Remains

Summary

  • Speaker describes being sent to deal with looters at a bank in a middle eastern war zone
  • One of the looters runs away and the speaker and two others open fire on him, hitting him with about twelve rounds, and spilling his internal organs onto the street
  • The speaker's friend puts the man's guts back inside and the body is taken away
  • The speaker recalls seeing the man's 'blood-shadow' on the street when on patrol- i.e. the blood left by the body on the pavement
  • He goes on to describe being haunted by images of the looter long afterwards. Implying a metaphorical shadow left by the man in the speaker's life, which turning to drink and drugs cannot erase

 

1 of 7

Key Aspects

  • A strongly colloquial voice is used, with many informal phrases contrasting with the elevated poetic language used for the description of memories
  • Armitage uses repetition of ideas, phrased in different ways, to show how the speaker's mind keeps going over the events
  • Armitage chooses a title with various connotations, including the idea of human remains, the persistant memories the soldier has, what is left of the soldier after his experiences

Viewpoint

  • The poem is written in first person, but we opens with a plural pronoun 'we' and only shifts to the singular 'I' when he's talking about the impact of seeing the man hit
  • This shows how as a group the soldiers shot the looter, but the speaker experiences the impact of seeing the man's suffering and death on his own
2 of 7

Key Setting: Middle Eastern War Zone

  • Armitage keeps the precise setting vague
  • At first we encounter a semantic field of only urban references: 'bank', 'road', 'lorry', 'street'
  • At the end armitage provides a list of adjectives- 'distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered'- to convey the speaker's sympathy with a land which he views as being at the mercy of the elements
  • Due to his disturbing omnipresent experiences there, Armitage emphasises the relative unimportance of the precise location
  • It is what happended to the soldier on a personal level which matters, not the particular conflict and specific setting
3 of 7

Key Technique: Conversational Tone

  • Armitage's chatty style creates a strongly personal voice for the soldier, by using many informal words and colloquial phrases
  • The opening feels like the middle of a story, with 'another occasion' implying that this is one of many anecdotes. The tone is then firmly set with the colloquialism 'legs it'
  • Armitage uses speech features such as the 'so' in 'so we've hit this looter a dozen times', again both creating the impression of speech and allowing Armitage to repeat the idea of the man being shot multiple times, just as the soldier's mind replays this image endlessly
  • The effect of this conversational tone is to contrast the horror of what happened with the ordinary voice of the soldier recounting it, increasing the shock to the reader
  • The phrase 'end of story' is a strong example of irony, immediately undermined in the poem itself as the speaker goes on to explain how the experience is anything but over
4 of 7

Key Context

 

  • This poem comes from a collection of war poetry called The Not Dead by Simon Armitage
  • He then made a Channel 4 documentary about this collection
  • Includes footage of the soldier talking about the incident on which this poem is based
  • He interviewd many veteran soldiers in the coming up to his collection
5 of 7

Themes

  • Responsibility- Armitage uses repetitive phrasing and ideas to show how the soldier is haunated by his own sense of responsibility for the life he contributed to taking
  • Participation in war- Armitage offers a haunting vision of the reality of having to kill someone. despite three soliders being involved, the speaker is left with the recurring image of 'his bloody life in my bloody hands'
  • Effects of war- Armitage demonstrates the psychological damage endured by an individual
  • Memory- The effect on the speaker's mental health of the memory recalled is the central theme. He is unable to erase the incident from his mind and is constantly haunted by images and thoughts relating to it. Armitage presents the dead man as physically present with the soldier- 'he's here'- and lists the various ways in which he haunts him, emphasising the speaker's inability to stop the memory replaying
6 of 7

Links

War Photographer

  • Both explore the effects of conflict, but while 'Remains' focuses on the davstating effects on the soldier, 'War Photographer' focuses on the lack of effect on the public, and how the photographer feels about this, 
  • 'Remains' uses enjambment between the stanzas; 'War Photographer' uses end-stopping

Kamikaze

  • Like 'Remains' this shows the impact of one moment on a person's life, although in 'Remains' this event is in the recent past 
  • 'Remains' uses a strong first person voice, while 'Kamikaze' mostly uses a third person speaker to evoke a story-like tone
7 of 7

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all AQA Anthology resources »