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My Company by Herbert Read - Write a critical appreciation of the poem, discussing how far its themes, methods and effects are characteristic of Great War literature.

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Introduction

SECTION A Write a critical appreciation of the poem, discussing how far its themes, methods and effects are characteristic of Great War literature. The poem "My Company" by Herbert Read communicates a perception of war which was characteristic of Great War Literature as a whole. It is evident that Herbert Read used poetry as a way of expressing and communicating his ideas about the war. As Rivers, a psychologist in the novel "Regeneration" notes: "horror and fear were the inevitable reponses to the trauma of war." The poet uses lexical choice, form, imagery, repetition, rhythm and tone in order to convey his perceptions of war and in doing so maintains a distinct individuality. Through lines one to thirty-four of the poem, the poet conveys the idea of unity between the men through the use of lexical choice. The idea that the men "became....a body and a soul" working together as one. This image is further enhanced by the idea that the men "fought together" and were united in the sense of being "compact" and "unanimous". ...read more.

Middle

Susan Hill in her novel "Strange Meeting" acknowledges the true extent of the war through the words "so many pointless, mess, inglorious deaths". The poet communicates images of death and the horrors of war through the strong use of imagery and connotations of religion. A sense of exhaustion and horror is presented through phrases such as "wearily...through the area of death." There are strong similarities between this image and an image presented by Isaac Rosenberg in "Returning We Hear the Larks" in which the men find themselves "Dragging their anguished limbs" across a "poison-blasted track". Images of extreme weariness and death are presented throughout the literature of the Great War period and this is further enhanced by the threat of danger yet a realisation that there is nothing that can be done in order to prevent death, "When a flare curves through the sky / they rest immobile." This realisation highlights the poet's anguish as the tone changes from that of toil and hard work to that of anger. ...read more.

Conclusion

The natural images present the idea of the souls going up to heaven but the bodies "descend" as Wilfred Owen describes that not many young men are left in England "save under France". Herbert Read, through his poetry acknowledges the themes of death and the horrors of war that are such strong characterstics of Great War Literature. Vera Brittain's thoughts further highlight the emptiness and the futility of war that has been depicted through many poets and writers alike: "It is impossible to look with any satisfaction on the thought of 25,000 Germans being left to mutilation and decay; the destruction of men as though beasts whether they be English, German or anything else seems a crime against the whole of civilisation." It is perhaps Herbert Read's final image that has the greatest significance for today's generation and this is expressed through the words, "Your entire soul is standing up in my body." Today one would think of Laurence Binyon and the words he wrote in 1914, "We will remember them." Herbert Read's intention would appear to be to live his mens' lives through his own and to never let them be forgotten. ...read more.

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