Analysis of Small Pain in My Chest by Michael Mack

Small Pain in My Chest by Michael Mack was read over to 5000 people, at the funeral of the first Blackhawk helicopter pilot, who was shot down in Iraq. It is also read at the Vietnam Veterans meetings. The poem shows the pain suffered by the soldiers in a war. It also portrays the human spirits in times of war and crisis.

Analysis of Small Pain in My Chest by Michael Mack

BALLAD: Small Pain in My Chest is written in a form of ballad. A ballad is a short story in verse originally meant to be sung. It is a long narrative poem that tells a story. It comprises of small stanzas and has a refrain. It provides the poem a musical quality. The poetical devices used in this ballad are as follows,-

Narration: In this poem, Small Pain in My Chest, the poet has told the agony of a dying soldier on the battlefield. The poem does not describe his action but the consequences of a war and the effects on the lives of the soldiers. The poem has beautifully described the thoughts going in the mind of a dying soldier. The soldier is shown to be smiling in order to hide his pain.

Rhyming Scheme: The poem is consists of nine stanzas of four lines each with the rhyming scheme aabb. The first lines rhyme with the second and the third rhymes with the fourth. This pattern is designed to show the reader the flow of emotions in a poem.

Refrain: A refrain is a phrase, verse or group of verses repeated at intervals throughout the poem, especially at the end of each stanza. ‘Small pain in my chest’ is repeated with little variations throughout the poem. It has been used to focus on the pain and suffering that the soldier is going through.

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Alliteration: Alliteration is the close repetition of the consonant sounds at the beginning of words to facilitate narration. The examples of alliteration in the poem Small Pain in My Chest, are,
*myself more lucky
*see the sun is shining
*smiled a smile
*seems silly
*what would my wife

SYMBOLIC POEM: Small Pain in My Chest is a symbolic poem. Symbolism refers to the use of symbols to represent ideas or facts. A small pain in the soldier’s chest is a big conscience of humanity. The soldier asks for a sip of water which symbolizes that he is asking for some understanding and concern for the human being who is suffering for no fault o his. The soldier looks around for some help but he finds nothing other than craters in the earth, symbolizing the relics of destruction. He has been fighting for day and night without cause. He is fatigued and then goes for his eternal rest.

As the soldier is approaching death the sun for him is becoming dim and everything around him becomes darker. The darkness symbolizes his death that is slowly entering his life. At the end of the poem, when the narrator holds the soldier near to him, their wounds get pressed. The narrator has the larger wound. The larger wound symbolizes the greater guilt on the part of humanity at not being able to give up wars.

Background of the Poem: Small Pain in My Chest is based on the Vietnam War, a prolonged struggle which began in 1955 and ended in 1975. The war started as an insurgency in South Vietnam sponsored by the North Vietnamese government. It resulted in direct military intervention in the South Vietnam by North Vietnam.

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Go through the Solved Questions

Show how “Small Pain in My Chest’ highlights the horrors of the war and the soldier’s agony.

Describe briefly the experience of the narrator on the battlefield and what he realizes in the end.

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