Where Were You? - Poetry Oral Exemplar - English

819 words - 4 pages

Introduction (Context and Theme)

Poetry has, for centuries, allowed individuals to express their thoughts and feelings, ranging from the most personal to comments on more public concerns. Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) by American country singer Alan Jackson explores the numerous responses of society to terrorism. The song is aimed at an adult American audience, although the worldwide reaction to the September 11 terror attacks resonates with a global audience. Written in the wake of September 11 and released in November 2011, the song asks the listener to recognize the significance of this event and to remember what they were doing when the terror attacks occurred. It suggests that people will always remember this because of the magnitude of the tragedy.

Paragraph One - Structure and Form

Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) consists of five eight-line stanzas with a chorus which is repeated thrice? It is a lyric poem that expresses the gamut of human reactions to tragedy – sorrow, anger, self-reflection, monumental change, and a revival in religious faith. Thus, to reflect the solemn theme, the rhythm of the song is slow, achieved through long consonants and vowels. An ABCB rhyme scheme has been utilized, along with a variety of rhyme types, including single (sky" and "cry") and off ("alone" and "home"). Jackson has written in a series of simple sentences to ensure his message is clear and uses both first and second person to build a relationship with the audience. The interrogative mood of the verses invites the reader to recall what they were doing when the world was shocked by the "sight of that black smoke rising against that blue sky." By questioning the listener, Jackson again creates a personal connection, asking the audience to reflect on their response to the tragedy. Conversely, the grammatical mood of the chorus is declarative, enabling him to express his own opinion on the topic.
Paragraph Two - Mood and Tone
The song has a solemn and mournful yet optimistic mood. Jackson asks the audience to reflect on the events of September 11 with lines such as "Faith, hope, and love… and the greatest is love," demonstrating his conviction that society will be restored through returning to the traditional values of family, church, and a sense of community. The tone is sympathetic to the plights of those affected by the tragedy whilst also questioning the impact of the tragedy upon peopl...

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