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Compare and contrast the ways in which the changing relationship between those on the front line and those at home is presented in Birdsong and The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry.

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Introduction

Coursework Essay In November 1917 Owen wrote bitterly, "These men are worth / Your tears. You are not worth their merriment". Compare and contrast the ways in which the changing relationship between those on the front line and those at home is presented in Birdsong and The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. A consistent theme manifested by many of the trench poets was one of detachment which separated those at war from those at home. Although both soldiers and civilians were united in feeling at the start of the war, this patriotism soon faltered as the soldiers realised the truth of war. However, a gulf was created by this detachment, exacerbated by the media's diluted portrayal of the reality of this experience, causing a potent and impenetrable sense of ignorance in the attitudes pertaining to the war for those who did not witness this truth themselves. This progression of the evolving gulf is profoundly depicted in both Birdsong and The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, as hatred induced by the war was directed, at times deservingly, to many different parties. The fact that those at home could not comprehend the anguish seen and felt in this war, placed the soldiers and those at home in different worlds. Owen poignantly stresses how the sacrifice these men made in his poem Apologia Pro Poemate Meo, and furthermore how any sense of compassion directed towards them did not come close to the magnitude of what they have done. The quote itself alludes to how many of the soldiers were detached from those at home, where at first support and empathy may have been welcomed, it was now so insignificant it became a futile effort of trying to connect these two different worlds. Conceivably the most significant aspect about poetry and literature during the war is the time period in which they were composed, as this knowledge provides basis for critic's to either expose yet accept a writer's naivety due to inexperience, or simply criticise their inability to comprehend the reality of the situation. ...read more.

Middle

Along with Faulks' advantage of hindsight, he was also able to develop these changing views over the whole of the novel, palpably depicting how views changed as time progressed in the book. The poets, although being directly involved with the war, were limited to only depicting certain events or snapshots of what was occurring. Generally these writers used poetry as a form of catharsis or escapism, as their thoughts leaked out onto the page, it may be hard to relate to one's contemplations when there is no real insight into the individuals themselves. This is why many critics believe Faulks may in fact portray the evolving gulf more effectively, as the story soon becomes more than a war novel, the readers becoming well acquainted with the characters and empathising with their plights. This highlights the diverging aims of each form of literature, essentially being attributable to the time of writing, the poets wanting to simply show the reality of their present whereas Faulks wanting to help the modern generation appreciate what happened in the past. Besides this manifestation of a soldier's inability to integrate into society, Birdsong depicts the lack of understanding exhibited by those at home. This is highlighted as Weir returns home and endeavours to elucidate how "terrible" the war has been, only to be told that "the papers" have revealed it all, depicting the public's blind faith in the media. Conceivably this is why Weir directed much of his own hatred "particularly" towards his own family, wishing " a great bombardment would smash down along Piccadilly", more importantly depicting how gradually the enemy was changing to those at home. Although Weir was in an alcohol-induced state at this time, he may in fact be voicing the sentiments of many of the soldiers which they would not voice unless their inhibitions were lowered. Much of Sassoon's poetry complies with this notion of a changing enemy, as explicated in his disparaging poem The General. ...read more.

Conclusion

The notion that soldiers retain this inner turmoil within themselves is re-iterated by Stephen as he claims "we will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us", typifying effectively the extent of the gulf and how it can never be repaired. This complexity of feelings towards those at home, and moreover the whole war experience exemplifies the immense mixture of emotions soldier's felt during this period. The patriotism that engulfed the country on the brink of conflict deteriorated for those at war and at home by the end of the war, causing many soldiers to redirect their hatred to the war itself, rather than the Germans, the generals or those at home yet still retaining a love of England, often expressed indirectly in reference to nature. From scrutinising both prominent and insightful poetry and literature pertaining to the war, it becomes apparent how not all soldiers resented those at home. As war induced rage amongst the soldiers, it was at times unthinkingly directed to those at home; however, these aversions were at times warranted. Birdsong depicts the lack of understanding exhibited by those at home, as Faulks endeavours to show the gulf from the perception of a soldier returning home from war. The naivety demonstrated by those at home, showing blind faith in the media and even more significantly endeavouring not to associate with returning soldiers shows how much of this hatred was in fact justified. Many poets, notably Sassoon and Owen express a similar aversion towards those at home, Sassoon choosing to attack them with the abhorrent images of war he had to endure, whereas Owen generally endeavouring to appeal to their emotions. In essence the feelings felt towards those at home altered gradually, as soldiers became more immersed in war they became detached from their previous lives and those at home, having to concentrate on their present, with no hope of a future. ...read more.

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