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Compare the way Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen portray war in 'The Rear Guard' and 'Strange Meeting'.

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Introduction

Laura Cole Compare the way Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen portray war in 'The Rear Guard' and 'Strange Meeting' The first poem 'the Rear Guard' describes a soldier's journey when trying to escape from the horror of the trenches. En route he stumbles across what is described by Sassoon as a 'sleeper'- a solider who is believed to be asleep. After a silent response and dormant reactions to the soldier's kick, he discovers that the 'sleeper' is actually a dead victim of war. Eventually the 'rear-guard' is able to leave the tunnel 'unloading hell behind him'. In 'Strange Meeting', it is supposedly Owen who is the narrator telling the reader of his experience. The narrator believes he has died and has been sent to hell, where he meets a ghost (hence the title) and is told how it is terrible to die young in war. The poems share many similarities as well as the obvious subject of war. Both writers portray the horror of war and it is true to say that both poems are strongly anti-war. Examples of this include 'Now men will go content with what we spoiled' (from Strange Meeting) ...read more.

Middle

'The Rear Guard's' rhyming stlye follows no particular pattern throughout the four stanzas, for example the first stanza has a rhyme scheme of A,B,B,C,D,C,D. This intended rhyme scheme shows that Sassoon has thought carefully about which words he wishes to be emphasised by rhyme. For example, looking at the first rhyming couplet, 'patching glare' is paired with 'unwholesome air', both of which are dismal images. The rhyme scheme in 'Strange Meeting' is much more subtle and on first glance it would appear that there wasn't any, which helps to further enforce the serious tone of the poem. In this poem there are many pairs of lines where the ending words include pararyhme or consonantal assonance. This is evident in the third and fourth lines- 'Through the granites which titanic wars had groined. Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned' 'The Rear-Guard' includes many literacy devices to help portray the horror of war. He creates imagery in his connotations of coffins and death with the phrase 'fifty-feet below'. He describes the rear-guard as exerting primitive behaviour, almost as though war turns us into animals-'Savage, he kicked a soft, unanswering heap,' and again later when Sassoon describes the soldier's as 'muttering creatures underground'. ...read more.

Conclusion

The content of the ghost's passage is extremely important and it could be thought that the messages he preaches are that of those that Owen wishes to express. The ghost is perhaps intended to represent Owen's own feelings of war -'the pity of war, the pity war distilled'. Sassoon describes life as being left 'undone' meaning that life has been cut short. Sassoon ends the poem on a dramatic note when it is discovered that the ghost is actually someone he killed-'I am the enemy you killed, my friend'. Sassoon is almost satirical in this recognising the absurdity of killing others just for war's sake, when really the two 'enemies' have nothing against each other. The ending phrase-'let us sleep now' has two effects on the poem. The fact that the end punctuation is '...'is almost as though they are fading away, and that there will soon be know trace of their existence, exaggerates the pointlessness of war and how it creates too many unknown heroes. It also possibly represents peace, and that we are all human beings and we should 'sleep' rather than fight. Both poets use language and structural devices to help them to portray war in a pessimistic way. Personally, I find 'Strange Meeting' the most effective poem in portraying war in Owens's intended way. ...read more.

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