Term Paper: Terrorist He Watches

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¶ … Terrorist, He Watches

Using exquisite detail, Wislawa Szymborska re-creates the tense four minutes before a bomb goes off in a bar. The poem "The Terrorist, He Watches" is full of suspense: the title suggests the theme of the poem but the first line gives the ending away when the narrator states, "The bomb will go off in the bar at one twenty PM." Armed with this knowledge, the reader gets a sense of what it must be like to live in a location plagued by periodic terrorist attacks. Moreover, the poem reads like a ticking time bomb and the format is appropriate for its topic. The impersonal narrator and the lack of connection with any of the people in the bar reveal how a terrorist must depersonalize and detach fully in order to kill. In fact, the narrator may be the terrorist himself because at no point in the poem does the narrator use first person. Referring to the terrorist in the second stanza, the narrator simply states that he "has already crossed to the other side of the street. / the distance protects him from any danger, / and what a sight for sore eyes:" Standing opposite the bar, the terrorist is not only safe from the bomb; he is also able to watch potential victims stream in and out of the bar as if they were merely ants. The terrorist seems inhumanely detached and emotionless.

One of the most salient features of Szymborska's poem is its irony, both dramatic and contextual. The poet creates dramatic irony by revealing that the bomb is about to go off in four minutes in a crowd of unsuspecting civilians. Only the narrator, the potential terrorist, knows. The poet also creates contextual irony by describing a scene of impending doom without any emotional content.

As the terrorist, the narrator watches with mild interest as a "woman in a yellow jacket" goes into the bar and a "man in dark glasses" comes out. The terrorist does not care who happens to be inside or out at one-twenty when the bomb will explode. He simply watches with a bit of curiosity, noticing for example the man who "goes back for those… [END OF PREVIEW]

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