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Examining the images of 'the fighting man' as portrayed by the poets, Winifred Letts and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

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Introduction

In this piece of coursework, I will be examining the images of 'the fighting man' as portrayed by the poets, Winifred Letts and Alfred Lord Tennyson who I have been studying. The two poems I have analysed are "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson and "The Deserter" by Winifred Mary Letts. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" was written pre 1900. "The Deserter" was written post 1900. There are many differences between the two poems especially the way the writers portrayed war and soldiers' reaction to war. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a poem that was written during the Crimean War in November 1854. The war started when Britain and France confronted Russia over their claim to lands in Turkey. The Allied army landed in Crimea to oppose Russia. The Russians then attacked the British base at Balaclava. The devastating charge of the light brigade occurred on a November morning at Balaclava at the Black Sea area of Russia known as Crimea. The British cavalry commander was the Earl of Cardigan, whose misunderstanding of his orders led to the suicidal charge of the light brigade. Six hundred British cavalry men took part in the charge and each soldier was on horseback with only one weapon. This weapon was a sabre which is a curved sword. The courageous six hundred rode straight down a valley without questioning orders or even thinking about what they were told to do. ...read more.

Middle

The use of alliteration make the attack significant and memorable. He finishes the stanza by telling us that they rode back, repeating the work "not" to emphasis that many had lost their lives. The first four lines of Stanza 5 are a repetition of Stanza 3, when the poet was describing how the cavalry were attacked as they rode gallantly into the valley. They are now retreating. There is a rhythm of marching "right", "left". The poet also shows pity for the soldiers as well as admiration. In the last two lines of this Stanza, repetition of the "left" gives and idea of the amount of men killed. "All that was left of them". In the final verse, there are six lines which gives the idea of one line for every one hundred cavalrymen. The poet speaks directly to us, he questions us and clearly demands that we should never forget the bravery of the Light Brigade. Words such as "Honour" and Noble" shows the importance of the battle. Tennyson commands that they never be forgotten. "|Honour the charge they made!!". To further remind us of the number of soldiers who died, Tennyson wrote this poem in six verses - one verse for every one hundred soldiers who lost their lives. I feel this poem, while pointing out the bravery of the soldiers reminds us constantly of the stupidity and foolishness of war. The poem assures us that the commander's error, which led to the death of these brave men should never be forgotten. ...read more.

Conclusion

Most of them are vulnerable human beings. I feel the second poem is a much better example of war poetry because it is much easier to understand that the soldiers were horrified of death and are therefore not portrayed as supermen. The first poem portrays the men as "fighting men". The writer does not do this in the second poem. The two poems have some similarities as there were mistakes made by people in each one. In the first poem the commander made a very serious error, which led to hundreds of soldiers dying. Even though he made this slip up, he was not shot. I feel he did not get punished because he was a commander. In the second poem, when the young soldier was confronted by the enemy he showed a natural reaction of fear causing him to desert his post. In this instance he was shot as a deserter. I feel that because he was just an ordinary soldier he was considered unimportant and disposable. He was shot as an example to other soldiers who may have been considering desertion. These two poems confirm how war is senseless, unnecessary, cruel and pointless. It is obvious from the two poems that the experience of going to war and being able to see at first hand the grim reality of war has led to poets becoming more realistic in their portrayal of 'the fighting man'. No longer is he automatically assumed to be heroic but rather a more true to life picture is portrayed showing the fear and mistakes along with the bravery of the soldiers. Reading these poems has confirmed my belief that war is futile. ...read more.

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