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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.

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  1. Peer reviewed

    Dulce Et Decorum Est and The Soldier: A comparison

    5 star(s)

    This onomatopoeia is in keeping with the dark, bitter tone of the entire poem. Words such as "writhing", "sludge" and "trudge" all convey this sense of resentfulness from the poet. The negative comparisons used in the poem correspond with the tone. Lines such as "knock-kneed, coughing like hags", evoke this bitter tone. Another difference in Dulce Et Decorum Est is that it is a lot more emotive because of the realism and physicality: "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from froth corrupted lungs". It compels the reader to see through the eyes of the author, and although this cannot compare to the true horrors of war, it certainly does make the reader contemplate just how terrifying and devastating war is.

    • Word count: 967
  2. Free essay

    The worst injuries of war are emotional, not physical With reference to Disabled and Mental Cases to what extent do you agree?

    4 star(s)

    Henceforth, Disabled concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by omitting focus on the physical injuries whereas Mental Cases concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by centralising around the physical injuries. Therefore in both Mental Cases and Disabled it is not what is being said, but rather what is not being said that is most significant. Taking this in account, it is for this reason that Disabled establishes that the physical injuries of war are the worst as is not the emphasis of the emotional injuries, it is the lack of emphasis on the physical injuries that makes it so striking.

    • Word count: 852
  3. Peer reviewed

    "With Specific focus on Wilfred Owen poems Disabled, Mental cases, Dulce et Decorum est, the send off and Anthem For Doomed Youth evaluate the methods Owen uses to bring across his convictions, feelings and ideas to you, the reader" (i have referred also

    4 star(s)

    His poems are definitely one of the few things admirable things to be brought out of the war following his death on 4th November 1918, only one week before the war ended. The title is pretty self- explanatory, focused only upon the mind and the upshot that war has distorted it from its 'normal' process of philosophy and action, Mental Cases can be drawn out from the rest of the poems Wilfred Owen wrote as it solely focuses itself on this inimitable ingredient of the war.

    • Word count: 2355
  4. Peer reviewed

    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.

    4 star(s)

    Anthems are glorious, celebratory songs, and by no means is the poem joyous. Naturally, the title 'Futility' also leads the reader into an expectation of a poem describing the pointlessness of war. Although the title 'The Soldier' is not directly celebratory of the dead warrior in response to which the poem was written; it is clearly respectful, as by naming the poem in the way the author did, an entire poem is dedicated in the memory of the deceased. In 'Futility', a very tender feeling is captivated in the opening lines: "Move him into the sun- Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields unsown."

    • Word count: 1455
  5. Peer reviewed

    Referring to several of the poems studied, show how Wilfred Owen uses language and imagery to communicate his attitudes of war.

    4 star(s)

    He also felt that the soldiers were treated like insignificant pawns in a game which they didn't know the rules to. Further he tried to attack the blind patriotism or jingoism, which is basically people who believe in the idea that their country and leaders are always right that they are happily willing to die for them. Owen highlights the horrific conditions in which the soldiers fought to show the futility of war. In the poem 'The Sentry' he describes the rain as "guttering down in waterfalls of slime", the use of the made up word of "guttering" to add huge emphasis to the extent of downpour through mimicking 'gutter'.

    • Word count: 822
  6. Peer reviewed

    When Wilfred Owen wrote the poem 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' his purpose was to warn us of the effects of war and how it can affect soldiers and their loved ones.

    3 star(s)

    The second quatrain contrast the sound of wailing shells with the sound a choir makes. I imagine that Owen tried to describe the wailing shells to be like the high voices in a choir, singing over the rest of the singers just like the wailing shells would block all the rest of the sounds on the battlefield. The octave ends with the word "shires" which leads us on to the sestet. The sestet is set at home and begins with the rhetorical question, "What candles may be held to speed them all?"

    • Word count: 940
  7. Free essay

    Discuss ways in which Owen presents the experience of the soldier in A Terre. In your answer explore the effects of language, imagery and verse form, and consider how his relates to other poems that you have studied

    Within the first stanza we are told the man is 'three parts shell' from shrapnel wounds, 'blind', and that his fingers 'fidget like idle brats', suggesting psychological damage. By identifying the soldier's physical and mental states as suffering from shell shock Owen immediately presents the soldier's experience as a difficult and menial one. Owen begins the next stanza by casually, and almost jokingly telling us of the soldier's suicide attempt 'I tried to peg out soldierly'. This euphemism avoids the actual brutality of war; a recurring technique of Owen's to bitterly show how underestimated the sufferings of war are.

    • Word count: 1603
  8. Explore the main ideas presented in Rouenby May Wedderburn Cannan. How effective is it in exploring ideas about the First World War? Consider the structure, imagery and language.

    Therefore we have first-hand evidence to use to compare and contrast against other poetry of the time. Wedderburn Cannan makes great use of nature and environment to describe and illustrate what she had experienced. She starts firstly by describing her transition to getting to Rouen and then speaks of all the young men with their "heart breaking mirth"; here she describes them as if they are all having fun and enjoying their comradeship. Thereafter she juxtaposes this idea with the "train full of wounded" who are being transported away due to the travesty presented thenceforth in Rouen.

    • Word count: 622
  9. How the character of Stephen is portrayed by Faulks in Birdsong.

    He also isn't a man of huge class and much effort put into his clothing; '..and hung his spare suit in the giant carved wardrobe.' The description of the wardrobe in this sentence shows that Stephen isn't used to such luxury nor a lot of space for himself. The room in which Stephen is given in the novel, portrays what kind of man Stephen is, as I feel was included purposely by Faulks; 'The room was simple, but had been decorated with some care.

    • Word count: 1996
  10. Homecoming Analysis. Homecoming by Bruce Dawe illustrates and recounts the tragedies of the Vietnam War in an even-tempered, but negative tone.

    The tone at which it is spoken is relatively tedious and repetitive. Repetition is present to emphasise the dryness of the monotonous activities associated with war and homecoming. By example 'those they can find' which indicates the insignificance and the fact that it has developed into a routine practice, without a great deal of concern. 'They're', made use of at the beginning of five consecutive sentences highlights exactly this. Furthering this sense of repetition is how it shows little regard and at the same time presents the soldiers impersonally - without a reverent identification.

    • Word count: 932
  11. Consider ways in which Owen portrays his views of the importance of camaraderie in Apologia Pro Poemate Meo

    The importance of camaraderie is highlighted throughout apologia pro poemate meo, 'Merry it was to laugh there' shows that even though war is such a horrific place, the friendships between the men overcame this and made it enjoyable and 'merry'. The use of paradox is to show the juxtaposition of war and friendships: 'Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate. '. Here, Owens uses of sibilance, shows the soldier has found peace in the battlefield, which is absurd as shells are falling all around them, but again, it shows that the friendships made are so powerful, they make war seem less horrific as it is.

    • Word count: 944
  12. The poets in The Oxford Book of War Poetry emphasise their experiences, emotions and their opinions of war.

    War is an inhumane, shocking and terrifying act which can only be associated with horror. I feel that, poetry, to work must be created with emotion; all soldiers that fight in war have overwhelming amounts of emotion. Savageness, cruelty, love, pity are some that come with fighting on the battlefield. Wilfred Owen is quoted (in his preface) 'above all this book is not concerned with poetry, the subject of it is war, and the pity of war, the poetry is in the pity', therefore illustrating the sympathy and sadness caused by soldiers suffering.

    • Word count: 802
  13. Explore the way Wilfred Owen presents the war and the life of soldiers within in it in Dulce Et Decorum Est

    Therefore, by doing this, Owen is able to rectify some of the views held by the British public and shows that in reality, fine and upstanding young men have been transformed to beggars and tramps as a direct result of the war. Furthermore, the language used in the first stanza is again used to describe the pitiful condition of the soldiers. By using religious and hellish imagery such as 'cursed' and 'haunting', Owen is able to compare the conditions of war to hell in order to try and give an idea of how bad things really were in the war.

    • Word count: 1021
  14. How do the poems reflect the experiences of going to War? In this essay I will analyse the mood and tone, mood, language and attitudes of the writers in Dead Mans Dump and Exposure.

    This could imply that the soldiers, like Christ, are sacrificing their lives for God and their people. This could be seen as a Pro-War meaning. On the other hand it could mean that the Soldiers are also doomed to die like Christ was doomed to be crucified. The Language used in DMD is very archaic, such as "Man Born of Man, and born of woman", which reflects more of the religious undertone in the whole of the poem and expresses that since the age of Christ, people have died for Christ and Kingdom. Moreover the language is very emotive and strong, like in stanza three "Now she has them at last", where Earth is personified and is

    • Word count: 1175
  15. How typical is England to Her Sons of the poems in this section of the anthology, Up the line to death. Personification is used in England to her Sons and Happy is England Now about England itself.

    It conjures u a motherly and maternal image of the Motherland towards the soldiers going out to fight. Moreover, it unites England and makes it seem everyone had a positive attitude towards the war when it is mentioned that "happy is England now as never yet", which implies that the whole of England is proud and glad that the soldiers are going to war. Happy is England Now projects a very strong and patriotic message of making sacrifices and protecting this picturesque England with "her hills, rivers and her chafing sea". It uses natural imagery to stir up a desire to protect the land where these soldiers were born and raised.

    • Word count: 649
  16. Dulce et Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth compared.

    The fact that "Anthem" is a sonnet, is ironic in that they are usually about love, and because it is actually about grief, it somewhat lulls the reader into a false sense of security, therefore making the poem more effective. Both poems seem to talk about the vile and painful conditions in war, "Dulce" using onomatopoeia in "trudge", giving the impression that war is truly appalling, immediately going against the common belief that it is a game from poems like "Who's for the game?".

    • Word count: 987
  17. How does Owen show that even Nature has turned against the soldiers in "Exposure".)

    I am going to analyse the poem 'Exposure', which clearly displays all of Owens's thoughts, doubts and fears. I will particularly focus on the fact that Owen emphasises nature as an enemy to the soldiers as well as the opposition. The poem does not only use nature in one context, it varies throughout and I will how he creates this effect and why it is so effective to express his views. Firstly, the title 'Exposure' can be drawn to a number of metaphorical conclusions by the reader as it is a deliberately ambiguous title. For example, it could be the physical exposure to which they are revealed, the conditions that are expressed, the uncovering of the soldiers fears and doubts, all exposed within war situations.

    • Word count: 2273
  18. Explore the way Nature is effective in Wilfred Owen's Exposure

    Exposure originates from Owens's letter he wrote home to his mother on the 4th February 1917. In this letter he described his manoeuvres in icy weather. The poem was originally named Nothing happens as described during the course of the poem the soldiers are described as waiting for death either, from a sudden attack from the Germans or from the hostility from the weather. The word Exposure could represent the soldiers being over exposed to elements of nature, death and the futility of war. Exposure is structured into a romantic quatrain but, has been modified to create a repetitive cycle of nature which, gives an indication that while the soldiers are dying nature is continuing.

    • Word count: 1809
  19. Despite the popularity of these poems (In Flanders Fields, Break of day in the trenches and Dulce Et Decorum Est) the modern reader learns little from them. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    its natural beauty and how death is part of a cycle and also how the natural world still exists in the chaos and destruction of war which can also be linked with the Rat in 'break of day in the trenches'. The reader can also gain an insight into the a soldiers thoughts and feelings which can justify why they felt as if they had no option but to win and honour the dead who have already sacrificed their lives for the victory of their country.

    • Word count: 926
  20. How far and in what ways does Owen present the youth in Anthem for Doomed Youth? Pay close attention to the language, tone and form of the poem. Remember to consider the poem in light of other poems by Owen.

    Pay close attention to the language, tone and form of the poem. Remember to consider the poem in light of other poems by Owen and in view of the context in which he was writing. "...for these who die as cattle." How far and in what ways does Owen present the youth in "Anthem for Doomed Youth"? Pay close attention to the language, tone and form of the poem. Remember to consider the poem in light of other poems by Owen and in view of the context in which he was writing.

    • Word count: 2063
  21. Experience of Soldier in "Disabled" - Wilfred Owen

    An immediate implication is that the man has been left wounded from his experiences in war. This idea is reinforced later, when Owen writes "legless, sewn short at elbow." Both phrases depict images of an incapable and perhaps even powerless man, a vast and ironic contrast to the idea of power and capability largely associated with being a soldier. Additionally, "waiting for dark," is a phrase not dissimilar to the line "why sit they here in twilight?" from Mental Cases.

    • Word count: 639
  22. Free essay

    Landscape of War in "Exposure" - Wilfred Owen

    Owen wrote in the opening line of the poem "(...) the merciless iced east winds that knife us..." This line constructs an image of the harsh conditions of war whilst bringing in the theme of the collective suffering of soldiers. The phrase "(...) winds that knife us (...)" suggests that war has created adversaries out of nature and reinforces the idea of the futility of war, when nature as well as human forces oppose the soldiers. Owen also uses examples of pathetic fallacy in 'Exposure' such as "we only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy."

    • Word count: 677
  23. Consider ways in which the suffering of war, both physical and psychological, is presented in The Sentry

    This verse also helps the reader to imagine the frontline and the weapons used such as the "whizz bangs", artillery so called because of the sound they made, whilst also allowing war to sound like a game much like many of his contemporary wartime poets did too; of course here Owen is not using it for the same patriotic effect, much the opposite. The smell of the trenches are conveyed effectively, "murk of air remained stank old" along with the "rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime".

    • Word count: 705
  24. How does Wilfred Owen present the waste of youth in 'The Last Laugh'?

    In his poem The Last Laugh, Owen expresses this view indirectly and through the use of poetic devices, structure and language. Owen uses various techniques to demonstrate the youthfulness of the soldiers he is writing about, their naivety along with how wasteful it is for them to be dying 'In vain, vain, vain!' For example, the simplicity of the iambic pentameter structure combined with the sraightforward form of the three five-line stanzas generates a feeling of innocence and simplicity, resembling even the simple structure of children's nursery rhymes and stories and, in each of the stanzas being the death of

    • Word count: 1192
  25. How does Wilfred Owen portray the horror of war in 'Dulce et Decorum est'?

    The use of words like 'haunting', 'distant', 'asleep', 'lame' and 'drunk' create a feeling of inevitable doom; 'knock-kneed', 'coughing', 'limped', 'blood-shod' and 'dropped' indicate ill health and disease. The theme of loss is also significant here; 'many had lost their boots', 'all blind', 'deaf even', connoting the loss of sense organs as well as property, the small comfort of simply having boots. Through the 'sludge' the men 'curse' those who were the cause of their suffering, the Germans, war, propaganda.

    • Word count: 858

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