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Poems Themes Comparison

Ballad of Birmingham

Ballad of Birmingham is a relatively short poem written by Dudley Randall in 1963. The poem covers a wide list of controversial subjects, including violence, regret, justice, equal rights, love, death, and hopes. Randall narrates about a small girl asking her mother if she can join a Freedom March. Her mother does not allow that, as March may be a dangerous event, so she suggests going to the church. Later, the church gets bombed, leading to tragic deaths and sorrow.

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The Mother

The mother is another short poem written by Gwendolyn Brooks in 1945. Even though the poem is more than 75 years old, its main ideas are now as relevant as ever. The poem covers the subject of abortion, which is widely discussed in modern society, with opposing opinions coming from diverse groups of people. The poem covers some broader themes too, such as hopes, regret, death, love, and sin. Brooks wonders, what could have her children achieved and who could they have become if she gave birth to them. She feels remorse about her actions and states that she loved her unborn children.

Theme Comparison

These two poems cover one similar theme, yet they represent different approaches to its acknowledgment and description. The theme is feeling regret or even remorse for the actions or decisions made in the past. There is a list of similarities between them and also some significant distinctions. The main similarity is that both authors link regret to a loss of a loved one. Mothers in these two poems are not only in pain and sorrow of losing their child but also realize that the decisions they made contributed to the tragedy. In Ballad of Birmingham, the mother sends her daughter to the church with is smile, which was “the last smile to come upon her face” (Randall). The author emphasizes that the mother could not ever overcome the terrible explosion. That may indicate that she regrets her decision and feels that the daughter’s death is her fault. People often tend to blame themselves for terrible events, even if they really could not prevent them.

In The Mother, the main character also feels regret and even blames herself as she “poisoned the beginnings of your breaths” (Brooks 201). The theme of regret in The Mother is much more pronounced than in Ballad of Birmingham. The author openly believes that she killed her own children even though they were not born yet. She feels remorse for her actions and even views them as “the crime was other than mine” (Brooks 202). Another similarity is that we can see the mother’s love for the child in these two poems. That emphasizes the tragedy and regrets, as they directly or indirectly contributed to the death of their own children.

These two poems describe the same theme of regret from different points of view. In The Mother, regret may be considered to be one of the main themes. The narration is built around the feeling of remorse and the author herself believes that her actions alone caused the tragedy. In Ballad of Birmingham, regret is a supporting theme, which is used to enhance the sorrow of the mother. It is almost impossible to blame the mother, as we can see she wanted to protect her child. That makes the event even more terrifying, as the violent actions of other people involved innocent children.


The mentioned poems cover the theme of regret in very specific ways. However, people face remorse and regret almost constantly throughout their lives. These feelings may be linked to serious losses or relatively insignificant events. According to Greenberg regret is a “negative cognitive or emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been, or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made” (Greenberg). Therefore, regret is closely related to sorrow, and past decisions and it may be extremely subjective. The article about the psychology of regret corresponds to the mentioned poems. In The Mother, the last lines imply that the author realized how much she loved her children even though they were never born. Love is undoubtedly a positive feeling, yet the author acknowledged it through a negative feeling of remorse for her actions. Even though regret itself may be considered bad, it has some beneficial functions, including gaining insight and achieving social harmony.

Personally, I believe that it is crucial to be able to overcome regret and sorrow. Some people may become obsessed with decisions they made in the past, as they believe they made a wrong choice. Regret is usually subjective and, for example, some people may believe that the mother should feel remorse for abortions and there are others, who strongly disagree. Either way, regrets may have some significant value for an individual. In some cases, this feeling may become unjustified, destructive, and harmful, while in others it may encourage the person to evaluate life goals and avoid future mistakes.

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Works Cited

Brooks, Gwendolyn. “The mother.” Literature and Medicine 13.2 (1994): 201-202.

Greenberg, Melanie. “The Psychology of Regret.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2012, Web.

Randall, Dudley. Ballad of Birmingham. Broadside Press, 1965.

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