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Dramatic Irony in Hitler's First Photograph by Wislawa Szymborska

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 4 (958 words)
Categories: Hitler, Nazi Germany, Poems
Downloads: 47
Views: 19

The poem “Hitler’s First Photograph”, written by Wislawa Szymborska, portrays Hitler as an ordinary and innocent child with infinite opportunities presented to him as he grows. The poem is about the childhood of Germany’s dictator. Hitler conquered many countries, committed genocide, and slaughtered millions of innocent people. The poem, however, chooses to explore Hitler’s childhood, that he was not born evil. This perspective is not usually considered and therefore Szymborska employs dramatic irony to get the readers to consider her point of view.

The persona in the poem is unaware of what Hitler will grow up to become. Szymborska uses an innocent, naïve, and ironic tone in the poem to reflect how the persona is unknowing of baby Hitler’s future. The way Szymborska portrays Hitler as an innocent kid is somewhat sinister and sickening in away. It makes the readers feel a bit uncomfortable as we know what Hitler turned into and what he did.

To think of the man who committed unforgivable acts as an innocent and lovable child cannot be accepted easily and is sickening to a degree. The structure of the poem shows the aspects of life Hitler was born into.

The first stanza attempts to show how Hitler was born as just an innocent baby that has unlimited potential in the near future. The poem asks questions about “little Adolf’s future, talking about what jobs he could possibly have in the future, “printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?” The first stanza consists entirely of questions apart from one line: “Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know”. Using this, Szymborska emphasizes that Hitler wasn’t evil in his early childhood. Hitler was not born evil but the decisions and events in his life led to his evil nature as an adult. The second stanza shows what Germany was like around the time of Hitler’s birth. In this stanza, Hitler is described as a “precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honey bun”. This is ironic considering Hitler’s preordained fate. It shows how Hitler’s mom showered him with love as a baby if only she had known what he would become.

The line “There were no dearth signs on the earth and in the sky” shows that Germany had no scarcity of resources when Hitler was born in 1889. After World War I, that Hitler participated in as a German soldier, Germany was suffering as the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay France and Great Britain reparations for the damage during World War I. This left Germany’s economy devastated, bringing the country to the brink of collapse. The line “spring sun, geraniums in windows” maybe painting an image of a spring day. However, it could also be talking about Germany’s alliance with Japan and Italy during World War II. The spring sun represents Japan as Japan is “the land of the rising sun” and Japan’s national flower is the cherry blossom that blooms during spring. Geraniums represent Italy as geraniums are abundant in Italy during the summer.

This line also evokes images of Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass”. The Kristallnacht is an event that took place in 1938 when Germans protesting the assassination of a German official by a Polish Jew murdered ninety-one Jews and arrested around twenty-five thousand. It earned its name as many homes and stores owned by Jewish people had their windows broken on this night. The last few lines of stanza two consists of imagery of the birth of baby Hitler. The third stanza talks about Hitler taking his first photograph. Hitler is described as wearing “a little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib”. This portrays Hitler as an infant and is attributed to innocence. Hitler is then described as looking “just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket” and “like the tots in every other family album”. These two lines attempt to capture Hitler’s innocence as he is portrayed to be just another infant, “like a kitten in a basket”, who resembles their parents, and like those other infants that appear in other family photos. It is ironic that they are getting ready for his first photograph.

Little did they know Hitler will have millions of photographs taken of him in the future after he has committed atrocious acts that paint him in a different light. The last stanza was particularly dark. The first three lines mention Hitler’s birthplace. Hitler was born in the town of Braunen, Austria. The fourth line of the last stanza mentions “yeast dough” and “grey soap”. This references the holocaust as the yeast dough reminds readers of the ovens and the grey shampoo reminds readers of the gas showers used during the systematic gassing of the Jews during the holocaust. The last sentence of the poem: “A history teacher loosens his collar and yawns over homework” foreshadows the events that will take place after Hitler grows up. The history teacher will have lots of materials to work with once baby Hitler has grown up and entered adulthood.

Through the poem “Hitler’s First Photograph”, Szymborska tries to communicate to the readers that none of us are born evil. People become evil through time and experience, through events, and making tough decisions during their life. This poem explains how everyone is affected by their childhood and adolescence, possibly changing what they become in the future. Wislawa Szymborska is from Poland, which is the country that experienced the biggest devastation during the holocaust. Szymborska most likely would have had a fear of Hitler. Despite all this, Szymborska was able to consider whether Hitler’s childhood and youth had an effect on what he became. The poem shows us that choices made during childhood and throughout our youth affect not only the person we become but also the way we influence others.

Cite this essay

Dramatic Irony in Hitler’s First Photograph by Wislawa Szymborska. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/dramatic-irony-in-hitlers-first-photograph-by-wislawa-szymborska-essay

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