Battleground By William Trowbridge

Summary: Battleground is a poignant and powerful poem by William Trowbridge that depicts the disturbing human tendency for conflict and aggression. In this poem, the speaker takes on a neutral point of view as he observes three different scenarios where human beings engage in battle during their everyday activities. The poem causes readers to reflect on the destructive impact of violence and the need for peace and mutual respect.

1. A Snapshot of Human Behaviors

The poem begins with the observation of a group of teenagers who are engaged in a spontaneous game of dodgeball. Despite the fun and laughter that is associated with this activity, the poet portrays it as a violent battleground where the weak are humiliated and the strong dominate.

The raw act of throwing the ball towards each other seems to elevate the ego of the players as they take pleasure in hitting someone with it. This scene shows how easily humans are stirred up by primitive instincts and emotions that lead to aggression and hostility.

The poet implies that the game is a metaphor for our society where those who are weak are often discriminated against and those in power enjoy oppressing others. This unfairness and inequality lead to conflicts and wars among nations and individuals, severely hindering our strive for peace and prosperity.

2. The Irony of Sportsmanship

Another level of irony in the poem is that dodgeball is often seen as a sport that promotes teamwork and sportsmanship, yet in reality it can become a reflection of deep-rooted hostility and cruelty in human nature.

The poet specifically highlights the word “chum” to describe the friendliness between players. This choice of word reveals the superficiality of the “friendship” that is superficially built, which can quickly turn into fierce competition and aggression under certain circumstances.

This can also be seen in larger scale sporting events such as the Olympics where nations compete against one another with great national pride at stake. Although it is supposed to be a celebration of international cooperation and unity, it often triggers negative emotions and aggression that reflect our unresolved conflicts and nationalistic biases.

3. The Unpredictability of Violence

The third and final scenario presented by the poet is a sudden and unexpected fight between two road rage drivers. This scene starkly contrasts with the controlled aggression of the dodgeball game and highlights the unpredictability of violence in our daily lives.

The use of short and simple sentences like “they fight” and “they hit” creates a sense of urgency and chaos, which is often how violent situations play out. The violence between these two strangers seems to arise from nowhere and the aggression is not fueled by any sense of competition or fear of domination.

This part of the poem suggests that conflict and hostility is embedded deep within human nature and can erupt at any moment without warning, with tragic consequences for all involved. It is thus crucial that we are vigilant and do not allow our negative emotions to develop into actions that wreak havoc in our lives and communities.


Battleground by William Trowbridge is an insightful and moving poem that exposes the darker side of human behaviors. It reminds us of the prevalence of aggression and violence in our daily lives, and cautions us against the destructive impact of these forces on ourselves and others. Through the power of poetry, Trowbridge challenges us to reflect on our own behavior and attitudes towards others, and encourages us to work towards mutual respect and understanding that are necessary for peace and a better world.

In conclusion, Battleground serves as a sobering wake-up call that calls us to embrace our shared humanity and act with compassion and kindness towards others. Let us heed this lesson and strive towards a world where conflict is resolved through dialogue and cooperation, rather than through violence and domination.

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