AS and A Level: War Poetry

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Writing about World War One poetry

  1. 1 Although it is easy to try and position poems as either ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ war this is quite a simplistic division. Many poems have an ambiguous attitude, perhaps demonstrating a variety of thoughts and ideas. Be sure to assess possibilities of different perspectives within poems as well as between them.
  2. 2 It can be useful to analyse World War One poetry in comparison to other war poems written both before and after.
  3. 3 Studying the female voice offers a different perspective on the war.
  4. 4 Some contextual knowledge of the time and of the poets is helpful, although this information should only be used if directly relevant to the question and if it enhances poetic analysis and contributes to meaningful discussion.
  5. 5 With any poetry it is unwise to try and guess at how the poets were ‘feeling’ about their experiences. Keep focused on the poems themselves.

When analysing poetry you might like to consider some of the following

  1. 1 The perspective, tone and register of narrator is a good place to start analysis. Remember that these can differ within poems. Be sure also to distinguish between the poet and the narrative voice.
  2. 2 Titles, openings and endings can be a good way to start your analysis.
  3. 3 Look for patterns and oppositions (or lack of) that emerge.
  4. 4 Consider effects of other poetic techniques such as: use of imagery, semantic fields, phonological devices etc.
  5. 5 Consider the effects of structure and form; it is important to recognise the insights this analysis can provide.

Writing essays on World War One poetry

  1. 1 All essays should be well planned with clear points which enable a progressive structure.
  2. 2 Introductions should clearly address the question, perhaps determining position of argument/discussion to follow.
  3. 3 Each paragraph should ideally begin with a topic sentence which addresses the question, evidence from the poem/s to support the point (with quotes embedded), and detailed analysis using appropriate technical terminology. Remember that feature spotting does not demonstrate any useful knowledge and understanding of a poem.
  4. 4 If relevant, contextual references to World War One or the poets can inform and develop points and comparative points with other war poems (from before and after) are often insightful.
  5. 5 A concise conclusion should make a final summary that directly addresses the question. Ensure all essays are proof-read to avoid errors.

1,542 AS and A Level War Poetry essays

  • Marked by Teachers essays 47
  • Peer Reviewed essays 7
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Compare the presentation of the psychological effects of war on the individual in 'Regeneration' and 'Journey's End'.

    5 star(s)

    ***** 5 stars.

    This is an outstanding essay. Beautifully written, well structured with topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. Shows knowledge and understanding of main themes of…

    • Essay length: 2659 words
    • Submitted: 28/01/2005
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Katie Dixon 05/07/2013
  2. Marked by a teacher

    The idea of the experiment is to determine which equation is correct. There are 2 equations of CuCo3 and I have to find out which gases are given off when CuCo3 is given off.

    5 star(s)

    There is a lot of information in this assignment. It sometimes could do with organising and subtitling to lead the reader through the different sections, but it's a good and…

    • Essay length: 1517 words
    • Submitted: 18/11/2003
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Lindsay Taverner 02/05/2012
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Explain how the poets of Happy is England Now in the anthology Up the Line to Death present World War I

    4 star(s)

    This is a thoughtful, well-structured essay, demonstrating genuine interest in the poems and World War One. Contextual knowledge is evident and usually used effectively, and there is some pertinent poetic…

    • Essay length: 2201 words
    • Submitted: 06/01/2012
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Lucy Foss/Snell 05/02/2012
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Happy is England Now

    4 star(s)

    This is a competent review of the poem, perhaps concentrating too much on textual analysis. This aspect is very thorough, however, and suitable quotations are used to illustrate the points…

    • Essay length: 1055 words
    • Submitted: 01/02/2009
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Jeff Taylor 10/06/2013
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and Contrast the Two War Poems -'Dulce Et Decorum Est' and 'The Charge of The Light Brigade'

    4 star(s)

    **** 4 STARS

    This is an excellent essay which makes thoughtful and insightful comments. The writer has clearly researched social, historical and biographical details which has deepened
    understanding…

    • Essay length: 1788 words
    • Submitted: 01/11/2006
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Katie Dixon 07/08/2013
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Choose 3 poems by Wilfred Owen that look at different aspects of war. Compare how Owen deals with each aspect and consider what his overall message might be.

    4 star(s)

    **** 4 STARS

    This is an excellent essay which includes biographical detail which gives further insight into the contextual factors of the poems. Very good use of literary terminology…

    • Essay length: 2395 words
    • Submitted: 31/03/2006
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Katie Dixon 30/07/2013
  7. Marked by a teacher

    How does Blackadder Goes Forth satirize the First World War and how does it fit into the situation comedy genre as a whole?

    4 star(s)

    A well written response that makes some very clear points, although at times these points could be more explicitly linked to the historical and social context of World War One.…

    • Essay length: 2739 words
    • Submitted: 12/07/2004
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Laura Gater 09/07/2013
  8. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how the theme of love is presented in Birdsong and a selection of poems by Wilfred Owen.

    4 star(s)

    **** 4 stars.

    This is a very good essay and a very valiant attempt to answer a question that could lend itself to a dissertation.
    The writer shows an…

    • Essay length: 2527 words
    • Submitted: 13/05/2004
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Katie Dixon 05/07/2013
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Compare "The Drum" by John Scott and "Vitai Lampada" by Henry Newbolt.

    4 star(s)

    A good attempt to compare the poems and looks at the relevant elements of language and structure. I would like to see further exploration of form as this is essential…

    • Essay length: 1010 words
    • Submitted: 17/03/2004
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Laura Gater 09/07/2013
  10. Marked by a teacher

    War poetry comparision The Drum & Dulce et Decorum est.

    4 star(s)

    **** 4 STARS

    An excellent essay - perceptive and thoughtful comments are well supported by quotes. Accurate use of literary terminology and insightful comments show a real understanding and…

    • Essay length: 1426 words
    • Submitted: 12/03/2004
    • Marked by teacher: (?) Katie Dixon 07/08/2013

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent are the 'war' poems you have read protesting the wars they describe?

    "In conclusion, readers infer that all poems mentioned deal with the same theme and present the same moral. They deal with soldiers who have lost their lives as a result to the war, there deaths may not seem for a cause in all five poems. They contain a different historical context. Hardy portrays war as a wasteful event when he links himself to Jesus, who's death was meaningful. He shows readers how man neglects those in need and how nature plays the role of our mother, through both of his poems. Whitman, again visualilses death as waste yet he personally engages with the victim of the war. This contrast can be as a result of him 'nursing' the injured and dead during the time of the Civil War. He brings life to the dead and responds to them himself, whereas Hardy allows nature to respond to the dead making his poem impersonal. I personally think all poems are very effective due to the contrast between the style of the poets. They allow us to see the effects of war in which they lived through two different approaches. Mahmoud El Hazek English Coursework 04-02-03 Rough Draft Mr. A. Thirkell 1"

  • Wilfred Owen Poems - Discuss how Owen conveys the pity and horror of war in these two poems.

    "When I first found out in Mr. Spahr's class that we were going to do War poetry coursework I feared, I wouldn't admire Wilfred Owens's work as I don't really like war poetry as most writers/poets talk about the glory and honour of war, which I find foolish as I believe wars are a waste of life and money. However, Owen is indeed different he wrote to inform the ordinary person the, "Untold truth" of war and in his work he criticises the government too, who sent an entire generation to their doom. Furthermore, in his work unlike others, Owen makes you feel devastating pity for the soldiers involved in the war and this made me realise what an absolute genius Wilfred Owen really is."

  • Compare and contrast the work of Owen and Heller in their treatment of war.

    "The facetious nature of Catch 22 rather fittingly exemplifies Heller's resentment and rebellion towards conventional attitudes to war. In my opinion, to use General Peckem's words 'It never escaped his memory that neither black nor white was a colour' would to some extent help explain his motives for using humour in this novel. Heller uses humour as an attack against the established panorama of war. Peckems words evoke a subtle question, why should we observe the world in black and white and decide where things are and are not appropriate? Humour rebels against our subconscious extraction of its presence, fighting against the norm. Of course, If Owen where to adopt a similar humorous approach to his work, this would perhaps vanquish his objective to resist any poetic skill or effort. In the same way, Heller uses a character like Milo to 'paint' over the American ethos, Owen uses this technique to demonstrate how war has encroached the beauty of laughter. 'Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter'. Owen gives blood a kind of discomforting persona. It becomes the enemy that has taken over territory, pre-occupying the lungs."

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