Compare and contrast the ways in which the theme of Human Suffering is presented in the novel Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks and the poems of Wilfred Owen.

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Compare and contrast the ways in which the theme of Human Suffering is presented in the novel Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks and the poems of Wilfred Owen.

World War One has often been described as the destruction of a generation; indeed for those who lived through the first large-scale war that Europe had ever seen, life would never be the same again. Of the sixty five million men that fought in World War One over thirty seven million died, were captured or went missing before the end of the war, that means that thirty seven million families had to grieve for the sons and brothers they had lost. However, whatever mental torture the families at home who received the worst kind of news endured the suffering of the soldiers was worse. During the war, which lasted four years from 1914 to 1918 soldiers witnessed atrocities that they had never before imagined and received injuries so terrible that they were often unable to recover from the physical and mental scarring of what they lived through. Many of these soldiers were only seventeen or eighteen years old when they signed up for war and because there had never before been such a massive war so close to home the soldiers believed the widespread government propaganda that told them war would bring them glory and that they would be loved by the nation. However, when they got to the front lines these men found they had been lied to. They had to endure weather conditions so harsh that some of them froze to death or died of heat exposure, live in small wet trenches that had been dug into the ground and that would often be held up with the bodies of comrades they had had to watch being shot to pieces on the battle fields. The men that survived the war were angry and bitter, they felt that they had been raped of their youth and lied to by the government and army officials who had promised them that they would heroes. This anger is often expressed in war literature written or based around the time of the First World War; it serves as poignant reminder of the tragedy of the war generation and perhaps more importantly tries to encourage governments to never to let what happened to those who fought in World War One happen again.

Both Birdsong and the poems of Wilfred Owen are set during the First World War. Birsong was written by Sebastian Faulks in 1994, almost eighty years after the end of World War One.  Faulks did not live through the war himself and by the time it was written the true horrors of what happened to the young men who were sent to the battlefields without a notion of the reality of war had been revealed. By using the anger and bitterness of those who survived the war as his motivation and incorporating the historical facts of what took place on the battlefield Faulks enables Birdsong to give the reader an complete view of what happened during the World War One and what the soldiers themselves experienced. However because he did not live through the war himself the novel only gives the reader a fictional account of what happened, although the events he writes about are real Faulks’ characters are fictional and subsequently so are their emotions and experiences.

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Wilfred Owen’s poems are written from a somewhat different viewpoint to Birdsong. Although, like Birdsong Owen expresses the anger felt by the soldiers who fought in the war. However, Owen was a soldier during world war one himself, he witnessed the horrors he describes in his poetry and felt the anger and bitterness and fear that act as a theme in so much of his work. Owen was sent to war in 1917 when he was twenty four years old, as the war progressed he became more and more disillusioned with the officials who had sent him to fight ...

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**** 4 STARS This is an excellent essay in many ways. It is well structured and clearly shows knowledge and understanding of the poems and the novel. Extensive social and historical context is included in order to fully understand texts. Well selected quotes support statements and analysis is always well written and perceptive. At times closer analysis of language using appropriate literary terminology is needed.