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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. 'A Comparison Of Differing Views/Attitudes To War With Reference To Regeneration, Strange Meeting, Selected Poetry and A Journeys End'

    Some poems were a device to raise the morale of young men to encourage them to go to war. In Jessie Pope's, 'Who's For The Game', the fact that she is a women emphasises the reason to go to war. Pope personifies the country as a 'She', which vaguely gives the image of a man impressing a woman. 'And she's looking and calling for you' Pope has created an extremely lighthearted poem, which can't be taken seriously at all, as she refers to the war as being a 'game'.

    • Word count: 3088
  2. 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
  3. Mein Urlaub im Frankreich

    Sie hat acht Stunden gedauert. Die villa hat ein Schwimmbad gegeben aber das wasser war immer kalt. Unsere Nachbarn waren sehr nett und freundlich. Die Villa hat vier zimmer. Meine Zimmer hat eine Duschen. Die Duschen waren sehr sauber aber das wasser war nur lauwarm. Am erstern Tag haben haben wir einem stadt. Das wetter war sonnig und warm. Ich habe Andenken f�r meine Freunde Giverny hei�t, und einen Poster f�r mich gekauft.

    • Word count: 343
  4. Why is it so difficult to know what soldiers thought? About life on the Western Front

    already beaten France once in a different battle so in a way they were very excited about the war because now they would have a chance to get revenge on Germany for beating them in the other battle. So the French weren't very happy when it came to the Germans their attitudes would be quite rude. The British were also quite unfair because they and the French made short films to persuade people to sign up for the war. These films would usually show a German beating a British solsier, a baby and their mother.

    • Word count: 3587
  5. 'Fools rush into my head, and so I write' (Satire II.i, l.4). Discuss the role of satire in the work of Pope and Swift.

    A reasonable definition of satire, then, is a literary manner which blends a critical attitude with humour and wit to the end that human institutions or humanity may be improved. The best satire does not seek to do harm or damage by its ridicule but rather it seeks to create a shock of recognition and to make vice repulsive so that the vice will be expunged from the person or society under attack or from the person or society intended to benefit by the attack.

    • Word count: 4264
  6. Comparing and Contrasting the two poems:"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" by WB Yeats and "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen

    He did not see any meaning or point in the past, future or present and saw it all as a "waste of breath". Wilfred Owen however is against war for a different reason: the needless deaths that are inevitably going to take place. He was a soldier in the Manchester regiment in World War 1 and had experienced the horrors of trenches first hand. After going through the traumas many soldiers in war experience (injuries, shell shock) he was sent to a hospital in Edinburgh where he met another poet - Siegfried Sassoon - and was greatly influenced by him on his view of life.

    • Word count: 1788
  7. Analyse Break of Day in the Trenches.

    The second incorporates striking colours in it which corresponds to the colour imagery of the poppy. And the last describes the conditions of the ship that the author was travelling in. Break of Day in the Trenches is a poem containing many of the pastoral elements that were written about a great deal during the World War. This was thought was because the soldiers were living in the pastoral elements themselves and thought that they were closer to nature than they have ever been before (living with mud and rats etc.). The opening of the poem, "The darkness crumbles away," contains the normal image of morning which is close to 'normal pastoral mode' (Fussell).

    • Word count: 1105
  8. 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
  9. Love & War Poems.

    I wanna be yours is similar to Valentine as it again uses bizarre examples to show his love for her, although it does have a very strong rhythm and is extremely optimistic and makes me laugh just like Valentine it is silly but has meaning to it. I am very bothered is also a love poem, but does not use the same techniques as the other two love poems do.

    • Word count: 539
  10. How far does Wilfred Owen's poetry convey the realities of war? Discuss three or four poems you have studied.

    This is to create the image of the soldiers gaunt and starving and in need of help. The pace of the first stanza is slow and Wilfred Owen uses a caesura, which is a pause to reflect the slowness of the soldiers walking. The words 'sludge', 'trudge' and 'fatigue' also simulate a very slow pace. 'Bent double, like old beggars' and 'limped on' all translate as a slow weary pace. When a soldier shouts 'gas' adrenaline takes over and the soldiers hurry for their gas masks to save themselves from the attack.

    • Word count: 1415
  11. Write a comparison of the ways in which the writers present attitudes to remembrance.

    Sassoon's poem like many of his others is forceful and driven by anger, also with lots of question marks to challenge the reader. The main argument in this poem is that the most grand memorials will still never compensate for those that died, "unheroic" and "unvictorious". "Victory" is a word made significant in Mew's poem by the capilisation of the first letter, along with "Peace". Sassoon uses the same technique with the word "Dead". To Mew, the cenotaph is a reminder of these ideas combined with the remembrance of the dead.

    • Word count: 830
  12. 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
  13. Critical Appraisal of 'Futility'

    For those who came back with severe injuries the trauma was not over. They came back only to find that the mood of the British people had changed, indeed, there was to be no cheering for those who risked their lives fighting for it; they came back only to find that society would rather forget what happened during these years...that society no longer cares. It is the physical trauma that these men suffered during the war and the psychological trauma they suffered on their return back that Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon became renowned to write about; their poems are a stark contrast to that of Jessie Pope's "who's for the Game?"

    • Word count: 1638
  14. Corelli claims that a man can be described as a "sheep" or a "lion". How successful is Louis de Bernires in portraying different versions of manhood against the backdrop of war in Caption Corelli's Mandolin?

    However this character is not portrayed as a "typical Nazi". "Weber was 22 years old and never seen a naked woman before" This shows he is not "compulsive immolatory rapist[s]" as he has some respect for others. Some German readers would find this quote offensive as this was the view of the Germans at the time of the Second World War. Gunter is very innocent and naive "Corelli made friends with one of them, a boy". This quotation portrays Gunter's inexperience and incompetence to make decisions for himself.

    • Word count: 3311
  15. Discuss the role of the character Bamforth and how he changes in the play 'the Long and the Short and the Tall' by Willis Hall

    his pack on to one shoulder (emphasis of disobedience as pack not put on properly)". In the same conversation, Mitchem suggested that he obey orders, Bamforth intentionally describes the superiors as "nits" and speaks "under his breathe" while making sure he has the whole patrol's awareness of his words to suggest utter disrespect. He justifies this tone by saying he "was only coughing". When Macleish was in charge later in the play, Bamforth elegantly displays his intelligence, humour and quick wit by creating a full tale of how the general ordered him to "relieve the situation".

    • Word count: 948
  16. What Was Life Really Like In The Trenches On The Western Front

    The British artillery on White's sector in the western front fired 21 rounds at the Germans trenches soon after sunrise in honour of the Kaiser. Time after time each side bombarded the enemy with shells neither side was winning or losing the war, they were only losing soldiers. So each side declared that the war on the western front was stalemate (when no one is winning or losing). Trenches When the trenches where made they consisted of three rows of trenches the first row was called the 'front line'.

    • Word count: 3469
  17. 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
  18. Describe the nature of the trenches. Explain why it was an effective method of defence.

    Trenches became deeper, front line trenches were upwards of roughly six feet deep, duckboards or strips of wood were used as flooring, a firestep for sentries and the soldiers on the forward facing wall for when they were repelling an attack, in the rear wall there were dugouts for men to rest or shelter from artillery bombs. Sandbags were piled on the front edge of the trenches to make the trench deeper and to form parapets with loopholes which the soldiers could fire through, and coils of barbed wire reaching 15metres in font of the trenches prevented the enemy to break through.

    • Word count: 1008
  19. The Great War

    Other assessments, most notably Ernst J�nger's Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis, have possessed a more 'productive' outlook of the war. J�nger, himself a soldier and wounded multiple times, believed the war offered the opportunity for combatants to release their pent-up aggressions and frustrations with modern society in the form of militaristic violence. Furthermore, J�nger argued that such disregard for modern social thinking would only serve to strengthen mankind and help nurture a 'positive' regression to violent, ritualistic patterns of human interaction.

    • Word count: 1595
  20. In what ways were the lives of people at home affected by the First World War?

    This source shows how many men were signing up for the army. Although it looks phoney, it isn't. The picture was manipulated so that all the men were smiling, even though they knew how terrible war really was, as the war had started over 16 months previously. The picture also shows different classes of men, some from the working class and others from the middle class. The different classes are shown to us by the different hats being worn by the men. This shows that the classes were coming together to help with the war effort and showing true patriotism. This type of "spun" image was okay in a censored newspaper, because it lifted the spirits of others.

    • Word count: 1773
  21. History Coursework: ''Lions led by Donkeys

    Although this barbed wire was secretly erected during the nights he says that any "Tommy" could have known that they couldn't get through the German's wire. If these soldiers knew then why didn't the Generals know? Maybe this was because most of the Generals did not stay anywhere near the front line and therefore had no clue as to what was going on. For example, General Haig was said to live 50 kilometres away from the front line, as we are told in source C3.

    • Word count: 1494
  22. 'War is only made tolerable by Comradeship and Minor Pleasures'. To what extent does Journey's End support this statement?

    As Stanhope is quite weak, he requires the avuncular attention from his comrade Osborne. Also one of Stanhope's 'major' pleasures is alcohol. Alcohol represents his escape from the truth and from the fear of the war. As Stanhope says he 'can't go out of the dugout without a drink of whisky'. This is unquestionably the reality for Stanhope. For Osborne, his comradeship with everyone seems to make the war tolerable for him. Osborne likes being diplomatic and also has a predisposition to make people feel all right.

    • Word count: 659
  23. The concept of a 'just war'

    Although, it can be said that in certain situations going to war may be the lesser of two evils, especially when an aggressor is involved. Sometimes war can be the only realistic way of dealing with a situation e.g. the Nazi's in WW2, so in this case war is just. A total pacifist, possibly a partial pacifist also, would argue that war is wrong in all situations as it is a waste of resources given by God, a cause of immense suffering of innocent people and it encourages greed, hatred and prejudice.

    • Word count: 1537
  24. Describe the ways in which women's work in the home contributed to the war effort

    The aim the Germans had, were to starve Britain till it surrendered. Due to this crucial moment, Britain had to encourage rationing into houses, put into practice by housewives. So every woman was given a ration book which consisted of certain number of coupons. These were used to make sure that everyone got the same amount of the foods/essentials that were under shortage, like meat, butter and milk. Women had to register with a grocer and butcher in which they were only allowed to buy rationed foods at. Rationing helped women to cooperate and to be very organised, as they had to work out how to make limited rations last in a critical situation of decisive scarcities.

    • Word count: 918
  25. Discuss the ways in which Willis Hall conveys the effects of war in 'The long and the short and the tall.'

    The first signs of tension are revealed when you are being introduced to the characters, when they are talking about what they would do when the Japanese army come and attack them, this causes uneasiness within the group because they are worried for their lives when it eventually occurs even though they don't know that the 'japs' have broken through the lines. Bamforth says "You'll not see my tail for dust." This is showing the effect the war has had on him.

    • Word count: 1480

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