When people learn or think about the Holocaust, victims of the tragedies of the time are often grouped together as one, as are most groups of people in historic events; consequently, each person's individual story and feelings are not deeply enough pondered. To change this common understanding, the speaker tells how he or she feels when taken to a concentration camp, discovered alive, raped, and the witness of a child being shot and what happens afterward.
Carol Ann Duffy, the author of Shooting Stars , builds the theme of individuals' suffering as victims, especially of the Holocaust, through the use of symbolism, imagery, and structure. Upon hearing or seeing the words 'shooting stars', the brain will usually compose a portrait of a small meteor zooming across the stars and possibly a child making a wish underneath the sky, which will give the reader a pleasant and purposely false vision of what will follow. This misleading original thought is given to the reader to symbolize that bullets fly through the air as shooting stars fly through the sky. Duffy demonstrates symbolism in the title by stars' representing the Star of David, which Jewish people during the Holocaust were forced to sew onto all of their clothes. The title represents that stars were put on Jews clothes at this time and that people were shot, and worse, for wearing this symbol. In the third stanza, the speaker sees a child comparable to to the one who would be wishing on a shooting star: innocent and young. .
Innocence symbolizes the speaker's hope for no other calamities while the child is around for the child's sake, and youth symbolizes potential for a future away from what the awful place the speaker is in. When the child is shot in the eye, it symbolizes the speaker's hope and potential's being destroyed as swiftly as it had been built. To understand the suffering of the speaker, he or she must put the reader into his or her same position with the same surroundings, which is done by the use of sound, tactility, and visual; expressed through the descriptions and the use of literary devices.