The History Teacher Analysis

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In “A Barred Owl” by Richard Wilbur and “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins, both poets use literary techniques such as imagery, euphemisms, and irony to uniquely exemplify both the positive and negative results of efforts made by adults to protect and preserve the innocence of children. Wilbur’s “A Barred Owl” describes a young girl who awakens one night to the sound of an owl calling, however, her parents quickly mislead her to believe that the owl is simply asking them silly questions, in order to disguise the fact that the owl is actually about to hunt down its prey. Wilbur develops this message powerfully through the incorporation of imagery that not only sets forth the setting of the poem but also graphically illustrates the thought…show more content…
By referring to the Ice Age as the Chilly Age, “a period of a million years when everyone had to wear sweaters,” the War of Roses taking place in a garden, and the Enola Gay as “dropping one tiny atom on Japan,” Collins use of euphemisms demonstrates the great lengths that adults will go to preserve the innocence of children, such as the parents in Wilbur’s “A Barred Owl.” However, the poet quickly portrays this negatively through the use of ironic imagery to show the history teachers’ students “leave his classroom for the playground to torment the weak and the smart.” Ironically, the teachers’ efforts to keep his students from becoming jaded actually make them ignorant and oblivious to the fact that they falsely think they know everything they have been taught. They then torment those portrayed as “weak” who know the actualities of the events. Unlike “A Barred Owl” Collins shows a negative aspect of shielding the truth from children. Wilbur exhibits a helpful side to the situation, in which parents coax a child back to sleep by hiding certain facts that would keep her up at night, however, Collin’s shows how quickly this can turn for the worse when done too often, as portrayed by the history teacher’s repeated attempts to protect the innocence of his students from historic events, while actually making them
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