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What Were They Like? Summary & Analysis
by Denise Levertov

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Denise Levertov, an English-born American poet, published "What Were They Like" as part of her 1967 collection The Sorrow Dance. The poem was written in protest of American involvement in the Vietnam War. In it, Levertov imagines a future in which the Vietnamese people and their culture have been more or less wiped out by the war. The poem takes the form of a conversation of sorts, with one speaker asking questions about Vietnamese people and culture and another offering only inconclusive answers that highlight the horror of the conflict. "What Were They Like" ultimately underscores the inhumanity of war, exploring the ways it harms innocent civilians and suggesting the incalculable loss of eradicating an entire people.

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