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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.

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  1. Medicine Sources Question

    It tells us that there were many issues to the success of the discovery. The issues include chance, war and printing. It also shows how he thought that the oil and the cautery did actually work. The written source shows that the war was a great help for the discovery. He was working on the battlefield so he could try his new discovery on the patients of the war. Without him running out of oil on the battle field Pare would not have had to make up the remedy of egg yolks, oil of roses and turpentine.

    • Word count: 807
  2. “Charge of the Light Brigade” written by Alfred Tennyson and “Dulce et Decorum est” written by Wilfred Owen.

    In stanza two Tennyson makes a reference to the mistake, "someone had blundered". It's like everyone realised that there had been a mistake. In the lines "Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die", he is stating how the soldiers had to do exactly what they were told, even know some of them realized there was a mistake, they weren't allowed to ask questions. In stanza three you start to get a feeling of what it was like. "Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them".

    • Word count: 920
  3. War in the Air

    Later in 1915 a man called Anthony Fokker a Dutch designer working for Germany designed a machine gun timed to fire between the airplane's propellers. The invention made air combat more deadly and lead to dogfights which was clashes with enemy aircraft.

    • Word count: 384
  4. World War One Sources Questions

    Is source C more reliable than source E as evidence about how enthusiastic women were to support the war effort in the first world war? Source C is written with hindsight , when this was written in 1994 it is likely that the truth is more easily accessible than it would have been during the war when things were highly censored. This is written upon the account of somebody who actually witnessed these events and as far as we know had no reason to lie.

    • Word count: 792
  5. Slaughterhouse-Five.

    As a Tralfamadorian says to Billy of the Tralfamadorian test pilot who destroys the universe at the press of a button, "He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way," (149). This acquiescence to the inevitability of events illustrates how society "Ignore[s] the awful times, and concentrate[s] on the good ones," (150) - just like the Tralfamadorians. Vonnegut as an author and societal commentator relies on the negative reaction of the reader to this simple acceptance of war and destruction to convey his theme.

    • Word count: 665
  6. How would you describe Owens perception on religion based on "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Futility"?

    ?Until? the soldier was killed on this ?morning? and this ?snow?. The word ?morning? sounds like ?mourning? creating a sad imagery and ?snow? which suggests the cold, the opposite of warmth, the devil. Although the soldier?s life was already taken he still had faith in god, he believed there ?might? be a possibility that the sun, the god could bring life from dead again. Moving on the second stanza, the change of tone is very obvious. This is suggested through the demanding word ?think?.

    • Word count: 914
  7. In the elegy "strange Meeting ", Owen brings the horrors of wars and their devastating effect on those involved, he emphasizes their part in hindering the world from progress

    Owen says that common words associated with wars like chivalry , courage and gallantry do not describe wars, not really, instead war is pain , sorrow and loss . He emphasizes on the destructiveness of wars to those involved . He says " yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned " , so they are " encumbered " physically with their uniforms and sacks and emotionally with too much sadness and sorrow brought to them by war . Those sleepers are " too fast in thought or death " to be stirred .

    • Word count: 993
  8. How does Thomas present war in "As the Team's Head Brass"

    was killed on the night of the blizzard reinforces this allusion, and he uses words that are normally associated with dead combatants, such as ?fallen? to reinforce this idea. ?By a woodpeckers round hole? this could be interpreted as a bullet wound adding to the interpretation that the elm tree represents a dead soldier, also the way he specifically mentions that it?s a woodpecker hole, instead of just a normal hole could be a reference to machine guns, which were said to sound like woodpeckers.

    • Word count: 841
  9. In the poem Dulce et Decorum Est Owen effectively discusses the true sadness and horror about war

    The word choice of 'dreams' highlights the irony in this quote where even a scene as horrifying as this, is still incomparable to other encounters that he would qualify as nightmares. This idea is further explored in the inclusive language ?If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come? from the froth-corrupted lungs? the inclusive language and truncated sentence shocks the readers with horrifying depiction of a gas attack. The tone of reflection and horror emphasises the traumatic experience of the soldier and how he will always be haunted by it.

    • Word count: 890
  10. "Attack" by Sassoon critical analysis

    ?Attack? is a short poem of 13 lines and only one stanza written in speech rhythm with some rhyme. The detach structure of the poem represents mankind losing direction and righteousness inn life in times of war. The poet adopt a calm yet emotional tone on serious and agonising subject as shown bye the words: ?make it stop.? The poem begins with time and ends with reference to Jesus, who western time is centred around. This implies end of humanity. The caesura in ?the barrage roars and lifts.? Contrasts with the enjambment that is found throughout the poem. The language used creates effectives images in the poem.

    • Word count: 591

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