war photographer

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summary

  • a war photographer is developing his pictures in a darkroom under a soft red light
  • the atmosphere is serious and church-like
  • the photographer's hands shake slightly, although they did not when he was in the war zone
  • he remembers the context of each photograph, including a man's wife crying and trying to gain her approval for the picture by meaningful looks
  • he is aware that ony a few of his pictures will be published, and that readers will react for just a fleeting moment before continuing with their comfortable lives

key aspects

  • duffy uses measured, end-stopped stanzas which mimic the photographer's 'ordered' rows
  • contrats are established between home and the war zones where he works, and between his understanding and experience and 'the reader' who has become desensitised

key setting: rural england

  • duffy provides little information about the photographer's rural home
  • the only definite detail that we are told is that it has 'ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel', showing a dismissive attitude through the two adjectives 'ordinary' and 'simple'
  • duffy makes the photogrpaher view his rural home through the lens of the battlefields he has just left
  • this is clear through descriptions which focus on what england is not or does not have, rather than on the positive attributes which england may have to offer, such as fields which 'don't explode...in a nightmare heat'
  • the effect of this perhaps to begin to make the English reader ashamed of petty concerns by undercutting them with the more life-threatening events others face

key theme: attitude to conflict

  • duffy contrasts the photographer's haunting memories of war with reader's sentimental and densensitised reaction to his pictures in the sentence 'the reader's eyeballs *****/with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers'
  • she uses the verb '*****' to show how the tears don't fully emerge and also undermines their seriousness through the internal rhyme with 'beers;
  • a further contrast is offered through the editor, whose job it is to 'pick out five or six' from the 'hundred agonies', leaving us to wonder about the cost of such work, where so much suffering is reduced to so few images
  • the photographer's attitude, on the other hand, is shown in more complexity
  • his solemnity is demonstrated through the words 'church', 'priest' and 'Mass' and the biblical reference, which form a religious semantic field in the first stanza
  • duffy also emphasises his sense of duty through repeated references to the idea…

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