‘Giuseppe’ by Roderick Ford blends historical realism with a fairy tale element to explore the darkest corners of human behavior. It is about the war and how people make excuses for their actions.

The poem explores the idea of what makes us human. Under the pressure of war, is there any innate moral compass that can keep us on the right side of horror? In context, the mermaid can be said to be symbolic of any outsider or enemy. By making her a creature from legend, Ford allows us to look more clearly at the protagonists’ behavior.

The title – The title of the poem is simply the first name of the speaker’s uncle – Giuseppe – without giving him a title, such as ‘uncle’ or even ‘Mr’. This could suggest that the speaker feels disconnected from his uncle by the story he is telling, as he does not acknowledge their family relationship. This blunt term of address could also suggest anger or bitterness on the part of the speaker upon learning of his uncle’s actions.


  • Irregular Structure

  • Enjambment and caesura – The use of enjambment (line breaks in the middle of phrases) and caesura (for example, “She, it, had never learned to speak, because she was simple, or so they said.”) creates pauses in the middle of phrases, implying that the speaker’s uncle is reluctant to continue telling his story, perhaps out of guilt, or fear of judgment.


  • List – “was butchered…by a doctor, a fishmonger, and certain others” – This list helps to illustrate the confusion over what the mermaid is. They say doctor, but doctors are for humans, so then a fishmonger is mentioned because supposedly that is the alternative for a fish. But the mermaid is neither and this in itself creates problems. It relates to war because sometimes there is not a certain category it can be put in and not a valid excuse that can be made for it – sometimes it is just immoral.

  • Pronouns – “She, it” “Said she was only a fish, and fish can’t speak” – DEHUMANISATION – There is a lot of dehumanization in this poem. One example is the changing of pronouns in the second stanza. She was not a woman in their eyes anymore – she becomes an ‘it’. This is because if she was not a human then it made the uncle feel better about killing her because she was not one of them, this again relates to war and about how if you see the opponent as different to you – not one of us – then killing them doesn’t feel as bad, whereas in reality,


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