Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland
Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland
Japan is known as the 'Land of the Rising Sun', and was also featured as such in Japanese propaganda
Constant references to the propaganda/controlling element
The rituals of the pilot (shaven head) reflect his rediness to die for his country, and refers to the brainwashing which the pilot has inevitably undergone
"Enough fuel for a one-way journey"
Contrasts with the given idea of an adventure
The pilot's decision to turn back becomes an act of defience, that he wanted to fully experience his life; highlights the futility of patriotism for the sake of self-sacrifice
Juxtaposes 'journey' with the act of suicide - which is euphemistically described, as it would be to the naive pilots
"Like a huge flag waved first one way then the other in a figure of eight"
The flag is a direct symbol of patriotism
The figure of eight could represent infinity, and thus a reminder of the finality of death/this decision - or surrender, as he surrenders his obligation to complete this
Suggests the pilot was weighing the pros and cons of the decisions
Blue connotes serenity, implying he has already decided to turn around
May relate to values of Shinto - when applied, it is clear he is evaluating his morals
"Arcing in swathes"
Imitate flags which would otherwise help him land; to him, they symbolise the waves telling him to go home
"their bellies swivelled"
The collective camoflague could represent the obliteration of their individuality - as under the regime
Presenting their weak spots, appearing submissive, as the pilots are to the traditions
Could reflect his change in mind - an impulsive decision, spurred by regaining some of his individuality
Gives life to his memory - all senses (salt-sodden, taste; feathery, touch; black, colour)
Reminds the pilot of the vividness of life, and the choice bestowed on him
Upon his return, he is treated as dead anyway - by freeing himself, he has become a traitor, open to attacks
Repetition of "safe" on stanzas 4 and 5 suggests that the children are waiting for their father to come home, just as the pilot waited for his father to come home when he was a child. This suggests that the pilot may have thought about his children when making the decision to return home, safe.
Mix of positive / negative language shows his inner conflict
"Powerful incantations" suggests that he has been brainwashed with propaganda - like a spell that he now has no control over
References to propaganda and patriotism become less frequent as the poem progresses, showing his realisation of turning back against these ideas of nationalism
The story is narrated by the daughter to her children - allowing her views to be open for interpretation
Also suggests that war can, should and will never be forgotten - it is inherited; it is too drastic and traumatic to be regarded as unimportant, and this poem serves as a reminder for that
Adds her own details (e.g. "-Yes, grandfather's boat-")
It is strange that the pilot is not telling the story himself - he has been cut off from society and his family so is distanced from his daughter
The constant 6 lines of each stanza suggest a tight military control.
The contrast between the tight structure and the beautiful imagery show the conflict between the pilot's inner conscience and national military expectation
The free verse and frequent enjambment also highlight this conflict, and also suggest a lack of control as the pilot wishes to be free from the military expectations
Shift to first person from the sixth stanza
Less distance between her and her father
She herself is having an internal conflict as she may regret rejecting her father
Dramatic monologue, acts like a hook, drawing the reader in
Volta - 'but' signifies a change in choice, particularly with the enjambment
The last 4 lines of the stanza are lyrical, describing a beautiful image of his life; implies an inner conflict
Negative discourse marker 'though' suggests his return is seen as negative by all those close to him -
upon his return reflects the natural transition the children would feel, from innocence to shame
"With a flask of water, a samurai sword"
Juxtaposition between water, the 'liquid of life', and a samurai sword, an instrument of death
Water is weak compared to the Sake they would usually take (alcohol), implying he isn't strong enough to carry out this task
"He must have looked far down as the little fishing boats, strung out like bunting"
The narrator is unsure as to why he would turn back, and tries to justify it - perhaps a confession by the narrator, or that she cannot understand why he would turn back
Ironic, as he should be looking out for warships, rather than small boats
The similie/imagery of the bunting connotes celebration; except here, it is ironically juxtaposed with the finality of the mission, as there will be no return party. Regardless, their deaths were often widely celebrated due to their honourous nature
"Cairns of pearl-grey pebbles"
'Cairns', meaning burial mounds, could foreshadow the soldier's fate, or those his borthers met - implicitly dead
They are ancient markers, suggesting his brothers followed the traditional mindset; in contrast with himself, who reclaims his individualism
Could be a metaphor for their lives - to see who's lasted longest against the barrage that is the constant stream of propaganda, and the call of war
These innocent childhood memories contrast to the pilots' obligation in the war
"Once a tuna, the dark prince, muscular, dangerous"
Darkens the tone, in preparation for the disappointment of the next section
Could be a reference to 'samurai' - reaching back to Japanese culture. Could also refer to the good things in his life - being a fisherman, tuna are considered valuable, and are thus likely accolades
"Dark" suggests the night - he is entering a sinister, dangerous, and isolated period
The description of the tuna suggests nature is more powerful than humans - just one tuna is "dangerous" and there are millions of tuna in the sea
"shoals of fishes flashing silver"
The sibilance enhances the beauty of the imagery due to it creating smooth sounds, suggesting the fish are slick and energetic as the swim through the water
"To live as though he had never returned"
Calm language implies a suppression of emotion
Ironic use of the verb 'to live' - their lives were tainted by rejection of their father - perhaps even that the children 'died' in terms of social standing/status
The children were taught to treat him as if he had never returned - he didn't fulfil his duty
"He must have wondered which had been the better way to die"
A simple thought on which it is left - reflecting how it is hanging in the narrator's mind
Starts to show remorse for their treatment of him - although, she never condemns him, illustrating a sense of regrettance
The oxymoron "better way to die" indicates the poor treatment he received upon his return; the ostracisation (shunning) made him wonder for the rest of his life if he should've died honorably
Irony - he chose not to die but he died in the eyes of society anyway - returning home was like a Kamikaze mission in itself as he may have destroyed the family's reputation
Narrative moves to the daughter, and her growing understanding of her father's plight
Movement between generations to emphesise the widespread effect of the pilot's decision
4th stanza - begins to reminisce about times gone by, from the present - mirrors the saying 'your life flashes before your eyes when you die'
Imagery fades, particularly after his return; reflects the movement from freedom to being trapped, socially, after his return - the lack of description shows her pain and empathy with him
The first 5 stanzas are all one sentence - an account of the pilot's flight as the daughter imagines it - this could represent the unbroken chain of thought that the daughter was imagining with the end of the sentence representing the plane landing
Shift in focus on his return to certainty, as the narrator was speculating
The final section shows a shift in perspective, which creates distance between the father and herself/the family
Sadness/disappointment contrasts with the hopeful and vibrant imagery of the first section
Young, inexperienced pilots were chosen to fly into Allied ships/bases with their highly explosive payload
A cultural expectation was imposed, but as this pilot shows, some had second thoughts when realising the value and beauty of life