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"I knew a simple soldier boy"Siegfried Sassoon (1918) - Considerthe presentation of the ordinary soldier in the writing of the Great War.

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Introduction

"I knew a simple soldier boy" Siegfried Sassoon (1918) Consider the presentation of the ordinary soldier in the writing of the Great War. World War 1, the 'Great War' from 1914-1918, began as a conflict between Austria - Hungary and Serbia on July 28th 1914, but was soon to become a global war involving thirty-two nations. The immediate cause of the war between Austria - Hungary and Serbia was the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia. Soon the world was at arms and fighting each other in one of the most brutal and horrifying wars ever known. Battles at the Somme, Ypres and Vimy Ridge were particularly terrible because of the large loss of life they were responsible for. Allied leaders, such as Field Marshall Douglas Haig seemed to be sending thousands of innocent men to their deaths. Hostilities between the Allies and Central Powers continued until the signing of the Armistice on November 11th 1918, a total period of four years, three months and fourteen days. Casualties to land forces amounted to approximately twenty-seven million with another ten million civilian casualties. Most of the twenty seven million casualties are those of the 'simple soldier boys' and not the leaders of the First World War. These highly regarded men instructed the ordinary soldiers from positions so far away from the fighting and the terror that they were not always aware of what they were sending these men into. ...read more.

Middle

Also by calling them 'forms' Lawrence portrays the soldiers as something without identity. He then repeats this same point with a strong comment, 'He was a fragment of a mass, and as a fragment of a mass he must live and die or be torn. He had no rights, no self, no being.' The 'ordinary' soldiers have no individuality in war, their human rights are just forgotten, and their identity counts for nothing. Later in the essay, Lawrence points out that for some of the soldiers, being part of a machine is difficult, and that lying down under machine gun fire is unnatural. This shows how modern warfare seems to lack any sort of honour. Lawrence moves on to describe the beauty of the untouched forestry on a hill; to be able to describe beauty, even amidst the horrors of war, is remarkable. This is quickly contrasted when Lawrence describes guns firing and men dying at the foot of this beautiful hill. This contrast makes the soldier's deaths even more of a tragedy, because they are missing out on all the beautiful things in life. The essay ends with the writer voicing his uncertainty in the reason for all the bloodshed. He uses rhetorical questions to good effect to express this, 'But whose bullets?' and 'But what is it all about?' This presents the 'ordinary' soldier as one without real purpose, just using a machine to end the lives of people they do not know. ...read more.

Conclusion

This seems to be Stanhope's worst moment in the play because he begins to give orders from inside his trench instead of being up with the rest of his company on the front line. Stanhope starts using the sort of leadership associated with the Field Marshall's and Generals. It provides a stark contrast between the higher ranked officers and the 'ordinary' soldiers who actually lost their lives fighting the war. It is not long before Raleigh, Stanhope's friend, is injured badly and is brought down into Stanhope's trench, where he tries to comfort the dying Raleigh. Raleigh is unaware he is dying and even tries to get up and continue fighting but the pain is too much and he sinks back to his stretcher. Raleigh's determined, never-say-die attitude is a model for the perfect soldier, patriotic and able to want to fight for his country, even through the death and destruction around him. As we can see from all the texts, the 'simple soldier boy' is portrayed in many ways: patriotic, bored, scared and even suicidal. We know that these soldiers suffered because of bad weather conditions and the terrifying fact that they were probably going to die before they ever saw their loved ones again. This inevitability of death must have been one of the hardest things to get through when at the Front. Also we can see the obvious contrast between the generals and the 'simple soldier boys', where the generals just talked and fed propaganda to everyone, but the soldiers were the ones facing the reality. Phil Dudson 5NB 5/9/2007 ...read more.

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