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World War II Poetry: A Sense of Guilt.

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Introduction

Brett Switzer Mr. McGowan A.P. Language & Comp October 2, 2003 World War II Poetry: A Sense of Guilt Throughout history, wars have been an issue commonly discussed through poetry because of all the emotions inherent to war. While some poems glorify the harsh conceptions of war and idealize soldiers, the vast majority of poems point out the endless struggles associated with war. Randall Jarrell's Eighth Air Force and Marianne Moore's In Distrust of Merits were both written in response to World War II, and both poets seek to find answers about certain aspects of war through their poetry. While these poems seem very similar on the surface, they actually differ drastically in scope and voice, two key facets that affect the answers to their questions and the overall meanings of the poems. On the surface, Marianne Moore's In Distrust of Merits and Randall Jarrell's Eighth Air Force can be deceivingly similar. They both begin with questions about the nature of soldiers and war, Moore by questioning the reason men go to war, "Strengthened to live, strengthened to die for medals and positioned victories?" ...read more.

Middle

Jarrell's tries to answer his question by convincing himself that the Eighth Air Force is not a group of murderers, not wolves to men, but rather puppies "[playing] before they die." In reference to the photograph of the soldier on the beach, Moore comes to the conclusion that "if these great patient dyings can teach us how to live, these dyings were not wasted." Her solution, thus, is to "conquer in [herself] what causes war," hatred, because if hatred can be contagious, then love and trust too can be contagious. Finalizing her answer, Moore refers to her guilt, the fact that she did nothing to spread love rather than hatred, as an "Iscariotlike crime," a direct reference to betrayal, the betrayal of Jesus Christ. Jarrell however, a trainer of pilots in the Eighth Air Force who directly teaches the destruction of men, struggles within himself to understand whether or not his actions are wrong. He "did as these [soldiers] have done, but did not die," and now, with the duties of a trainer, he is required to create soldiers for the air force to wage war. ...read more.

Conclusion

If these great patient dyings...can teach us how to live, these dyings were not wasted." Since she is not required to train soldiers like Jarrell though, she is able to make a change, and thus her particular scope offers her hope that she can "fight till [she] has conquered in [herself] what causes war," that she may seek the end to hatred, and thus the end to all wars. Since Moore's poem ends with hope for change, and Jarrell's poem seems to be circular, ending without being able to prove to himself that he does not create murderers, ending on a melancholy note, the scopes also serve as catalysts to different tones within the poems. Both In Distrust of Merits and Eighth Air Force are war poems that discuss the problems inherent to the nature of wars, the dehumanizing effects upon and by the soldiers involved. While it would be easy to mistake these poems as very similar on the surface, this would be a very tragic misread as the poems are completely different in meaning due to the different backgrounds of the poets. Switzer 1 ...read more.

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