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Compare: 'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke, 'Futility' by Wilfred Owen, and 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' also by Wilfred Owen, are all on the theme of war.

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Introduction

Kathryn Garnham 10T April - May 2002 English Literature Coursework: A Comparison of Three Sonnets on the Same Theme A sonnet is a poem fourteen lines in length. Sonnets follow various rhyming patterns, such as the idea of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet, as was promoted by the sonnets written by William Shakespeare. The Iambic Pentameter, the idea of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, is a common feature of sonnets, as are elevated themes such as love, death, war and honour. The three poems I have chosen to compare: 'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke, 'Futility' by Wilfred Owen, and 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' also by Wilfred Owen, are all on the theme of war. The most striking difference between these three poems is the manner in which they portray war. Whilst 'The Soldier' seems to glorify war, making the soldiers who fought appear as heroes, the other two sonnets depict the apparent pointless of war. In 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', the title alone presents a feeling of the worthlessness of war: the word 'doomed' shows that the young soldiers are not yet in danger, but by fighting in a war they are approaching an imminent death. The word 'anthem' is a contradiction, an example of irony. Anthems are glorious, celebratory songs, and by no means is the poem joyous. ...read more.

Middle

Brooke must have believed that fighting in a war resembles undertaking some sort of crusade; and that those who fight have their sins forgotten and will go to heaven. The following line corroborates this: "In hearts at peace, under an English heaven." The endings of the sonnets also contrast. The line quoted below is the last line of 'Anthem For Doomed Youth", and, although dismal, appeals to me. It is a successful metaphor, and suggests that at the end of every day, blinds are drawn across the battlefield, leaving the deceased soldiers in peace. "And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds." In 'The Soldier' the ending is considerably more positive, and tells of how the hearts of the departed soldiers will be at peace in the glory that is England. The ending of 'Futility' differs once again, and continues the general anti-war feeling of the poem. The mention of heaven in the final line of 'The Soldier' brings a religious aspect into the sonnet, and the linking of God to England added weight to Brooke's nationalistic views. There are also biblical references in the other two poems, although this reference is not always as obvious. In 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' Wilfred Owen seaks of choirs, presumably choirs in a church, along with prayers and church bells. "No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,- This rather depressing religious notation implies that religion ...read more.

Conclusion

The following line suggests that those who fight have God's approval: "Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home." The two other poems are unmistakably in opposition to war, and their content is based on the authors' opinion that war is pointless. Lines such as the one featured below are significant in delivering these outlooks: "O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth's sleep at all?" A positive feeling is created in 'The Soldier', despite the negative results of war, and the splendour of England is projected. Brooke believed God was in favour of war, and felt that joining a country's war effort was the way to be at peace. Abrasive language is used in 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' to portray the pointless of war, and a mood of sadness is created, teamed with, I feel, almost a sense of guilt. The line featured below describes a sort of love that has turned wicked. The author describes a love, which, once so strong, has died and become worthless in the monstrosity of war. "The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall". Reminiscences of life prior to the war are present in 'Futility'. The author's hatred of war is delivered in a slightly different manner to 'Anthem For Doomed Youth'. In 'Futility' more gentle words are used, and the whole tone of the poem is more subdued. As a result, my preferred poem is 'Futility', although the splendour promoted by 'The Soldier', and the descriptive language in 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' are highly attractive. Words = 1445 ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a good piece of coursework, and one that delves to exceptional detail with regards to the language analysis of all three poems. It is not an easy task, comparing more than two poems, particularly if, like these three, ...

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Response to the question

This is a good piece of coursework, and one that delves to exceptional detail with regards to the language analysis of all three poems. It is not an easy task, comparing more than two poems, particularly if, like these three, there is so much to say about the language, structure and context. In terms of these, the candidate absolutely nails the language, exercising a brilliant attention to detail and considering a vast array of uses of language (e.g. titles, closing lines, opening lines). With regards to structure, the candidate make a good attempt, and covers at least a recognition of the use of sonnet structure (the introductory paragraph focuses very well on this but only when the facts are tied to the poem and the effectiveness of said actions identified can marks be earnt here, so there are considerably less marks awarded for structural analysis, particularly as there is no consideration of the rhyme scheme or the syllabic rhythm of the poems (a very important aspect of 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'). And finally, with regards to context, there is little that can be identified as a real understanding of the poet's motives, those these are perhaps implicit in the candidate's analysis. However, the analysis for 'Futility' does not appear as sufficient as the others. This imbalance is probably caused by focusing too much on language, and 'Futility' has so much more than simply language to consider, and is one of the poems where context features heavily (more on this in "Level of Analysis"). Because of this apparent imbalance, the candidate's marks are limited slightly further. I would recommend trying to cover a more even spread of language and structure in the future, whilst integrating context as you do this.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is very good though can be considered to have been dissipated mainly in language. That's no bad thing, as everything the candidate says is completely valid and shows the examiner much about the candidate's ability to analyse poetry, such as the analysis of the emotive evocation of Brooke and Owen's titles). It shows an ability to think non-laterally about how certain words are used and the symbolic resonance of words like "Doomed" (the candidates marks are boosted here, as most candidates miss the highly important title analysis).

Where I suggest improvement should be made is covering more with regards to structure and integrating context more fluidly. Consider again the conventional syllabic rhythm of a sonnet - 'The Soldier' constrains itself to fit with this regimented structure as a symbol of order and discipline, just a soldier should be - neat, organised and obedient. Look again at Owen's sonnets - how do they differ? What does this say about the poet's beliefs of war? How does the unpredictable syllabic rhythm reflect the poems' topics? Also consider how the rhyme scheme is harsher than Brooke's poem; more assonance is used which creates an aural dissonance in the readers, which is noticed more in 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' than 'Futility', and this then links back to how language effects the reception of the poem. The assonance is not noticed so much in 'Futility' as the darkest word featured here is "toil". It's a much softer, submissive poem.

Then consider the context - particularly the presence of religion. Conducting external research (I greatly recommend) you will come to find Owen had many differing views about what he believed to be a very hypocritical Church and religion, and questioned the validity of a religion whose God would stand by and let war rage without intervening. So, factoring this in to 'Futility', how are Owen's religious beliefs reflected here? The poem features a second over-riding theme - the theme of nature. Nature is shown to be more powerful than God in this poem because at the time, Owen doubted God's existence and believed the real powers of the earth to lie within nature - nature will take care of the dead body and it's soul, not God. How does this differ from the staunchly patriotic Brooke who (again, contextual knowledge is required here), having never been to war, can be considered a naive and idealistic hypocrite for his writings about what a soldier 'should' be?

This is about the level of detail required from an A Level candidate expecting to attain top marks. Given that this is a coursework piece, candidates are expected to have a even coverage of poetic analysis (language, structure and context). The candidate here presents a very good response, though a little lacking in structural analysis, with much more focus needed on the contextual appreciation.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is very good. The candidate retains a good level of control over their use of grammar, spelling and punctuation, with appropriate Standard English used throughout their answer. The candidate's use of field-specific lexis is no exhaustive and could be improved, as it would indicate to the examiner a candidate who write with flair and confidence, so I recommend going over a few of those all-important key words in order to really give the examiner the impression you're a proficient candidate who knows how to analyse poetry using the language of the experts.


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