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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. Regeneration - The Horror of Pity and War

    Barker is keen to point out that she did not wish to write about trench warfare pretending her narrator was already there; (she calls this a' psuedo - combatant novel') therefore Dr Rivers gives her a perfect vehicle - he treated the wounded officers at Craiglockhart and hears about the horrors they endured by talking to them. On the other hand, Owen did experience trench warfare, (he was killed in battle a week before the Armistice) and is perfectly qualified to write about the frontline.

    • Word count: 2809
  2. A comparison of 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' and 'Exposure' by Wilfred Owen, showing how his poetry relates to the literary tradition of war poetry.

    They wrote about war realistically. They wrote from personal experience. They include horrific details of death and injury. They also criticized those who were running the war. Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 into a middle-class family. His family came under financial difficulties and his education was stunted. Nether the less his ability of poetry writing grew fuelled by his reading of romantics. In his twenties he went through life going from one badly paid job to another. During this time he had little spare time to concentrate on writing poetry.

    • Word count: 2363
  3. Carlo was fighting for Italy, while Mandras was in the Greek army. Both of the characters experienced a lot during the war. Nevertheless everything

    Carlo was fighting for Italy, while Mandras was in the Greek army. Both of the characters experienced a lot during the war. Nevertheless everything that has happened to them is very similar. First of all, both of the characters had a completely wrong impression of what war is like. They both believed that it was something glorious, something worthwhile. Carlo wanted to join the army and experience war, because he wanted to be close to men. "I would find someone to love, and I would be ennobled by this love. I would not desert him [...] he would make me an inspired hero.

    • Word count: 2345

    Rupert Brooke Brooke was born in 1887 at Rugby where his father was a housemaster. One of the many ironies of the war is that Rupert Brooke is remembered as a war poet because his actual war experience consisted of one day of limited military action with the Hood Battalion during the evacuation of Antwerp. He was already a promising young poet when Britain entered the war the day after his 27th birthday. Unfortunately, the publication of his 'war sonnets' coincided with his pre-war death, on Easter Sunday, 1915.

    • Word count: 2780
  5. This essay will compare and contrast the portrayal and warfare in four of the poems studied

    If people had reailsed the true extent and the horrors of what was actually happening, morale would have been severely detrimentally affected. These poems were created by the thoughts and feelings expressed by soldiers at battle. Propaganda was partially to blame for the young lives that were stolen by the war, because it encouraged men to actively volunteer for the dream of taking the empire to victory and in return recieve the pride of serving their country. Propaganda was engineered to give citizens a false impression/ illusion of positivity about the events that were truely making history horrifically, and consistently sent a message of fortitude and unity to the enemy.

    • Word count: 2905
  6. The war was fought by men on foot, in a flat open country that gave no shelter from enemy fire

    No one shot at each others toilets, in case the others did the same back. Since most soldiers in the sectors wanted to stay alive, they were left to themselves. If the men on the other trench weren't trying to kill them ,why should they kill them? The phrase "live and let live" was first used in the summer of 1915. "Live and let live" drove the generals crazy, but there was so much that they could do about it. What was life like in the trenches? Life in the trenches was a nightmare on its own.

    • Word count: 2281
  7. A comparison of "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen and "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by WB Yeats

    He was so badly affected that he was diagnosed with shell shock and sent to hospital in Edinburgh. These horrific scenes caused Owen to write such gruesome yet realistic compositions. Like Yeats' poem, "Anthem for doomed youth" is also a criticism only this time it is a criticism of how the young soldiers who die at war do not get the recognition or heroic funeral that they so deserve. He tries to show in his poem that war is futile because of the high loss of life.

    • Word count: 2513
  8. Propaganda, Recruitment and Resistance: The Home Front 1914-1918

    Women, older men (who had fought in civil wars before them) pressured young men who had not enlisted, also their friends, and relatives were joining. In theatres, actresses interrupted performances to call men up onto the stage and sign up. Those men who were watching the play felt embarrassed, also as if everyone was watching them and urging them to sign up. The Government encouraged this in homes, and although it was an illegitimate way of getting men to join, it was very useful, and many of those who were put under such pressure, crumbled and enlisted.

    • Word count: 2618
  9. Examine the different ways in which D-day landing at Omaha Beach is depicted in 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'The Longest Day'

    He is shown walking across a war cemetery with white crosses then falling in front of a particular grave. This portrays how, even after 50 years after the war, the memories are still painful and affecting him. The camera pans across the cemetery showing the immense crosses from many angles showing the enormity of death caused by war, including graves of the Star of David, to show war affects all races too. No dialect is used in the opening scenes as the visual images speak for themselves. The opening scenes from 'The Longest Day' is similar in its slow start, beginning with a close up of a helmet on a beach, accompanied by Beethoven 5th, which as its used as Morse code for victory, gives a patriotic sense immediately.

    • Word count: 2129
  10. 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.

    The poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade,' tells the story of how one man in their cavalry, The Commander, made a huge mistake by charging them towards the Russian Army. This is depicted when the poet says: 'Into the valley of death.' This implies that the army on the other side of the valley were so great; the cavalry didn't have any hope of beating them. Ironically, they won the battle. In the fourth stanza, he evokes the image of the soldiers in mid battle and describes how they flashed their sabres bare.'

    • Word count: 2321
  11. Compare and contrast two media representations of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

    "Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die. The two different pieces of media portray the event in very different ways. Partly due to the fact they were made over 100 years apart. In this time what was sociably acceptable had changed drastically. The film was made when society was much more willing to hear critcism of their country more prepared to accept a true portrayal of the real life situation. Richardson is playing to the audience's emotions to invoke hatred at the incompetence and patronising attitude of the generals.

    • Word count: 2216
  12. Explore the portrayal of war in Lord Byron's 'The Destruction of Sennacherib', Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' and Tennyson's 'The Charge of The Light Brigade'.

    The poem is written about a story in the bible describing how the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) invaded Judea planned to destroy Jerusalem. It talks about how the king who praised the one real god was rewarded for being faithful in his darkest hour. The first stanza describes the power Assyrian army, by using vibrant colours "Purple and Gold". By using the vibrant and victorious colours, he shows his view on war as victorious. He goes on to compare their "spears to stars on the sea" - in a romantic way. This shows how Byron views war in a beautiful and romantic way.

    • Word count: 2358
  13. Compare and contrast the attitudes to the First World War in the poetry you have read. Focus in detail on four poems, two of which should be by the same author.

    Brooke describes his death in 'The Soldier'. He talks about how he is not scared of dying; describing the way in which he will rest in peace "under an English heaven." Rupert Brooke sees England as idyllic and tranquil and talks about his love for his motherland. Brooke feels by fighting for England he is giving something back. Brooke uses many language techniques to portray his feelings. He uses repetition of the word "England" to show his patriotism. He refers to the English country as a female; "Gave once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam" This makes highly effective use of personification.

    • Word count: 2633
  14. Compare the Presentation of Attitudes towards the War in 'Regeneration' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front'

    It sets out to portray war as it was actually experienced, replacing romanticized versions in preceding novels, with a decidedly unromantic vision of fear, meaninglessness, and butchery. World War 1 completely altered mankind's conception of military conflict with its catastrophic levels of carnage and violence, its battles that lasted for months, and its gruesome new technological advancements (e.g., machine guns, poison gas) that made killing easier and more impersonal than ever before. Remarque's novel dramatizes these aspects of World War 1 and portrays the mind-numbing terror and savagery of war with a relentless focus on the physical and psychological damage that it occasions.

    • Word count: 2547
  15. A comparison of how the War psychologically changes Barton in Strange Meeting and Prior in Regeneration.

    He is one of the many soldiers from WWI who is torn between two desires. On the one hand, he wants to recover, enabling him to return to France as soon as possible, proving himself as a soldier as well as a man. However, he still has a selfish side that wants to save his own life, ensuring he is safe both mentally and physically, as did many of the soldiers. Whereas Barker has chosen to focus on the recovery of the patients Hill has tackled the more daunting subject of life in the trenches and uses vivid descriptions to

    • Word count: 2592
  16. Compare and Contrast the Relationship between Men in the Novels: 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks and 'Regeneration' by Pat Barker

    These accounts of combat naturally set up a relationship between the characters primarily, as they can relate with each other about their collective struggle for freedom. In contrast with Barker's 'Regeneration' Rivers who is unable to relate to the struggles of combat because he never partakes in the front line. This leads to two very different types of relationships becoming evident in the two novels: 'doctor/patient' relationships ('Regeneration') and 'military' relationships ('Birdsong'). The first relationship that I propose to focus on is that of Rivers and Prior in the novel 'Regeneration'.

    • Word count: 2305
  17. War And Stuff - An alternative approach to war literature

    How to start I suppose the best advice is to start by reading through what I've written in this guide and then approaching your preparation in a way you are comfortable with, even if that's doing nothing until next year (some people work better under pressure). I'm certainly unlikely to dash down to the Chelmsford library and leaf through every piece of war literature ever written. It's probably best to be selective in your reading, as you don't want to spend forever on one exam and you are more likely to have success with selected pieces rather than an information overload.

    • Word count: 2514
  18. Journey's End

    The shifts in tone express the emotions that the characters are feeling. The dramatisation is demonstrated in the play, through the dialogue, to illustrate the negativity of war. The characters use negative words such as "FIND NEG. WORDS" displaying the feelings towards this type of warfare, pointless and negative. The language used makes the audience pity the characters and forget the war. Raleigh's language is shorter than that of the other characters who have experienced the polluted conditions and true horrors of war. "FIND QUOTE of Raleigh's speech" Their dialogue rambles on as though they are older people looking back on life.

    • Word count: 2421
  19. "The First World War poets were able to affect the emotions of their readers. Choose two or more poems that have affected you in some way, and analyse how the poets have achieved this affect."

    While one will use perhaps horrific detail, another will use a milder and gentler method. In answer to the essay title, I will show which techniques Owen uses in each poem and how they move the reader. The first poem I will look at is 'Spring Offensive'. We can see from the title that Owen may talk about conflict as 'offensive' suggests. The opening line is one of sadness and imminent death, 'Halted against the shade of a last hill'.

    • Word count: 2109
  20. Compare and contrast the writers' attitudes to war in three poems of your choice.

    Like Owen, Sassoon experienced war, and if affected his family greatly. Early in the war Sassoon's brother Hamo was mortally wounded at Gallipoli. Sassoon punished himself for his brother's death by involving himself in brave, sometimes suicidal deeds against the Germans. A short leave from the front helped to calm him and later as the war dragged on, he experienced a sense of hatred towards war. This attitude works its way into his poetry. During a spell of convalescence, in which he was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, he met and befriended the poet Wilfred Owen who was being treated for the same illness.

    • Word count: 2235
  21. Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon both were brave officers in the war. Neither was pressurised to join the fronts but volunteered.

    The poems I have chosen to compare are 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen and 'Memorial Tablet' by Siegfried Sassoon. This is because these two poems interested me the most out of the four we discussed as a group. The first poem I am going to look at is 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. This poem is the best-known poem of the First World War and was written to his mother from Craiglockhart. The title 'Dulce et Decorum Est' are the first words of a Latin saying.

    • Word count: 2035
  22. Compare the ways in which poets memorably convey their feelings about war and soldiers in three of the following poems : Dulce et Decorum Est (Owen), The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson), Vitai Lampada (Newbolt), The Man he Killed (Hardy).

    I think by that Owen was trying to say that there were many ill soldiers, and they still had to go on. There is also a metaphor in this stanza, "Men marched asleep", this is a strong and effective phrase. Using that metaphor, Owen was basically tipping off just how tired they were, as if the soldiers could only just stay asleep. The rythm of the first stanza gives a slow, exhausted effect to the poem, Owen used the words cleverly to create jsut the tight rythm.

    • Word count: 2738
  23. Compare and contrast the techniques employed in portraying the horror of war in Regeneration and Journey's End.

    Barker utilises the factual document to validate the anti-war stance of the novel. Sassoon has found that the horror of war has lead to the disintegration of his men and has morale shattering qualities stating, "I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust." As a man, we later learn, who has won the Military cross, we come to realise that he is certainly no coward, and his reasons for his declaration are valid and just.

    • Word count: 2227
  24. Was Canadian conscription in World War I justified?

    B. Summary of Evidence Arguments for Conscription The arguments for conscription mainly concern the fact that Borden wanted Canada to appear as a strong united country that was capable of holding her own in battle.i As World War I dragged on, Canada's volunteer recruitment program was failing. Fewer people were volunteering, and Borden's promise of 500 000 men was beginning to look outrageous. Not wanting to appear weak, Borden decided his only option was conscription. To justify this, he said that Canada would finally be considered an autonomous state when the world saw the power of her army.ii Borden also justified

    • Word count: 2272
  25. A comparison of Wilfred Owens 'Disabled' and 'Exposure'

    the soldiers were exhausted from waiting for something to happen, while the cold winter winds were slowly exhausting them. 'Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn', the shouts of the boys in the park depress the disabled boy, as he used to be one of them, in the alternative way 'Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous', the soldiers make some noise as it is so quiet, albeit it is still disappointing as they are bored, on the contrary wake as 'the night is silent'.

    • Word count: 2097

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