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‘Conscientious Objector’

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Laura McHale

on 5 February 2014

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Transcript of ‘Conscientious Objector’

The “fox” is most likely representative of military deserters or those who attempt to evade their enlistment in military service altogether. Millay is sympathetic to these individuals and refuses to aid in their capture because she is against war and its effect on social harmony. “I will not map him the route to any man’s door” (Line 20) represents her refusal bring Death upon any human being, be they friends or enemies. Millay’s philosophy is that all human life is valuable and that living peacefully and in harmony is the ideal way to exist. She also supports this philosophy by stating, “I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends, nor of my enemies either.” (Lines 17 and 18) Regardless of a person’s status in relation to her, she is in favor of peace. This is one of the major themes of her poem
5th Feb 2014 Ms McHale
A conscientious objector is someone who refuses to fight because they think violence is wrong. In this poem we see the poet express this viewpoint.
Conscientious Objector
Is a person who refuses to be part
of the armed forces for moral or
ethical reasons.
In the poem the poet is a conscientious objector to death because this is what war equals.
Death is personified in order to present it as a controlling figure throughout the poem. By doing this the poet very quickly establishes a metaphor that will carry on throughout the poem.
An adaptation of the poem.

Watch the adaptation of the poem ‘Conscientious Objector’ and compare it to the poem. What do you think the main message of the poem is?
DQ: How do I analyse the poem ‘Conscientious Objector’?

Starter: What do you think is meant by a ‘conscientious objector’?

'clatter on the barn-floor' onomatopoeia suggests that this is real and we can hear the reality of this description.
WE are presented with the IMAGE of a hunt, again this reinforces the idea of war as a meaningless cruel game of death.

DEATH is presented as hunter who is killing not for prey but for sport.
"fox" is a
, stands for the people who are the innocent victims of war.
The poem starts with the recognition that death is inevitable, life and death being the two sides of the same coin.

Personification. Death is personified and presented as a bully, interested in money
‘Conscientious Objector’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I shall die, but 
that is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his
out of the stall; 
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.

He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.

And he may mount by himself: 
I will not give him a leg up. 

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where 
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends 
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, 
I will not map him the route to any man's door.

The Title of the poem gives us a clear indication of the
In choosing this name for her poem, Edna St. Vincent Millay makes it clear that she does not support war and the death that surrounds it
Although she knows that
death is inevitable she refuses
to aid death in its design.
Death is personified immediately, we get the image
of death as a grim reaper on a horse.
DEATH = WAR (metaphor?)
Replace death with war how does it read?
'him' and 'he' are pronouns that suggest
repetition of business suggests that death is his job
The persona in this poem is not helping death to do his job.
Death is preparing to set about his business in places like Cuba and the Balkans which are in the grip of civil war.

The poet is saying here that she will not aid death, she will not help him "I will not give him a leg up"
There is subtle IRONY here alerting us to the fact that war is a sport for people who see death as only a spectacle. However the hunt would not be possible without the active participation of the hounds or in other words the foot soldiers. SO they foot soldiers are in a significant way responsible for this game of death.
This poem personifies death as a being who is
on a business taking lives continuously.
At first glance, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Conscientious Objector may seem like a simple antiwar poem. But upon careful investigation and consideration it becomes so much more. Her subtle allusions to corrupt business and discrete symbols related to racism show the she is not just against killing (although that is an important aspect of her philosophy). She is more so against any act that will lead to social disharmony, be it discrimination, corruption, or persecution and she conveys this quite nicely through the rhetorical strategies used in her poem.
Now lets take this Quiz together in class :)

Q1) Explore how the writer presents her ideas about death in Conscientious Objectorâ.
Full transcript