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Published: 26-11-2019

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Yolek’s Legacy

Anthony Hecht’s “The Book of Yolek” tells the story of a young Jewish boy named Yolek, a fictional representation of a young boy who died for the duration of the Holocaust. The vivid imagery employed by Hecht creates a multifaceted universe that highlights the grueling nature of the Holocaust, even though simultaneously comparing the Holocaust to the routine events of typical life. The poem begins by discussing the basic pleasures of day-to-day activities, such as outside walks and property-cooked meals. With such pleasant, comforting language, the reader begins to really feel relaxed with the beauty of life that Hecht describes. All of a sudden, the sestina requires a dark however captivating turn, in which long walks in nature are interrupted by inhumane marches to the camp. Meals of grilled brook trout turn into small meals of bread and soup, reduce brief by the marching of Nazi soldiers. These potent descriptions of happiness and despair, placed strategically throughout the poem to act as every other’s opposites, create a strong, moving sestina. With Hecht’s masterful use of overwhelming contrast and repetition, the poem’s joyous tone swiftly deteriorates into cynicism, pronounced with his developing disillusionment for humanity. The fluid dynamic of the juxtaposed descriptions of Yolek’s life emphasizes the unsettled feeling towards humanity for letting the Holocaust be neutralized from their subconscious. Moreover, the deep repetition of words such as “camp,” “meal,” and stroll,” all through the entirety of the poem areas inescapable pressure on readers to bear in mind the Holocaust for the rest of their lives.

The poem’s concentrate on remembrance is highlighted by Hecht’s distinct decision of pronouns. Hecht begins by drawing out the image of a sunny day, proper following a massive meal of grilled trout. As the poem progresses, we are exposed to harsh photos of the Holocaust and Yolek’s tragic death. Hecht says, “Wherever you are, Yolek will be there too…prepare to receive him in your home some day” (64). Here, we can see that the pronouns “you” and “your” are employed by Hecht all through the poem, from the 1st stanza to the last stanza. By using the pronoun “your,” Hecht gives the readers a place in his sestina he sets the tone by focusing mostly on “you,” the reader. His usage of the pronoun “your” indicates the overarching aim of the sestina: to put stress on humanity to bear in mind the Holocaust and never let one more genocide take location. By addressing the readers themselves at many points all through the sestina, he is consistently reiterating who his intended audience is: humanity. When Hecht says, “Prepare to receive him in your home some day,” he carries a cynical attitude towards humanity, condemning people for disregarding the Holocaust and not actively remembering it in their daily lives. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “prepared” is a verb which means “make anything prepared for use.” Hecht urges folks to make their houses ready for use simply because the day will come in which Yolek will arrive, and it will be our duty to don't forget the legacy of what Yolek stands for: all these who died in the Holocaust. Speaking straight to the readers indicates that Hecht has a message he is trying to convey, and that it is our responsibility to listen.

Now that the targeted audience has been established, we can begin to delve into the contrasting imagery seen all through the poem. As the poem begins, we are taken on a journey by means of a day filled with peace and comfort. Hecht incorporates lucid descriptions such as “walks down the fern trail,” the “deep bronze glories of declining day,” and “bonfires at summer time camp” to draw upon the sensuousness of life ahead of the Holocaust. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “glory” is a noun which means “magnificence, great beauty.” The notion of a magnificent bronze sky accompanied by bonfires, which “illuminate” the atmosphere, sets the sacred tone of the opening stanza. The rich descriptions of light and tranquil scenery, such as walks down a fern trail, display how simple life is and sets the reader in a comfy, happy mindset. In addition, “declining day” can be utilized as a metaphor to illustrate that as the day is declining and the skies are becoming darker, there is nonetheless bronze colors in the sky and bonfires, which give light to the darkness. This can be interpreted as a life in which even when there is darkness, such as tragic events and negativity, you have a steady help technique to bring the lightness back into your life.

We are presented with a similar setting of peace in stanza two, but now Hecht is asking us to recall a peaceful memory from our own childhoods. Hecht says, “You don't forget, peacefully, an earlier day…remember a very certain meal…that summer you got lost on a nature walk” (64). According to Oxford English Dictionary, “remember” is a verb which means “be capable to bring one’s thoughts an awareness of a person or some thing that one particular has seen, known, or seasoned in the past.” The repetition of the word “remember” combined with Hecht’s use of the pronoun “your” displays that the purpose of the second stanza is to evoke memories in the readers, and have them particularly recall youthful, pleased memories. Walks on the fern trail became “nature walks” and grilled brook trout became a “quite certain meal.” There is a gap in descriptive detail from the initial stanza to the second stanza that permits readers to fill in their personal version of a comfort meal. When the fern trail becomes a nature stroll, the reader is capable to form a more particular memory of any stroll they have taken, not necessarily down a fern trail. This offers the poem a humanistic component, physically tying the readers into the journey of the poem. This powerful kind of memory recall locations readers in a joyous moment, where they recall some of their greatest memories from childhood, when life was simple, serene, and totally free from harm.

The sestina requires a dramatic shift in stanza 3. It begins by setting a date, “the fifth of August, 1942,” which is the year that Planet War II was at its peak in Nazi Germany. By altering the temporal schema of the poem, readers are forced to cease considering about the satisfied thoughts from their childhoods and shift their focus to this exact moment in time. It appears that Hecht does this strategically simply because he first asks readers to recall memories from their childhoods, and after guiding them by way of a peaceful memory, he cuts the memory brief by directing their interest to yet another point in time. The vivid contrast among the happy childhood memories and August 5th, 1942 creates a stark parallel amongst the previous stanzas and the following stanzas. Hecht says, “Cutting brief the meal of bread and soup, lining them up to walk in close formation off to a unique camp” (64). Walks down the fern trail turn into organized marches led by Nazi Soldiers. Summer camp with bonfires and grilled brook trout turn into a concentration camp with electric fences, Nazi soldiers, and suffering. The repetition of the words “camp,” “walk,” and “meal” are utilised for the first time in a unfavorable, destructive light. These three words in distinct have been offered considerably interest in the 1st two stanzas as getting the root of joy and comfort, with summer season camp, nature walks, and delicious meals. Nonetheless, the closeness of these repetitions and their overwhelming contrast to every other deftly accentuates the horror in the poem by transforming the words before our eyes.

Hecht does a revolutionary job of incorporating contrast with repetition to produce a meaningful piece of literature. However, he does so in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are also present at the camp. When Hecht is describing the concentration camp, his tone remains calm and directed, rather than graphic and accusatory. Hecht says, “The electric fences, the numerical tattoo, the really extraordinary heat of the day” (64). He highlights the grueling and depressing nature of the concentration camp by making use of sensory clues to develop a much more robust image in the thoughts of the readers. He says, “The smell of smoke, and the loudspeakers of the camp” (64). Incorporating descriptive olfactory and auditory imagery serves to give readers a full mental image of what the concentration camp was like. As opposed to simply telling readers about the horrors of the camp, Hecht incorporates numerous senses into the poem in order to give readers a multifaceted strategy to considering about the Holocaust. When he does this, readers are able to produce their personal mental picture of the camp based on the contextual clues supplied. Readers are able to connect with the poem much more effectively since Hecht gives them the possibility to kind their personal viewpoint on what the camp was like. Even though Hecht could have utilised a lot more explicit language, he chooses to let the flowing contrast of the repetitive words and the evocative imagery set the emotional tone for the readers.

Moving from the cheerful tone located in the 1st two stanzas to the successive third stanza, in which the Holocaust is initial introduced, readers are capable to feel the effects of the Holocaust at a deeper level. The opening two stanzas, which describe the epitome of a joyous life, are abruptly interjected by the dark nature of the concentration camps. The bold contrast gives readers no foreshadowing into the darkness that is coming, given that readers are nevertheless encompassed in the childhood memory component of the second stanza. Due to the progression into the subsequent stanzas relatively rapidly and without having warning, it forces readers to continue reading, regardless of the harsh and painful content material. This progression via the poem, set up so strategically and abruptly, can potentially serve as a metaphor for the objective of the sestina. It encompasses the philosophy that no matter what folks do to neutralize the tragic memories of the Holocaust, they can not escape their fates, just as Yolek and the other 11 million victims of the Holocaust couldn’t escape theirs. Hecht says, “Far off or same at property, you will remember, helplessly, that day” (64). This formidable line shows that you could be anyplace in the planet, even in the comfort of your own house, and you would have to bear in mind the Holocaust. According to Oxford English Dictionary, “helpless” is an adjective which means “unable to defend oneself or to act with no help.” Hecht’s use of the word “helplessly” illustrates that readers won’t be capable to fend off the thoughts of the Holocaust following reading the sestina, as they will now be equipped with a multifaceted point of view that involves intimate memories and lucid imagery. There will be a relentless recall of information that readers will continue to go through for eternity.

By the end of the emotional roller coaster that readers take while embarking on this poem, they will not be capable to overlook the tragic events that occurred in the Holocaust. Hecht seems to take on a cynical view of humanity, reprimanding the human race for turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. Hecht starts stanza four by posing an open-ended question to the readers: “How often have you believed about the camp?” (64). He then provides a partial response to his query, discussing how Yolek and the rest of the youngsters were produced to leave their homes and march in shambles to the concentration camp. The partial response that Hecht provides let readers bridge the gap with their personal feelings about letting the Holocaust, and the legacy of all who perished, be forgotten. In addition to asking the readers to recall their personal childhood memories, Hecht also expects that readers will be able to bridge their personal factors for not actively remembering the Holocaust, and take measures to turn into more mindful individuals. This reflects Hecht’s non-accusatory tone, in which he lets the readers figure out their feelings on their personal, rather than simply lecturing them for their ignorance. This stanza is poetic mastery, exactly where Hecht is in a position to draw out a judgement towards humanity in a way that enables readers to kind their own conclusion and self-critique their ignorance of this tragic period in our history.

Albeit a far more conversational poem rather than an accusatory one particular, Hecht does remind his readers that if we do neglect about the Holocaust, we run the danger of letting an additional genocide happen. In stanza five, Hecht says, “We’re approaching August once more. It will drive residence the regular torments of that camp Yolek was sent to” (64). This adds another layer of temporal value to the poem. We progress from our childhood memories, to August five, 1942, and then to present day. When Hecht says that August will drive property the typical torments of the camp, he is implying that just as August approaches every year, there is also the possibility of an additional genocide occurring. By utilizing the term “regular,” which signifies routine, we can see Hecht’s fear of reliving a genocide even in the present-day. The only way for us to quit the cycle is to actively advocate against genocide and be mindful of the signs that a genocide is approaching. In addition to eliciting the believed of a future genocide, Hecht also uses the month of August as a way of reminding humanity that August rolls around each year and it is vital to don't forget the burden of the Holocaust for years to come.

Hecht uses a lot of masterful techniques in order to guarantee that his poem tends to make a lasting impression on readers. In addition to all the aforementioned techniques Hecht is able to achieve his mission, the implantation of a fictional character in the poem facilitates a individual and emotional connection to the Holocaust. The reader has followed Yolek’s journey through 4 stanzas and facilitated an intimate connection with him. Hecht says, “Yolek who wasn’t a day more than five years old…was sent to his tiny, unfinished, meal…though they killed him in the camp they sent to” (64). When we are initial exposed to Yolek, we are told that he is no older than the tender age of 5. Because Hecht tells us his age, we infer that he is a young, innocent kid, who has never ever harmed anyone and we quickly really feel deep compassion for his unfortunate situation. We then comply with his journey to when he is taken to the concentration camp and in a way, we experience these sights and smells with Yolek. After acquiring a lot more invested in Yolek’s journey throughout the poem, we carry deep hope that Yolek will be one of the lucky survivors but, to our dismay, the second line in the final stanza reveals that Yolek has been killed in the concentration camp. This unfortunate outcome, combined with the close partnership formed among the readers and Yolek, induces a pain-stricken ending in which Hecht hopes will encourage humanity to never ever forget about these lost lives. When men and women are personally impacted by a tragic event, such as Yolek’s death, those memories can remain ingrained in them forever.

In the last stanza, Hecht says, “Prepare to receive him in your residence someday…he will walk in as you are sitting down to a meal” (64). This stanza further exemplifies the meaningful effect Yolek and the Holocaust itself will have on the readers. Hecht indicates that Yolek will walk in as you’re sitting down to a meal, which can be analyzed from several perspectives. Yolek lost his life in the course of the Holocaust and as humans, we need to do our portion to cherish his memory and carry on his legacy, along with the other millions of people who perished in the course of the Holocaust. Therefore, it is our duty to welcome Yolek into our residences, as a tribute of condolence considering that Yolek was taken from his residence so abruptly and forcefully. By getting Yolek in our homes, we are committed to thinking about and remembering the Holocaust, even in our safe spaces. We need to accept that when we’re sitting down for meals, Yolek’s spirit will join us and interrupt our meals. I think Hecht wanted this “interruption” to come in the kind of remembering the Holocaust as we take every bite of food, and remembering that basically obtaining meals and consuming is a privilege. Possessing Yolek interrupt us as we’re sitting down to a meal is also symbolic of Hecht’s message that straightforward activities such as consuming, being around household, and going on nature walks are all advantages that we shouldn’t take for granted, because they can be interrupted by violence and destruction in the blink of an eye. In essence, remembering the debt discomfort that the Holocaust inflicted on so several individuals and families is the debt that humanity owes to the millions of folks who were tortured and killed. Furthermore, remembering the Holocaust is a helpful tool in guaranteeing that one more mass genocide doesn’t take spot.

“The Book of Yolek” is a dark however captivating poem about how our peaceful lives can adjust, ever so abruptly, and we have little control over our ultimate fate. Even so, what we do have control more than is how we decide on to honor these who have perished prior to us. Hecht introduces Yolek as a way to remind his readers that there are millions of people who mercilessly died in the Holocaust and it is our duty to remember them and the tragic events of Planet War II. Not only is remembrance critical in honoring those who had been not in a position to reside out their legacies, like Yolek, it is also an critical tool in stopping future genocides. When we are in a position to feel critically about genocide, we can stop it from occurring by recognizing the indicators. Coincidentally, the reference to the possibility of future genocide is haunting, as it indicates that there is a possibility for humans to regenerate this inhumane, vicious mass extinction. Hecht’s poem does a masterful job of acknowledging these issues while also putting a heavy emphasis on the remembrance of the Holocaust. He does so by utilizing overwhelming contrast in his repetitions and taking the reader on a journey from childhood, to the era of the Holocaust, all the way to present day. Incorporating the diverse time scales makes the poem flow in a chronological way, adding a temporal element to the poem that provides the reader a lot more context and perspective. Hecht’s way of illustrating the complexities of post-Holocaust remembrance even though sustaining an articulate, non-accusatory tone with his readers is masterful artwork. “The Book of Yolek” is in a position to transgress the minds of all who study it and make a lasting memory that will make certain that the Holocaust will never ever be forgotten

Works Cited

“glory, noun.” OED On-line. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 17 December 2016.Hecht, Anthony. “The Book of Yolek.” The Creating of a Poem. Ed. Mark Strand and Evean Boland. New York. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 2000. 64. Print.“helpless, verb.” OED On-line. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Net. 17 December 2016.“prepared, noun.” OED On-line. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 17 December 2016.“remember, verb.” OED On the internet. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 17 December 2016.
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