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Compare and contrast the ways in which the theme of Human Suffering is presented in the novel Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks and the poems of Wilfred Owen.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which the theme of Human Suffering is presented in the novel Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks and the poems of Wilfred Owen. World War One has often been described as the destruction of a generation; indeed for those who lived through the first large-scale war that Europe had ever seen, life would never be the same again. Of the sixty five million men that fought in World War One over thirty seven million died, were captured or went missing before the end of the war, that means that thirty seven million families had to grieve for the sons and brothers they had lost. However, whatever mental torture the families at home who received the worst kind of news endured the suffering of the soldiers was worse. During the war, which lasted four years from 1914 to 1918 soldiers witnessed atrocities that they had never before imagined and received injuries so terrible that they were often unable to recover from the physical and mental scarring of what they lived through. Many of these soldiers were only seventeen or eighteen years old when they signed up for war and because there had never before been such a massive war so close to home the soldiers believed the widespread government propaganda that told them war would bring them glory and that they would be loved by the nation. However, when they got to the front lines these men found they had been lied to. ...read more.

Middle

He does not tell of the time in between when Stephen would have signed up for the army and he does write about Stephens end-off or his journey to the front lines. This is effective because the reader is forced to take their minds from a place of relative normality to something so brutally horrific it is probably alien to them. That there is no direct build up to Stephen actually going to war means the reader is as unprepared for what comes next in the novel as the soldiers were for what was to happen to them at war. In contrast to this is Owen's poem 'The Send Off' in which he writes about the soldiers being sent off to war. In this poem he says that the soldiers were 'grimly-gay' this oxymoron not only highlights the soldiers conflict off emotions when going to war but also suggests that they were happy to be going somewhere so grim, emphasising the fact that the soldiers did not know what they were going to witness. Owen further emphasises the fact that the soldiers were unaware of what hey were going to when in the same poem he writes, 'So secretly like wrongs hushed up they went' This simile compares the soldiers to the wrongs of war hushed up by the authorities. Owen appears to be suggesting that although what the soldiers did at war was wrong the soldiers didn't know what it was they were going to do. ...read more.

Conclusion

He opened his mouth like a fish.' In this extract Stephen has just finished fighting, thirst is something that most people have experienced considering that Stephen would have been fighting in a battle on a hot day and that he would have been close to passing out through thirst this extract is made very powerful. Owen too writes about physical suffering through the elements in his poem 'Exposure'. He writes about the winter as in contrast to Faulks' description of the suffering overheating could cause. 'Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us.' The imagery of winds kniving is powerful because the soldiers had the threat of actual knives harming them and so the simile Owen uses suggests that the exposure the harsh weather conditions that the soldiers had to endure was almost as bad as the pain they were threatened with through weapons. Ultimately the writing of both Sebastian Faulks and Wilfred Owen gives similar messages both represent human suffering in similar ways. They both portray the extensive human suffering in a highly emotive way and both write about similar situations; this is not surprising even considering the difference in the time the two works were written as both men were writing about the same period of time and both have similar perspectives on war. The work of the two writers clearly represents the suffering of the soldiers and serves to act as a reminder of the wages of war to future generations. ...read more.

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**** 4 STARS

This is an excellent essay in many ways. It is well structured and clearly shows knowledge and understanding of the poems and the novel. Extensive social and historical context is included in order to fully understand texts. Well selected quotes support statements and analysis is always well written and perceptive. At times closer analysis of language using appropriate literary terminology is needed.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 07/08/2013

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