife, neighbours and eventually children refuse to acknowledge him and act as though he is not there.
  • The power and influence of community values is a key theme.
  • The speaker seems to have a mix of emotions about her father, for example, pride, shame, regret.
    • At the end of the poem, the speaker questions whether the treatment he received when he returned home was a worse “death” than dying on the mission.
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Nature

  • Through the description of the fish, sea, shore and pebbles, the poet explores ideas about the beauty of nature and its effects on humans.
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Duty and life

  • The poet explores the tension or conflict between the expectations of the pilot’s community and family, and his appreciation of the value of life.
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Structure and Form - Conflicting Emotions

Garland uses the structure and form of Kamikaze to mirror the mixed emotions of the speaker and the plot. These are the different structural techniques Garland uses to do so:

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Narrative shift

  • The move from third-person narrator to the first person (from the point of view of the daughter) in the last two stanzas of the poem reveals the inner thoughts and feelings of the pilot’s daughter.
  • It reveals her conflicting emotions about the way her father was treated.
  • The shift is also marked using italics as if to emphasise the importance of the speaker’s words and the significance of what she is saying.
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Caesura and aside

  • The caesura, which signifies the aside (“but half way there, she thought, recounting it later to her children”) marks the daughter’s moment of contemplation.
  • An aside is where words are spoken to the audience but not heard by the characters in the poem.
  • This moment also mirror’s the pilot’s hesitation.
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Themes: honour

Honour is an important theme in the poem, as the poet explores the consequences of not fulfilling one's duty. Garland uses the following techniques to highlight the importance of honour:

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Listing

  • …with a flask of water, a samurai sword / in the cockpit, a shaven head / full of powerful incantations”.
  • This technique of listing suggests this is a ritual and gives the sense of dignity and respect for the tradition.
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Title

  • The title of the poem - “Kamikaze” - literally means a “divine wind”.
  • It was considered an honour to be asked to perform this role. - Having this as the title of the poem sets the poem up to focus on the idea of honour.
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Metaphor

  • One-way journey into history”.
  • This metaphor could highlight the significance of the act and the honour it could bring him.
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Symbolism

  • “Her father embarked at sunrise”.
  • Japan is also known as the “land of the rising sun”, so this could be a reference to the country’s heritage.
  • It is also symbolic of hope.
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Themes: nature

  • Garland highlights the beauty of nature to help us empathise with the pilots' reasons for turning back. Garland also uses nature to forewarn of bad things to come.
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Natural imagery

  • Natural imagery is used throughout the poem to highlight the beauty of the world and everything the pilot stands to lose. Examples include:
    • Green-blue translucent sea”.
    • Shoals of fishes”.
  • There is a suggestion that these influence his decision to turn back.
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Sibilance

  • Sibilance in stanza three mimics the smooth, graceful movement of the fish and adds to the rich description of the beauty of nature.
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Dark imagery

  • …a tuna, the dark prince, muscular, dangerous”.
  • This hints of the more powerful, even predatory side of nature, and perhaps the darker end to the poem.
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Fish symbolism

  • You could argue that there is a connection between the pilot and the fish: just as they become trapped in nets, he cannot escape society’s expectations of him.
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Themes: irony

  • There is a strong sense of irony in the poem – although the pilot returns alive, he has still suffered a death of sorts. This creates sympathy for the plight of the pilot and the fact he can't escape his fate. Garland uses these techniques to bring out the irony:
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Simile

  • Strung out like bunting”.
  • This simile is a positive image with connotations of celebration. This is ironic given what the pilot is about to do.
  • Perhaps it symbolises life and joy and acts as a reminder to the pilot of what he is leaving behind. This makes his fate even more tragic.
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Imagery

  • And remembered how he / and his brothers waiting on the shore / built cairns of pearl-grey pebbles”.
  • The contrast between this innocent image and the pilot's fate creates a tone of sadness
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Themes: family and childhood

The allure of childhood is a key theme in the poem. The poet presents memories of childhood as something that lures the pilot back from his mission and triggers his change of heart. We also see how duty affects family relationships. Garland uses these techniques to explore these ideas:

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Italics and aside

  • yes, grandfather’s boat”.
  • This phrase is italicised and said in an aside (a comment to the audience not heard by the characters).
  • The aside hints at the complexity of family emotions. It suggests that the speaker now feels able to speak freely about her father. The italics potentially show her excitement at being able to mention his name.
  • The italics may also show the speaker’s desire to make sure that positive ideas about her father are instilled in the minds of her children, in a way that they were not instilled in her.
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Imagery

  • Images of innocence and childhood are designed to make us empathise with the pilot's decision to go back.
  • E.g. “and remembered how he / and his brothers waiting on the shore / built cairns of pearl-grey pebbles”.
  • The enjambment (sentences flowing over the end of lines) could reflect the way the pilot was caught up in those memories as he was looking down.
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Key Quotations in Kamikaze

Here are key quotations to remember for your exam:

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“…A tuna, the dark prince, muscular, dangerous”

  • Dark imagery.
  • This hints of the more powerful, even predatory side of nature, and perhaps the darker end to the poem.
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“Her father embarked at sunrise"

  • Symbolism.
  • Japan is also known as the “land of the rising sun” so this could be a reference to the country’s heritage.
  • It is also symbolic of hope.
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"Strung out like bunting"

  • Simile.
  • This simile is a positive image with connotations of celebration.
  • This simile is ironic given what the pilot is about to do.
  • The simile could also symbolise joy and remind us of what the pilot is leaving behind.
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"One-way journey into history"

  • Metaphor.
  • This is indicative of the significance of the act and the honour it could bring him.
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"And remembered how he..."

  • and remembered how he / and his brothers waiting on the shore / built cairns of pearl-grey pebbles”.
  • Imagery.
  • This image of innocence and childhood provides a contrast to the pilot's fate.
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“…With a flask of water, a samurai sword in the co

  • …with a flask of water, a samurai sword in the cockpit, a shaven head full of powerful incantations".
  • Listing.
  • This technique suggests this is a ritual and gives a sense of dignity and respect for the tradition.
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“Green-blue translucent sea”

  • Natural imagery.
  • Highlights the beauty of the world and everything the pilot stands to lose.
  • This helps us to empathise with the pilot's decision to turn back.
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Key Comparisons: Kamikaze

Here are some themes that come up in Kamikaze and other texts:

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Power of society

  • You may want to compare the theme of the power of society in Kamikaze to the following texts:
    • London.
    • The Emigree.
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Power of nature

  • You may want to compare the theme of the power of nature in Kamikaze to the following texts:
    • Storm on the Island.
    • Tissue.
    • Exposure.
    • The Prelude.
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Power of memory

  • You may want to compare the theme of the power of memory in Kamikaze to the following texts:
    • Poppies.
    • The Emigree.
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Conflicting emotions

  • You may want to compare the theme of conflicting emotions in Kamikaze to the following texts:
    • Poppies
    • Bayonet Charge.
    • War Photographer.
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