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Siegfried Sassoon presents his personal experience in the war in Counter- Attack with raw brutal imagery of the battlefield.

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Introduction

By considering one of the poems that you have read, explain how the poet presents their view of the conflict ? ?Counter-Attack? Siegfried Sassoon presents his personal experience in the war in ?Counter- Attack? with raw brutal imagery of the battlefield, the numerous sensory feelings provoking terror and outrage at the war, coupled with the stark contrast of report-like statements to ultimately convey the futility of the conflict, and the massive waste of life. Sassoon immediately establishes the sense of emotional detachment in the conflict; the opening lines simply state that they had ?gained (their) first objective hours before?, provoking horror at the fact that soldiers were forced to fight in inhumane conditions and ultimately were made to detach themselves from the terror of watching their friends being murdered. A semi-omniscient narration is maintained to establish the collective horror of the war, the fact that all soldiers would almost always face the same fate as the previous had and remains set throughout the poem as the contrast to the emotional detachment presented. ...read more.

Middle

The men are reduced from strong, able men who were previously ?high-booted? to being helpless in the face of war, some even described as eventually dying ?face downward?, a possible reference to the conflict only bringing doom to their lives. The battlefield is not only strewn with countless bodies, but also described as treacherous itself; the mud is personified as ?sucking? the fallen soldiers down into it with little remorse, creating a sense of the indignity of the soldiers? deaths. The soldiers that are still alive are simply ?[wallowing] like trodden sand-bags?, indication of the hopelessness and lack of control in the situation they face. They are also metaphorically ?loosely-filled?, hinting possibly that these men are also physically as well as mentally exhausted, hence the soldier having ?knelt? against the bank. The sudden switch from the collection of soldiers to the single one in the second stanza points towards Sassoon?s idea of the wrongs of war; the stark reality that war costs numerous lives and each soldier is in effect a whole life, the one about to be lost in the war is as just as important. ...read more.

Conclusion

The soldier Sassoon describes ultimately meets his fate in a spout of confusion indicated by the sudden ellipses in his thoughts: ?and he remembered his rifle?rapid fire?? Notably the soldier himself cannot remember to hold onto his own rifle ? shock is combined with futility in that the soldier cannot arm himself and is therefore helpless, akin to almost all the other soldiers in the trenches. His fate is one that ends with him having ?[bled] to death?. Heavy consonants throughout the line along with repetition emphasise the futile nature in which he dies: ?Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned?. The poem establishes Sassoon?s opinion of the conflict being one filled with horror, forced emotional detachment and ultimately the underlying futility of the war in the soldiers? confusion and the mechanical killing presented. The poem never aligns with any set line structure in order to add to this confusion, and the poem is closed with the simple factual statement ?the counter-attack had failed?, in line with the opening line to create a contrast and show the real brutal nature of war: people become numbers rather than the real human beings presented in the second stanza. ...read more.

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level War Poetry section.

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