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Explore How the Key Themes Develop in the Poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy

In this worksheet, students will undertake an exploration of how the key themes develop in the poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy.

'Explore How the Key Themes Develop in the Poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'War Photographer', Conflict: 'War Photographer'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy, which can be found in your anthology.

 

The poem is written about a war photographer who has returned home and is developing his photos. The process of developing old-style film photos is rather unusual for many to understand today. Old style film is very sensitive to light, so it must be done in a dark room lit with a red light. War photographers do a very dangerous job, many are killed and injured as they must get in harm's way to get the photos they are after.

camera

 

The poem focuses on two main themes:

 

The horror of war

ur lack of care for the people suffering in these wars

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about how these themes develop throughout the poem.

In order to identify the themes in the poem 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come from?
The narrator is shocked and saddened by the suffer...
What does the narrator do as soon as he arrives ho...
He feels that they do not realise how bad the conf...
How does the narrator feel about the conflict he h...
The narrator has been in a country of conflict tak...
How does the narrator feel about the people back i...
The narrator goes to the dark room to process the ...

modern day soldiers

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', which summary do you think best explains the poem?

 

The photographer is a priest who has visited war zones and taken photographs of the atrocities. He hopes that the horror he has recorded will make people want to take action to stop it, but when he returns to England it only makes people pause for a moment

A photographer is in his dark room developing pictures he has taken from a war zone. As a photgraph develops he remembers a man who had died and how upset his wife was. He compares this to the safe and comfortable lives of the people in "rural England"

A photographer is developing photos in his dark room of images of conflict. He feels annoyed that only some of the images will be seen and it causes him distress to have to choose which ones are important, when he sees them all as being this

A central theme running throughout the poem is the horror of war, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

Here are a few of the words that the poet uses to describe the horror of war:

 

"Suffering", "Pain", "Explode", "Nightmare"

 

 

soldier with gun

 

 

Why do you think the poet creates such a sense of the horror of war?

 

The poet is using the language that they have heard other people using to describe the war

The poet wanted people to feel sympathy for the soldiers who are in the war

The poet wanted to shock the reader with this violent language so that they would be more likely to want to help the people

Let's look at how the theme of the horror of war develops throughout the poem. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

In this quotation, the poet further develops this theme by using children as an example of the horrors of war. Duffy uses the contrast of the innocent children playing and the horror of a bomb going off in the field they are in.

 

 

small boy running

 

 

Why do you think the poet used this image to create a sense of the horror of war? Underline two words from the poem which you find most emotive. 

\"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat\"

Another theme of 'War Photographer' is the indifference to suffering that the poet believes people in England feel. As the poem develops, the reader is given the impression that the narrator feels a sense of frustration that people in England are not more upset by the pictures they see. Could it be because they have so many luxuries to occupy their time?

 

Indifference = lack of interest, concern or sympathy

 

If you were to write about this theme, which quotation would you choose to support your answer?

 

"The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers"

"A hundred agonies in black-and-white"

"Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands"

"In his darkroom he is finally alone"

Let's take a deeper look at how the theme of indifference to suffering develops throughout the poem. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer,' which creates a similar effect to the one in the previous question. Think about how the "editor" is similar to the reader.

 

 

"A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement"

 

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of indifference to suffering?

 

The editor only thinks the images are important enough to be printed in black and white

The editor of the newspaper does not have an issue with throwing away images of the people who have suffered

The photographer wants the editor to include all six of his photographs

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"A half-formed ghost"

 

 

illustrated heart on a tree

 

 

Which theme do you think this quotation links to?

 

Death

Indifference

Innocence

Relationships

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of death. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

Read the explanation of this theme and quotation below. Fill in the missing words.

Death

Indifference

Innocence

Relationships

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

Which theme do you think this quotation matches?

 

Death

Indifference

Conflict

Violence

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer' which tells us about the conflict that the photographer feels with his own country. How does the narrator feel about the readers of the newspaper?

 

"Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

 

young boy running

 

 

For this question, you will have to write your own answer using the PEE format - Make a point, give an example, explain with deeper detail.

 

  • Question 1

In order to identify the themes in the poem 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come ...
The narrator has been in a countr...
What does the narrator do as soon...
The narrator goes to the dark roo...
How does the narrator feel about ...
The narrator is shocked and sadde...
How does the narrator feel about ...
He feels that they do not realise...
EDDIE SAYS
Carol Ann Duffy has friends who are 'War Photographers' and she has always been fascinated by a job that requires people to record terrible events, without being able to actually help anyone. The poem describes the difficulties of the war photographer as he struggles to deal with moving between a country in conflict and a peaceful country where people often take things for granted. The poem also asks us, as readers, to think about our own reaction to the images of conflict which we see in the media.
  • Question 2

modern day soldiers

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', which summary do you think best explains the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
A photographer is in his dark room developing pictures he has taken from a war zone. As a photgraph develops he remembers a man who had died and how upset his wife was. He compares this to the safe and comfortable lives of the people in "rural England"
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is about the difficulties a war photographer faces when his job requires him to record horrific events, without being able to help. Before digital photography, photographs were taken on film! They then had to be processed with chemicals in a dark room. Images developed slowly and had to be hung up to dry.
  • Question 3

A central theme running throughout the poem is the horror of war, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

Here are a few of the words that the poet uses to describe the horror of war:

 

"Suffering", "Pain", "Explode", "Nightmare"

 

 

soldier with gun

 

 

Why do you think the poet creates such a sense of the horror of war?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The poet wanted to shock the reader with this violent language so that they would be more likely to want to help the people
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses language to describe the horror of war and the terrible personal tragedies behind the conflict, so that the reader will feel shocked enough to take notice. Perhaps almost in an attempt to counter the graphic imagery that we have become so used to seeing, her depictions are subtle and understated and she often leaves the reader to compose their own images.
  • Question 4

Let's look at how the theme of the horror of war develops throughout the poem. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

In this quotation, the poet further develops this theme by using children as an example of the horrors of war. Duffy uses the contrast of the innocent children playing and the horror of a bomb going off in the field they are in.

 

 

small boy running

 

 

Why do you think the poet used this image to create a sense of the horror of war? Underline two words from the poem which you find most emotive. 

CORRECT ANSWER
"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation really creates a sense of the horror of war, as it describes how something terrible can happen to innocent children who simply want to run through fields. The word "explode" is a verb used to describe the action of a bomb going off and the word "nightmare" is used to describe how bad life is for people who have to worry about their children in this way.
  • Question 5

Another theme of 'War Photographer' is the indifference to suffering that the poet believes people in England feel. As the poem develops, the reader is given the impression that the narrator feels a sense of frustration that people in England are not more upset by the pictures they see. Could it be because they have so many luxuries to occupy their time?

 

Indifference = lack of interest, concern or sympathy

 

If you were to write about this theme, which quotation would you choose to support your answer?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers" develops the theme of indifference, because it describes how people in England are too busy with their own lives to stay upset about the images they have seen. Although their eyes may "prick with tears", this emotion does not last long.
  • Question 6

Let's take a deeper look at how the theme of indifference to suffering develops throughout the poem. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer,' which creates a similar effect to the one in the previous question. Think about how the "editor" is similar to the reader.

 

 

"A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement"

 

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of indifference to suffering?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The editor of the newspaper does not have an issue with throwing away images of the people who have suffered
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement" shows the anger that the photographer feels towards his editor (his boss, who's in charge of the newspaper). Whereas the photographer views every photograph he has as somebody important, the editor only wants the best photos and does not feel guilty that the images of people who have died will be thrown away.
  • Question 7

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"A half-formed ghost"

 

 

illustrated heart on a tree

 

 

Which theme do you think this quotation links to?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Death
EDDIE SAYS
Another theme of 'War Photographer' is death. The narrator gives an account of how death occurs in conflict and how the war photographer has traumatic memories about the death he has witnessed. The quotation "A half-formed ghost" is a metaphor which is used to describe an image that is slowly developing. The narrator describes the image as a "ghost" because of the cloudy way in which the image appears, but also because of the people in the images who have died.
  • Question 8

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of death. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

Read the explanation of this theme and quotation below. Fill in the missing words.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
In this quotation, the narrator creates shocking and emotive imagery of the grief of a wife who has just seen her husband killed. Although the war photographer is aware that this is a very emotional and private time, he also knows that it is these kinds of pictures that will make people back in England take notice of what is happening in the war zones. Luckily, the wife also understands this and she silently allows him to take the picture.
  • Question 9

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

Which theme do you think this quotation matches?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Conflict
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "how the blood stained into foreign dust" supports the theme of conflict, because it is a reference to the fighting and violence that is happening in foreign countries. The poet is making the point that, although this conflict is in a "foreign" place, the fact that innocent people are dying should make it an issue for people who are in safe countries such as England.
  • Question 10

Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer' which tells us about the conflict that the photographer feels with his own country. How does the narrator feel about the readers of the newspaper?

 

"Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

 

young boy running

 

 

For this question, you will have to write your own answer using the PEE format - Make a point, give an example, explain with deeper detail.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: The narrator feels that the readers of the newspaper do not appreciate how safe they are or how they have "Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat". The verb "explodes" is used to shock the reader into realising the violence that innocent children face and the metaphor '"nightmare heat" describes the terrible tragedy that can happen. There is a sense that the narrator is annoyed with the readers of the newspaper who do not feel as strongly as he does about what is happening.

Although the whole of this question is marked out of 30, for this answer the student will only be making one point (AQA recommends that the student makes 3 comparison points throughout the essay) so we will mark this answer out of 6.
In order to gain full marks on this question the student should have written an extended paragraph that follows the PEE structure.
You should find a point, an example and an explanation.
The paragraph should include a quotation, language technique and some evaluation.

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