The Yellow Palm flashcards

Flashcards by katiehumphrey, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by katiehumphrey over 7 years ago


GCSE English (The Yellow Palm) Flashcards on The Yellow Palm flashcards, created by katiehumphrey on 01/17/2014.

Resource summary

Question Answer
subject The poem is set in a busy street in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. The city first came to the attention of the world after the First Gulf War of 1990. Iraq and its capital were then rarely out of the news until 2003, when it was invaded by an allied army led by the US. The intention was to get rid of the country's dictator, Saddam Hussein. Although he was removed from power, the country itself descended into conflict and chaos. Throughout this time, from the late 1980s until the present day, the ordinary people of Iraq have suffered: at the hands of Saddam Hussein, from the effects of the Allied invasion, and also from their own people as different factions struggled for power once Saddam had gone.
form and structure The poem is written in the form of a ballad. This is a traditional form of popular song that would have been sung or recited by wandering storytellers of the past (so here we can talk about 'verses' instead of 'stanzas'). Ballads use a strong rhythm and rhyme-scheme to tell stories about everyday people. Minhinnick tells us about the everyday lives of the people in this street. What he has to say, however, is not something to celebrate. The lively rhymes contrast with the content. Each verse begins with the same line, anchoring the poem in a real place. It is then bound by three rhymes in each verse (e.g. pass/glass/gas in verse one). Each verse also begins with an interesting image that is then linked to a specific tragic moment of the war. So the call to prayer of verse two is linked with "despair", the smell of the Tigris with "no armistice". In the final two verses this movement towards tragedy is turned around: the Cruise missile becomes a "smile", the yellow palms fall helpfully into the young boys' arms.
imagery The poem uses contrast to show the tensions that exist in the country. The contrasts also express the mixed feelings the poet has about the city. The first contrast is with the title and the repeated opening line. The Yellow Palm suggests something exotic, colourful and delicious (dates, the fruit of the palm, are deliciously sweet). The street itself, however, is a scene of decay and destruction. The images that open the verses at first seem colourful slices of life (the colourful local funeral with "women waving lilac stems"). At closer inspection, however, these images suddenly come into sharper focus: the dead man was gassed (by Saddam). Minhinnick then shifts the focus again, this time to the child who, even though he is a beggar, brings a positive note to the poem. The concluding image, of the fruit falling into the child's arms, is therefore a note of hope for the future – new life to contrast with the funeral of the opening verse.
sound The triple rhyme scheme gives the poem energy. It therefore reflects the energy of the street. The positive and negative rhymes (e.g. pass-gas) express the way this once beautiful society has been torn apart. In the last stanza, though, the feeling of hope and harmony is expressed through the repetition of positive rhymes: "palms", "salaams" and "arms". Minhinnick hopes that when the child grows up, it can return to being the busy normal market street it once was.
themes and ideas Minhinnick is concerned with the links between local and global events. He sees beneath the exotic surface to realise the modern forces that are shaping Palestine Street and its people. The traditional funeral, and even the beggars may all be typical, timeless Iraqi sights. But the poison gas, the Mother of All Wars (a reference to the First Gulf War in 1990) link Palestine Street to the wider world. Minhinnick is therefore not a travel writer, recording interesting scenes. He becomes linked to the suffering he sees. In the yellow palm, and the child who eats its fruit, however, the poet sees a symbol of the old Middle East, a self-governing land with natural beauty, resources and traditions re-emerging once again.
comparison to 'Mametz Wood' Mametz Wood – is another poem which links a specific place to larger events in human history. Sheers sees farmers ploughing the soil and then the bones of people. From these two elements he builds a single picture of the past. Although the poet in The Yellow Palm is actually witnessing the real events for himself, he is still trying to connect with the real stories that lie beneath the bustling surface of Palestine Street.
comparison to 'The Falling Leaves' The Falling Leaves – is linked by imagery rather than theme. Like The Yellow Palm, it creates a powerfully critical attitude to war and conflict. Unlike The Yellow Palm it addresses the subject indirectly. Instead of describing soldiers dying, for example, Margaret Postgate Cole uses the symbol of a tree. The leaves are the lives of men dying in battle – the tree is all human life that is on the way to being cut down. In The Yellow Palm, though, the symbolic tree remains in good health and offers a positive image for the future of the living Iraqi people.
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