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Compare the ways in which the three poets you have studied attempted to present the reality of war. How do you think the contemporary audience would have responded to these poems?

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Compare the ways in which the three poets you have studied attempted to present the reality of war. How do you think the contemporary audience would have responded to these poems? The First World War was unlike any previous was Britain had ever fought. The horror of both the physical conditions and the reality of battle moved soldier and officer alike to express their reactions in verse. The soldiers' shock at the contrast between their experiences and their previous conceptions of war as described by the propaganda at home made many soldiers angry and bitter, which is reflected in all of these poems. The poets intended to shock the complacent and na�ve British public into an awareness of the brutal horrors faced by the soldiers at the front. The audience's lack of understanding was due to the propaganda, which had fostered the belief, during previous years of small colonial wars, that Britain was an indomitable world power. The country had been brought up to believe 'the Old Lie: Dulce et decorum est. / Pro patria mori.' It is sweet and honourable to die for your country. Sassoon, Owen and Rosenberg attempted to dispel this romanticised illusion of war and to present the British people with the true horror of what the soldiers in the front line faced. All eight of the poems describe the horror of both the trenches and the battlefields although they all emphasise different aspects of the conditions faced by the soldiers. ...read more.


The common soldiers are the main characters in these poems. The poets do this because the soldiers and their families are more likely to sympathise with the troops than they would with the High Command who are condemned as "incompetent swine" because of the huge loss of life which was seen as a direct result of their "plan of attack[s]." The soldiers in the poems are desensitised and dehumanised by war like in Sassoon's "Died of Wounds" in which the soldiers are not given names, but one is just referred to as "some Slight Wound". The troops have been forced into a desensitised acceptance of the war. Officers in some of the poems are portrayed very differently. In "The General" he is pompous and arrogant because he is secure in the knowledge that he will not be in the battle but miles behind the front lines. People back in England would have been shocked at this portrayal of his callous lack of regard for the soldier's lives, who have been killed as a result of his battle plan. Sassoon is saying what most of the soldiers must have felt, bitter and angry with officers like the general. The young officers in "The Sentry" and "The Dug-Out" are shown as being protective and caring for the soldiers. Although these officers are very busy, as we are shown in "The Sentry" where Owen says "I forgot him there/ in posting next for duty", they care for the soldiers in their command and are angry that these young men's lives are being destroyed. ...read more.


Instead of poems about glorious and the heroic deeds, the soldiers wrote horrific descriptions of war with such unremitting honesty that the reader would have been appalled. All of the poems were written in an attempt to shock the reader into an awareness of the reality of war and I think that it succeeds as well today as it did to the contemporary audience. "The Sentry" and "Dulce et decorum est" give a sense of what war was really like while "Aftermath" and "The Dug-Out" show the thoughts and feelings of the soldiers. While they all are anti-war I think that Owen's "The Sentry" is the most successful at getting the message across. The blinded soldier shouts, "I see you lights!" which means he won't be blind to which Owen replies "But ours had long died out." This is a stark, final note on war and the despair that they are experiencing. The stark harshness of the imagery incorporated in the poems supported by the poets uses of literary devices succeed in making the poems powerful anti-war messages. The power of the poetry still affects the reader today, although perhaps we view it more dispassionately than the contemporary audience of the day, nevertheless the words and images still appal. The last lines of "The Sentry" leaves the reader with a sense of bleakness at the pointless ruination of this young man's life. Equally the gassed soldier in "Dulce et decorum est" evokes a hideous image of his agonising end which, like Owen, could easily haunt your own "smothering dream". K.Matson. 26.3.03. ...read more.

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