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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.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 50
  • Peer Reviewed essays 7
  1. How would you describe Owens perception on religion based on "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Futility"?

    ?Until? the soldier was killed on this ?morning? and this ?snow?. The word ?morning? sounds like ?mourning? creating a sad imagery and ?snow? which suggests the cold, the opposite of warmth, the devil. Although the soldier?s life was already taken he still had faith in god, he believed there ?might? be a possibility that the sun, the god could bring life from dead again. Moving on the second stanza, the change of tone is very obvious. This is suggested through the demanding word ?think?.

    • Word count: 914
  2. The Theme of the Pity of War in "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen

    Starting with the very title: ?Anthem for Doomed Youth?, Owen uses juxtaposition between ?Anthem? and ?Doomed? to create an irony. As anthems are associated with praise and triumph, and doomed means certain demise, Owen creates an irony that helps draw attention to the sarcastic bitter tone underlying the poem as he makes mockery of religious funeral services. This irony is continued further through the poems structure, whereby Owen uses a patrician sonnet to express his feelings of war. This introduces irony, as sonnets are associated with love as they are usually lyrical, smooth flowing, therefore, as this poem is about

    • Word count: 2061

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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