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AS and A Level: War Poetry

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Writing about World War One poetry

  1. 1 Although it is easy to try and position poems as either ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ war this is quite a simplistic division. Many poems have an ambiguous attitude, perhaps demonstrating a variety of thoughts and ideas. Be sure to assess possibilities of different perspectives within poems as well as between them.
  2. 2 It can be useful to analyse World War One poetry in comparison to other war poems written both before and after.
  3. 3 Studying the female voice offers a different perspective on the war.
  4. 4 Some contextual knowledge of the time and of the poets is helpful, although this information should only be used if directly relevant to the question and if it enhances poetic analysis and contributes to meaningful discussion.
  5. 5 With any poetry it is unwise to try and guess at how the poets were ‘feeling’ about their experiences. Keep focused on the poems themselves.

When analysing poetry you might like to consider some of the following

  1. 1 The perspective, tone and register of narrator is a good place to start analysis. Remember that these can differ within poems. Be sure also to distinguish between the poet and the narrative voice.
  2. 2 Titles, openings and endings can be a good way to start your analysis.
  3. 3 Look for patterns and oppositions (or lack of) that emerge.
  4. 4 Consider effects of other poetic techniques such as: use of imagery, semantic fields, phonological devices etc.
  5. 5 Consider the effects of structure and form; it is important to recognise the insights this analysis can provide.

Writing essays on World War One poetry

  1. 1 All essays should be well planned with clear points which enable a progressive structure.
  2. 2 Introductions should clearly address the question, perhaps determining position of argument/discussion to follow.
  3. 3 Each paragraph should ideally begin with a topic sentence which addresses the question, evidence from the poem/s to support the point (with quotes embedded), and detailed analysis using appropriate technical terminology. Remember that feature spotting does not demonstrate any useful knowledge and understanding of a poem.
  4. 4 If relevant, contextual references to World War One or the poets can inform and develop points and comparative points with other war poems (from before and after) are often insightful.
  5. 5 A concise conclusion should make a final summary that directly addresses the question. Ensure all essays are proof-read to avoid errors.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 50
  • Peer Reviewed essays 7
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  5. 16
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen present different ideas about war in their poems, "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and "Dulce et Decorum est". Write about these poems and their effect on you.

    3 star(s)

    The final stanza is a message from the poet to "honour the Light Brigade" and not to forget what the six hundred men did. The poem has a constant rhyming pattern all the way through with words like "blundered", "hundred", "thundered" and "wondered" or "shell", "fell" and "well". Having this rhyming pattern throughout makes the poem seem to flow more easily and gives it a more prominent structure. It emulates the pace of the battle which was over in twenty minutes.

    • Word count: 973
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Compare the ways in which Owen, Brooke and the Sassoon portray WW1

    3 star(s)

    In contrast Brooke writes to men to men to encourage theme to enlist and join the war. "A pulse in the eternal mind" This suggests that Brooke believes the soldiers will always be remembered for fighting for England... Whereas Brooke has a patriotic and idealistic attitude, Sassoon and Owen have a stark hate towards war. "The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mon" We can see very clearly from this how Owen feels towards war. He doesn't see the point of going over to another country and fighting for a piece of land. Equally Sassoon feels the same.

    • Word count: 839
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Analysis of 'Strange Meeting' by Wilfred Owen.

    3 star(s)

    There's a small amount of dialogue used between the soul and the living soldier but the rest of the poem is a monologue, as soon as the spirit begins his speech, from 'save the undone years,'. The subject matter of the poem is to be found in this long speech, and the poet presents his views about the war very clearly in this. There is a consistent use of 10 syllables per line, and there is not a rhyme scheme for half the poem (and therefore half is a free verse poem).

    • Word count: 956
  4. Marked by a teacher

    A Comparison of the poem "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen and the song, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by Eric Bogle.

    3 star(s)

    He only thought about how smart the soldiers look while they salute and other such army etiquette ("For daggers in plaid socks; of smart solutes"), and how he would be marching amongst them. But the war changed him. In the present he is in hospital and is crippled by the war, "Legless, sewn short at elbow". He can no longer play football or party with the girls, "Now he will never feel again how slim girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands".

    • Word count: 980
  5. Marked by a teacher

    How Does Owen Use Nature To Convey His Feelings About War?

    3 star(s)

    Another thing that nature portrays is love and protection. Not all nature was used to portray pain. In Spring offensive, he uses several terms to portray love and protection; "And though the summer oozed into their veins Like an injected drug for their bodies' pains," This quote shows that that nature can be used to benefit the soldiers, by giving them strength to go on and fight. Nature can also benefit the soldiers, by giving them camouflage, and to protect them from harm, so that the German soldiers cannot see them.

    • Word count: 754
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Why was the World War One not over by Christmas 1914?

    3 star(s)

    The Schlieffen Plan was Germany's only plan for war. The idea was very simple and the Germans thought that it would work. The plan was that the Germans would declare war on Russia and the Russians would take six weeks to get their army ready. So the Germans thought that they had six weeks to go through Belgium to avoid the heavy French forces on the border of France and Germany. Then they would go through France and surround Paris and the Germans thought that without Paris the French would surrender and then the rest of the Germans would go to the Russians and fight them.

    • Word count: 970
  7. Marked by a teacher

    "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke: Language, theme and treatment of the subject matter

    3 star(s)

    At the beginning of the sonnet, the poet states that one should "think only this of me". The choice of the word "only" shows how the poet believes that the following is what is worth thinking about and that they should not bother about anything else concerning his death. This already shows how he ignores the fact about the cruelty of war and how he believes that personal loyalty to the country overrides everything else, even the losing of large numbers of young men's lives. In the next line, he writes about how, if he dies, there would be "some corner of a foreign field/ That is for ever England".

    • Word count: 586
  8. Marked by a teacher

    The differences and similarities between Wilfred Owens 'Dulce ET Decorum EST' and Julian Grenfells 'Into Battle'

    3 star(s)

    Therefore he feels that God is in favour of war, because God created nature and its laws and with animals in nature it's only the survival of the fittest to win, and Grenfell feels the same, which war is natures way of sorting out the strongest humans to survive. Throughout the second verse of Owens poem, he explains about someone's experience of being gassed. Owen goes into detail of how the gas has an immediate effect on the man, "but someone was still yelling out...

    • Word count: 963
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Suicide in the Trenches

    The boy is described as carefree with no worries and sees nothing bad in life; he was a normal boy. He is able to sleep with no worries in a "lonesome" place with no light or hope unaware that his life is to change dramatically.

    • Word count: 361
  10. Peer reviewed

    Dulce Et Decorum Est and The Soldier: A comparison

    5 star(s)

    This onomatopoeia is in keeping with the dark, bitter tone of the entire poem. Words such as "writhing", "sludge" and "trudge" all convey this sense of resentfulness from the poet. The negative comparisons used in the poem correspond with the tone. Lines such as "knock-kneed, coughing like hags", evoke this bitter tone. Another difference in Dulce Et Decorum Est is that it is a lot more emotive because of the realism and physicality: "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from froth corrupted lungs". It compels the reader to see through the eyes of the author, and although this cannot compare to the true horrors of war, it certainly does make the reader contemplate just how terrifying and devastating war is.

    • Word count: 967
  11. Free essay

    The worst injuries of war are emotional, not physical With reference to Disabled and Mental Cases to what extent do you agree?

    4 star(s)

    Henceforth, Disabled concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by omitting focus on the physical injuries whereas Mental Cases concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by centralising around the physical injuries. Therefore in both Mental Cases and Disabled it is not what is being said, but rather what is not being said that is most significant. Taking this in account, it is for this reason that Disabled establishes that the physical injuries of war are the worst as is not the emphasis of the emotional injuries, it is the lack of emphasis on the physical injuries that makes it so striking.

    • Word count: 852
  12. Peer reviewed

    Referring to several of the poems studied, show how Wilfred Owen uses language and imagery to communicate his attitudes of war.

    4 star(s)

    He also felt that the soldiers were treated like insignificant pawns in a game which they didn't know the rules to. Further he tried to attack the blind patriotism or jingoism, which is basically people who believe in the idea that their country and leaders are always right that they are happily willing to die for them. Owen highlights the horrific conditions in which the soldiers fought to show the futility of war. In the poem 'The Sentry' he describes the rain as "guttering down in waterfalls of slime", the use of the made up word of "guttering" to add huge emphasis to the extent of downpour through mimicking 'gutter'.

    • Word count: 822
  13. Peer reviewed

    When Wilfred Owen wrote the poem 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' his purpose was to warn us of the effects of war and how it can affect soldiers and their loved ones.

    3 star(s)

    The second quatrain contrast the sound of wailing shells with the sound a choir makes. I imagine that Owen tried to describe the wailing shells to be like the high voices in a choir, singing over the rest of the singers just like the wailing shells would block all the rest of the sounds on the battlefield. The octave ends with the word "shires" which leads us on to the sestet. The sestet is set at home and begins with the rhetorical question, "What candles may be held to speed them all?"

    • Word count: 940
  14. Explore the main ideas presented in Rouenby May Wedderburn Cannan. How effective is it in exploring ideas about the First World War? Consider the structure, imagery and language.

    Therefore we have first-hand evidence to use to compare and contrast against other poetry of the time. Wedderburn Cannan makes great use of nature and environment to describe and illustrate what she had experienced. She starts firstly by describing her transition to getting to Rouen and then speaks of all the young men with their "heart breaking mirth"; here she describes them as if they are all having fun and enjoying their comradeship. Thereafter she juxtaposes this idea with the "train full of wounded" who are being transported away due to the travesty presented thenceforth in Rouen.

    • Word count: 622
  15. Homecoming Analysis. Homecoming by Bruce Dawe illustrates and recounts the tragedies of the Vietnam War in an even-tempered, but negative tone.

    The tone at which it is spoken is relatively tedious and repetitive. Repetition is present to emphasise the dryness of the monotonous activities associated with war and homecoming. By example 'those they can find' which indicates the insignificance and the fact that it has developed into a routine practice, without a great deal of concern. 'They're', made use of at the beginning of five consecutive sentences highlights exactly this. Furthering this sense of repetition is how it shows little regard and at the same time presents the soldiers impersonally - without a reverent identification.

    • Word count: 932
  16. Consider ways in which Owen portrays his views of the importance of camaraderie in Apologia Pro Poemate Meo

    The importance of camaraderie is highlighted throughout apologia pro poemate meo, 'Merry it was to laugh there' shows that even though war is such a horrific place, the friendships between the men overcame this and made it enjoyable and 'merry'. The use of paradox is to show the juxtaposition of war and friendships: 'Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate. '. Here, Owens uses of sibilance, shows the soldier has found peace in the battlefield, which is absurd as shells are falling all around them, but again, it shows that the friendships made are so powerful, they make war seem less horrific as it is.

    • Word count: 944
  17. The poets in The Oxford Book of War Poetry emphasise their experiences, emotions and their opinions of war.

    War is an inhumane, shocking and terrifying act which can only be associated with horror. I feel that, poetry, to work must be created with emotion; all soldiers that fight in war have overwhelming amounts of emotion. Savageness, cruelty, love, pity are some that come with fighting on the battlefield. Wilfred Owen is quoted (in his preface) 'above all this book is not concerned with poetry, the subject of it is war, and the pity of war, the poetry is in the pity', therefore illustrating the sympathy and sadness caused by soldiers suffering.

    • Word count: 802
  18. How typical is England to Her Sons of the poems in this section of the anthology, Up the line to death. Personification is used in England to her Sons and Happy is England Now about England itself.

    It conjures u a motherly and maternal image of the Motherland towards the soldiers going out to fight. Moreover, it unites England and makes it seem everyone had a positive attitude towards the war when it is mentioned that "happy is England now as never yet", which implies that the whole of England is proud and glad that the soldiers are going to war. Happy is England Now projects a very strong and patriotic message of making sacrifices and protecting this picturesque England with "her hills, rivers and her chafing sea". It uses natural imagery to stir up a desire to protect the land where these soldiers were born and raised.

    • Word count: 649
  19. Dulce et Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth compared.

    The fact that "Anthem" is a sonnet, is ironic in that they are usually about love, and because it is actually about grief, it somewhat lulls the reader into a false sense of security, therefore making the poem more effective. Both poems seem to talk about the vile and painful conditions in war, "Dulce" using onomatopoeia in "trudge", giving the impression that war is truly appalling, immediately going against the common belief that it is a game from poems like "Who's for the game?".

    • Word count: 987
  20. Despite the popularity of these poems (In Flanders Fields, Break of day in the trenches and Dulce Et Decorum Est) the modern reader learns little from them. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    its natural beauty and how death is part of a cycle and also how the natural world still exists in the chaos and destruction of war which can also be linked with the Rat in 'break of day in the trenches'. The reader can also gain an insight into the a soldiers thoughts and feelings which can justify why they felt as if they had no option but to win and honour the dead who have already sacrificed their lives for the victory of their country.

    • Word count: 926
  21. Experience of Soldier in "Disabled" - Wilfred Owen

    An immediate implication is that the man has been left wounded from his experiences in war. This idea is reinforced later, when Owen writes "legless, sewn short at elbow." Both phrases depict images of an incapable and perhaps even powerless man, a vast and ironic contrast to the idea of power and capability largely associated with being a soldier. Additionally, "waiting for dark," is a phrase not dissimilar to the line "why sit they here in twilight?" from Mental Cases.

    • Word count: 639
  22. Free essay

    Landscape of War in "Exposure" - Wilfred Owen

    Owen wrote in the opening line of the poem "(...) the merciless iced east winds that knife us..." This line constructs an image of the harsh conditions of war whilst bringing in the theme of the collective suffering of soldiers. The phrase "(...) winds that knife us (...)" suggests that war has created adversaries out of nature and reinforces the idea of the futility of war, when nature as well as human forces oppose the soldiers. Owen also uses examples of pathetic fallacy in 'Exposure' such as "we only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy."

    • Word count: 677
  23. Consider ways in which the suffering of war, both physical and psychological, is presented in The Sentry

    This verse also helps the reader to imagine the frontline and the weapons used such as the "whizz bangs", artillery so called because of the sound they made, whilst also allowing war to sound like a game much like many of his contemporary wartime poets did too; of course here Owen is not using it for the same patriotic effect, much the opposite. The smell of the trenches are conveyed effectively, "murk of air remained stank old" along with the "rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime".

    • Word count: 705
  24. How does Wilfred Owen portray the horror of war in 'Dulce et Decorum est'?

    The use of words like 'haunting', 'distant', 'asleep', 'lame' and 'drunk' create a feeling of inevitable doom; 'knock-kneed', 'coughing', 'limped', 'blood-shod' and 'dropped' indicate ill health and disease. The theme of loss is also significant here; 'many had lost their boots', 'all blind', 'deaf even', connoting the loss of sense organs as well as property, the small comfort of simply having boots. Through the 'sludge' the men 'curse' those who were the cause of their suffering, the Germans, war, propaganda.

    • Word count: 858
  25. Commentary- Dulce Et Decorum Est

    The lines go on to highlight the physical effects of war with, 'Knock-kneed', which implies that the men have no strength and have become feeble and weak. Furthermore, the line continues with the simile of 'coughing like hags', which suggests to the reader the poor health the men were in. The second line finishes with, 'we cursed through the sludge'. Here, Owen uses the 'we', which indicates to the comradeship which the men have, and then the use of the hard 'c' sound in 'cursed' implies that they have a united hatred of the war, or at least their current situation.

    • Word count: 981

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent are the 'war' poems you have read protesting the wars they describe?

    "In conclusion, readers infer that all poems mentioned deal with the same theme and present the same moral. They deal with soldiers who have lost their lives as a result to the war, there deaths may not seem for a cause in all five poems. They contain a different historical context. Hardy portrays war as a wasteful event when he links himself to Jesus, who's death was meaningful. He shows readers how man neglects those in need and how nature plays the role of our mother, through both of his poems. Whitman, again visualilses death as waste yet he personally engages with the victim of the war. This contrast can be as a result of him 'nursing' the injured and dead during the time of the Civil War. He brings life to the dead and responds to them himself, whereas Hardy allows nature to respond to the dead making his poem impersonal. I personally think all poems are very effective due to the contrast between the style of the poets. They allow us to see the effects of war in which they lived through two different approaches. Mahmoud El Hazek English Coursework 04-02-03 Rough Draft Mr. A. Thirkell 1"

  • Wilfred Owen Poems - Discuss how Owen conveys the pity and horror of war in these two poems.

    "When I first found out in Mr. Spahr's class that we were going to do War poetry coursework I feared, I wouldn't admire Wilfred Owens's work as I don't really like war poetry as most writers/poets talk about the glory and honour of war, which I find foolish as I believe wars are a waste of life and money. However, Owen is indeed different he wrote to inform the ordinary person the, "Untold truth" of war and in his work he criticises the government too, who sent an entire generation to their doom. Furthermore, in his work unlike others, Owen makes you feel devastating pity for the soldiers involved in the war and this made me realise what an absolute genius Wilfred Owen really is."

  • Compare and contrast the work of Owen and Heller in their treatment of war.

    "The facetious nature of Catch 22 rather fittingly exemplifies Heller's resentment and rebellion towards conventional attitudes to war. In my opinion, to use General Peckem's words 'It never escaped his memory that neither black nor white was a colour' would to some extent help explain his motives for using humour in this novel. Heller uses humour as an attack against the established panorama of war. Peckems words evoke a subtle question, why should we observe the world in black and white and decide where things are and are not appropriate? Humour rebels against our subconscious extraction of its presence, fighting against the norm. Of course, If Owen where to adopt a similar humorous approach to his work, this would perhaps vanquish his objective to resist any poetic skill or effort. In the same way, Heller uses a character like Milo to 'paint' over the American ethos, Owen uses this technique to demonstrate how war has encroached the beauty of laughter. 'Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter'. Owen gives blood a kind of discomforting persona. It becomes the enemy that has taken over territory, pre-occupying the lungs."

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