Anne Harding Woodworth: on The Fuehrer Bunker

Goebbels' wife, Magda, evolves in seven persona poems as a woman of many faces--so many that it becomes clear she doesn't know who she is. As Snodgrass did with her husband, he shows that self-delusion is very much a part of Magda's persona, and he relies heavily on verse forms to embody her confusion and disintegrating personality. For her, Snodgrass writes, "who had always traded on her beauty and had been notably unfaithful to those who loved her, I chose the fancier French love forms--rondels, triolets, villanelles, etc. The repetition and seductive guile of such poems seemed like that of Nazi (or any other) propaganda; if it's the truth, you say it once."

In a beautifully constructed pantoum, "Magda Goebbels, 15 April 1945," Snodgrass depicts a mother who superficially contemplates how to save her children's lives. She comes to no conclusion other than to keep the children with her.

Snodgrass wisely chooses the pantoum for her indecision and ambivalence. The interlocking lines of a pantoum (the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third of the next) keep the stanzas tightly related to each other. That tightness, rather than moving the poem meticulously from one point to another, accentuates the deficit of action on the part of the Magda persona. Almost every line is decasyllabic, iambic pentameter, the strictness of which also serves to limit the action. Out of twenty-four lines, there are only six rhyming sounds: -ance, -est, -eason, -oo, -ame, and -air. This is limiting to Magda, and in so emphasizing her limits, Snodgrass does not use the brilliant, unusual rhymes he crafted at times with Joseph Goebbels' persona. On the contrary, Magda's rhymes are simple words like "best" and "West," "shame" and "name," "bear" and "there." But Snodgrass manages to create a waffling Magda by manipulating the language through the use of punctuation, so that the meaning of the repeated line is seldom the same.


With this pantoum and a brilliant application of syntax, language, and punctuation Snodgrass has introduced a woman of little character. He has made her repeat herself, made her think sloppily, and made her change thoughts in mid-sentence. Snodgrass uses this repetitive form to embody her mental state and to foreshadow her further deterioration.


Woodworth, Anne Harding. "Crafting evil in W. D. Snodgrass's The Fuehrer Bunker."TriQuarterly 130 (2007): 233+. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.  


Criticism Overview
Title Anne Harding Woodworth: on The Fuehrer Bunker Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Anne Harding Woodworth Criticism Target W. D. Snodgrass
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 30 Mar 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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