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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. The impact of the Second World War for women was very high. Women had the chance to feel equal again, they felt they could talk their mind and have their say in most things.

    If you were a women You could be a lookout on the homefront for enemy planes. Also on the homefront, you could do things like work in Victory Gardens. Often women went to work in the factories. You could also be a nurse. That was a very hard and scary job. You had a high chance of being hurt because you went where the fighting was. Uniforms for women helping out during World War II weren't only needed, they also gave the women wearing them pride. The Women's Land Army was made up of women who milked, took care of livestock, and drove tractors.

    • Word count: 521
  2. Poetry coursework - "Vultures" and "What Were They Like?"

    Their feathers are described as "gross," indicating that they are ratty and rotten. The description of the appearance of the vultures makes us feel abhorrent. The vulture, "picked the eyes of a swollen corpse," they are evil birds that look ugly, do ugly things and live in an ugly place. They are vile, menacing, violent creatures. Despite the vulture's vile appearance and aggressive behaviour, he has found a mate and reciprocal love, "nestled close to his mate." The poet relates the vulture's relationship to a human one, suggesting that even the most repulsive creatures have the capacity to love; I the same way the most attractive person has evil in them.

    • Word count: 2550
  3. Throughout Friel's play 'Translations', the importance of identity is explored and is a major theme of the story. There are two types of identity presented, one being the character's and their realisation of how important it is to them

    From this converse, it is clear that Yolland knows the importance of identity that the inhabitants have with Baile Beag whereas Owen learns this the hard way later on in the play. It is maybe Yolland's appreciation of the country and his longing to be part of it, that makes his opinion closer to the Irish point of view. Friel's presentation of Owen persists that, 'Owen And we're taking place - names that are riddled with confusion and... Yolland Who's confused?

    • Word count: 1031
  4. GCSE War Poetry Essay Is it Sweet and Fitting to die for your country? War begins with everybody caught up

    The final message conveyed in 'The Drum' is how the government's attempt to cover up the atrociousness and how horrendous the reality of war has on these innocent lives. 'Dulce et Decorum est' is just point after point filled with horrific details of war to get the best effect of the poem. The title 'Dulce et Decorum est' meaning 'it is sweet and proper to die for your country' is the complete antithesis of the reality of war; instead he is opposed to all those in favour of war and mocks them with bitter ironic satire.

    • Word count: 3036
  5. Write a comparison of the ways Wilfred Owen and John Scott present ideas about slaughter and sacrifice, how far do you agree with the view that Scott's poem is more effective than Owens in communicating its message?

    This instrument is used for the historical march of the soldiers. Which in this case is confusing to the men. As they are 'parading round, and round'. This gives a sense of never ending war. Each day the men follow the same routine until it is there turn to face the enemy in battle. Owen immediately challenges the positive connotation of the send off in the first line. Our first image is of "close darkening lanes". This has two meanings; the first meaning is the lanes fatefully enclose the soldiers in their closeness, they cannot turn back, the second meaning is that "darkening" is emphasized as a metaphor of the soldier's dark destiny to which their farewell is sending them and that is to be killed in war.

    • Word count: 1318
  6. Explore the theme of war in these three post 1914 poems

    As in the English army poster of a giant ape towering over London holding a women. The Hero is a contradictory title for the 1st poem as it is about a coward. This character shamed his nation but when the officer was sent to report the death to his mother he tells a little white lie. He conceals the truth by telling some 'gallant lies' to ease her pain a little. The poets perspective is one of disgust he calls Jack 'Cold footed' To speak of someone like that when they have just been killed is very disrespectful.

    • Word count: 1104
  7. In this essay I will be comparing the way that Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen portray the war in 'The Rear Guard' and 'Strange Meeting'. I will be writing

    I think that both of these poems are quite similar. For example; both of the poems the men meet dead people who they called ' sleepers'. This means that both of the men are dead and are lying there on the floor as if they are asleep. Another similarity in both the poems is that they are set in a tunnel. The tunnel is used as a metaphor for hell: "uploading hell behind him..." the tunnel is compared to hell because it means dying and being dead as that is what both the men found inside the tunnel.

    • Word count: 1345
  8. 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen and 'War Grave' by Mary Stewart are two poems on the subject of war. There are similarities between the two poems as well as differences in how they both treat the subject of war.

    Whereas the second stanzas contain information about the people left at home who love and miss the soldiers. As a reader I feel that the structure is very effective as it shows the reader how different each circumstance is and how the soldiers are just not being cared for, and the people at home do not seem to realise. In the first stanza of both poems the soldiers are depersonalised. Owen does this by referring to the soldiers as 'those' or 'their'.

    • Word count: 1087
  9. Wilfred Owen's poem, "Dulce et Decorum est",

    It is the destruction but yet the mockery of old men in suits looking down at a war map deciding which young man will set out first to be the target of death. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country) is the lie that Wilfred Owen so honorably is set out to destroy in his poem "Dulce et Decorum est." When it comes to war, the governing estates wish to get as many soldiers to show up to a war as possible; by presenting such a Service Mark as the

    • Word count: 946
  10. Both authors of these extracts present differing attitudes towards the subject of war through each of their texts; Shakespeare in 'King Henry the Fifth', and Sassoon in 'The Hero'. This is supported by the manners

    Conversely, Siegfried Sassoon was a World War One Poet, who became embittered and extremely cynical about the war as his involvement in it continued. As a result of his cynicism towards the war, Sassoon composed poems with a purpose to bring home the harsh, unruly truth about what life was like for soldiers throughout the war. His cynicism was fuelled largely by his knowledge that people on the home front were being fed lies about the supposed gallantry earned by fighting in the war, without learning of the brutal reality of the conditions lived in by soldiers, or how they may die.

    • Word count: 1124
  11. All Quiet on the Western Front' is a Powerful Anti-War Novel. Identify Some of the Features Which Give it Impact

    They experience many disasters and tragedies along the way, and many of them die along the way. They grow closer together and become almost like brothers. One of the main aspects of the novel that gives impact is the horrors of the war. War is a horrendous thing for anyone to have to go through. It was extremely frightening for anyone who experienced it. There were a huge number of deaths and horrific injuries. Of the five initial friends, Kemmerich was the first to die: 'We are by Kemmerich's bed. He is dead. The face is still wet from the tears.

    • Word count: 2634
  12. In all of his poems Wilfred Owen uses powerful language to portray the extreme suffering which soldiers underwent. He also uses a variety of poetic techniques which helps communication with the reader and holds them in suspense.

    Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling" The poem goes on to describe a soldier dying in the gas attack. Here the poem becomes personal to the narrator. The poem describes how Owen saw the man 'drown' in the gas through the glass of his mask. His use of 'I' engulfs the reader and makes the poem feel personal and realistic. There is strong imagery of the gas filling the area, choking, drowning and killing everyone in its path.

    • Word count: 1208
  13. For what purposes does Pope include the machinery and say how far you think they influence character and events. Pope's protagonist is protected and guided by tiny fragile sylphs, who are portrayed throughout the poem

    to criticise Belinda's character in a subtle matter and indirectly, he is able to satirise Belinda's world and even society of the time. The sylphs are also a device to convey the character of the 'coquette' in the first canto. This is achieved indirectly through the characteristics of the sylphs rather than Belinda herself. The priorities for women of Belinda's social class are social ones. Women's 'toy is gilded chariots' indicates an obsession with pomp and superficial splendour, whilst the love of ombre suggests frivolity.

    • Word count: 1302
  14. How does Steven Spielberg make the opening battle scene to Saving Private Ryan both shocking and realistic?

    When we see this leader of men as nervous as everyone else, shown by his shaky hand, it gives us a real insight into how terrifying the war must have been. Thousands appear to be dying everywhere and a significant sense of realism is accomplished. Proxemics are an important way in which Spielberg sets the scene and creates an atmosphere; approaching the beach in the boats as men spew up sick from rattled nerves, the men are very close together which illustrates the sheer number of men who are about to attack, but as soon as they actually get on

    • Word count: 1574
  15. However, 'The Drum' does demonstrate an extremely similar view of war to that conveyed by Owen in 'The Send-off'. Both depict strong anti-war attitudes, presenting their respective ideas about the wasteful sacrifice

    This view of Owen's that developed throughout his time in the War is clearly illustrated through 'The Send-off'. John Scott composed his poem, 'The Drum', in 1782, over a century prior to the commencement of the First World War. Therefore, Scott's view was not manipulated, as Owen's was, by his own personal experience of the First World War. However, 'The Drum' does demonstrate an extremely similar view of war to that conveyed by Owen in 'The Send-off'. Both depict strong anti-war attitudes, presenting their respective ideas about the wasteful sacrifice and carnage of war, thus demonstrating that such views were common, not simply due to one particular war, but the act of War in general, and hence transcend centuries.

    • Word count: 1569
  16. What was life like in the trenches? The First World War was the first industrialised conflict; it is also associated more than anything else for trench warfare. Trenches were used because the speed and power of the larger weapons,

    "The real test was the barrage. Some hid their heads in their great-coats. Some wept; others joked hysterically. But all shock and crawled, white-faced in dull endurance. "How long? How long?" men would ask themselves again and again. Men had no choice but to last out, nerves pared to the bone". Another weapon used was gas. Usually chloride or mustard, which made men who inhaled it cough up their burnt up lungs in clots. It was helpless to attempt to save them. Gas was first used by the Germans during an attack on Ypres during 1915.

    • Word count: 918
  17. What is the Significance of the prisoner in'The Long The Short and The Tall?" "The Long the Short and the Tall" is a play set in the Second World War, 1942, in the humid Malayan tropical jungle.

    This brings out the character of each of the soldiers as the heated argument of life and death carries on and the tension grows. In my opinion the prisoner has a huge significance in the play and has a large effect on all of the characters. All of the characters approach the prisoner in different ways and have conflicting views about him. Private Bamforth is probably one of the most important characters in the book. He is intensely sceptical about war and about the British army.

    • Word count: 1947
  18. Write a newspaper film review analysing how Steven Spielberg makes the cinema audience ''regard the pain of others''. In the Omaha Beach sequence at the beginning of 'Saving Private Ryan'.

    Spielberg spares the viewer nothing of the horrors of battle, using unbelievable images to display the utter chaos and senselessness that any soldier will encounter in an engagement with the enemy. Spielberg presents us with graphic scenes of Omaha Beach, the sequence is random, unstructured and subject to sheer chaos made all the more effective to the emotion on screen. Spielberg's portrayal of war on camera is outstanding, Spielberg also uses other methods to capture his sense of war, hand held camera's, a slight speeding up of images and also slowing up of images to show complete bewilderment the soldiers have to go through in the heat of battle.

    • Word count: 1856
  19. How does the poetry of the First World War reflectThe changing mood as the war progressed?

    So Britain declared war on Germany later that day. As a final response to Franz Ferdinand's assassination Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on the 5th August. So within a week a massive world war had broken out due to one man's death. The British public were pretty enthusiastic at the idea of the whole thing and were very excited about the prospect of fighting for their country. Many young men saw it as an adventure, an experience that would only come up once in their lifetime.

    • Word count: 2624
  20. In this story "The Things They Carried," author Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam Veteran, gives a glimpse of the internal turmoil that soldiers face in warfare. His experience in this war allows him to convey realistic situations

    It is also editorial omniscience in that the narrator dictates the story but also places judgments upon the characters. The narrator's method of introducing characters is where editorial omniscience occurs. Each introduction accompanies some sort of judgment. For instance, in Henry Dobbins introduction he is categorized as "a big man"(524). This description is evidence that judgment exist as a tool for descriptions of the characters in this story. The references to body types and the physical things carried by these men shows the narrator's judgments. The narrator also uses selective omniscience by entering the mind of Lt. Cross, as well as fellow soldier Kiowa.

    • Word count: 1451
  21. Explore the portrayal of war in Lord Byron's 'The Destruction of Sennacherib', Alfred Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' and Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce Et Decorum Est.'

    which symbolise the cities in Judea picking them off one by one. He also uses the colours 'purple and gold' in his description of the army, these are bold confident strong colours symbolising victory. There is also the use so alliteration 'and the sheen of there spears was like stars on the sea' these emphasise the strength of the army as you tend to say these words stronger. The second verse begins with the army still strong and dominant. 'Summer is green' is a happy metaphor showing the emotions of the army that they re confident that they can defeat Jerusalem.

    • Word count: 2537
  22. "Anthem for Doomed Youth"

    Throughout the poem, Owen provides highly emotive language to convey the idea of war's brutality. Predominantly, the octet of the poem offers a merciless impression to the reality of the battlefields: "-Only the monstrous anger of the guns." (Octet line 2) These words are particularly effective as it largely contrasts with society's belief of how a civilised culture commemorates its dead. "monster" reinforces this idea of viciousness and the lack of mercy shown on a battlefield creating a deep emotional response from the reader as this is not how we as a civilised community imagine society to function.

    • Word count: 851
  23. "Compare two poems that show what the soldiers lives were really like at war". Recruiting and The Bohemians

    In comparison to this, "Recruiting" shows what the soldiers lives were really like through the type of language and tone that it uses. For example in "Recruiting" it expresses sympathy, "More poor devils like yourselves". This illustrates that the soldiers are battling in hell and therefore they are the devils. The sympathetic tone comes from the flow of the word more to poor which gives a slight emphasis on both of these word, representing more soldiers going out to war.

    • Word count: 915
  24. "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen

    Owen portrays the soldiers as unhealthy animals as he dehumanises them by referring to them as "beggars" and "hags". Although once belonging to the most disciplined and clean-cut of armies, "beggars" suggests the men are now desperate and tatty, "coughing like hags" is further used to highlight their unhealthiness and reveal their once young and fit bodies as old and tired. As a gas attack surprises the exhausted soldiers, Owen creates a dramatic scene in which the men push themselves to the limit to fix their helmets. Using highly dramatic punctuation and word choice, Owen exposes the shock and urgency the soldiers experience: "GAS!

    • Word count: 833
  25. A Comparison of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Tennyson with "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

    Wilfred Owen begins in his first stanza to describe the sheer exhaustion of the marching soldiers. He uses alliteration 'knock-kneed' to describe the soldiers, the hardness of the sound reflects the harshness of the situation. He also uses similies to portray the tired state of the soldiers, they are like 'old beggars' and 'hags'. Which is not your stereotypical view of a soldier. You would expect a soldier to be an upright, smartly dressed man, not 'bent double' and 'under sacks'.

    • Word count: 1490

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