The Message Of Babi Yar Essay Research

The Message Of Babi Yar Essay, Research Paper

There are very few people in the world who are willing to go

against the popular trends and do what they feel in their hearts is

correct. But Yevgeny Yevtushenko is one of those people. In his poem

Babi Yar, he tells the story of the modern persecution of the Jews,

focusing on atrocities like those of the massacre at Babi Yar and the

pogroms at Beilostok, and also the general anti-Semitism that killed

men like Dreyfus and pervades the entire Russian people. The poem uses

many literary devices, such as graphic imagery and contrasts, while

painting a very clear picture of the scenes of pure horror.

Babi Yar is written in many different voices, all of which,

however, have the same message. The author starts off with his own

perspective, then goes on and describes certain people in modern

Jewish history whose lives will forever be remembered as symbols of

the time. At the end of the poem the author comes back and speaks in

his own voice, yet this time he delivers a message to his people about

how they have committed a large number of these crimes against the

Jews, yet think that such actions are pure and good for Russia. By

switching from the voices of those who were so afflicted by the

persecution to a voice of accusation, the author effectively points

out how foolish the arguments of the Russians are when they try to

point out any validity in killing millions of Jews.

The poem starts out with a description of the ravine at Babi Yar.

However, all it says is that there is nothing to describe. It calls

the steep ravine, which is the grave sight of one hundred thousand

people, the only memorial that is there. This frightens the author,

because the massiveness of the tragedy deserves at least some

recognition. Then Yevtushenko realizes that fear is a part of Judaism,

something that is as old as them, and therefore originating with them.

He says that he too must be a Jew for he is afraid of what his

people and his society have become. Many years ago, in the “ancient

days,” it would not be such a shock to see the Jews enslaved in Egypt

or crucified as a means of torture and death, but even in modern times

the same things are going on-he still has the marks from where the

nails pierced him. The author has used classical examples of Jewish

persecution which every one knows is gone in the physical sense, but

show how they still exist in the theoretical aspect, as the

persecution is still occurring.

In the next three stanzas, the poem takes the standpoint of three

figures whose stories are pertinent examples of what Yevtushenko is

trying to rely in this poem. First the voice of Dreyfus is used, and

the stanza describes how horribly and unfairly he was treated, and how

the country and its leaders turned their backs on him.

There are two important literary devices used in this section.

First the author puts the word “pettiness” on a line by itself. This

is used as a declaration of what the author feels anti-Semitism is

based on. It is because of pettiness that Dreyfus was accused

and further because of pettiness that he was not pardoned when it was

proven that he had not committed any crime. The next important device

is the description of ladies with their umbrellas. This is an image to

the wealthy aristocracy of France, who not only turned their backs on

Dreyfus and did not help him, but also increased the effort to have

him punished unnecessarily.

The next Jewish figure whom the author singles out is a boy from

the town of Bielostok, where one of the most horrible pogroms ever

took place. The entire stanza focuses on the image of how bad the

people were who participated in the pogrom. Using graphic images of

blood spurting all around and of victims pointlessly begging for

mercy, the author clearly shows how wrong the pogroms were and wrong

his countrymen were for allowing them to occur. A device the author

uses in this stanza is contrast, as in one line he writes how the

participants were crying that the pogrom was to “Save Russia,” and on

the next line says that these same participants were beating up his

mother, whose existence obviously was not harming the country.

Anne Frank is the next figure whom the poem highlights. The poet

calls her “a translucent twig of April.” He is using the image

of something small and fragile which can so easily be broken. By this

he is showing how weak and frail she was. She was definitely

undeserving of the events that she had to live through, but in

addition to that she was only a small weak child, as weak as a twig.

Even more so he shows how good of a person she was that she was so

full of love, yet could not even experience the sky or trees, only sit

in a dark room.

After these narratives the poet starts the next section of the

poem. In his own voice, he asks his people not to fear love. If

everyone just got along, then everything would be nice and happy. He

says it will be like spring, which is the usual metaphor for new and

better times. This stanza is a general plea to non-Jews that everyone

should just be friends and then the process of world harmony will be

sped up.

This is contrasted to the following stanza where the author again

remembers the tragedy of Babi Yar and the Holocaust. Using imagery of

bare trees and howling winds, the poem makes a description of winter,

which is a metaphor for bad times. So the author contrast the two

seasons of winter and spring showing how right now hatred is keeping

everyone in winter, but once there is peace then spring can start and

life will get better.

The rest of the poem focuses on what the Russian people must do to

change their attitude about Jews. First the author criticizes them for

acting so shamelessly, and then he says that Jews must be accepted by

all Russians who can honestly call themselves that. This is compounded

when it says that one can truly be a Russian only when he undergoes

the same treatment that the Jews go through, only when they experience

the same type of hatred. This final statement is a reversal of the

general view of the Russian people, and it reaffirms how Yevgeny

Yevtushenko is a person who is not afraid to go against the popular

opinion in order to make life better.


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