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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. Women and the war effort in Britain 1914-1918

    After careful study of the poster I found faults, which show that men still thought of themselves as higher than women. Small things such as the woman having to hold the flag with two hands and the mans flag being in front of hers shows that although women were 'equal' men were still the dominant race. I believe these faults to be made subconsciously by the artist, being propaganda to get women into the work place I don't think the artist would have made small points like that deliberately.

    • Word count: 1121
  2. Compare and contrast the poems 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen and 'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke. What are the poets' attitudes towards war and how do they convey these attitudes?

    He accepts death in war as a suitable repayment to his country for what England has done for him. England has given him birth, her "flowers", "ways to roam", "air", "rivers" and "suns" and made him like every other English person: special, privileged and worthy. In the line "In that rich earth, a richer dust concealed," his is the "richer dust", made by England. Here his physical being created and nurtured by England is gratefully returned to her. His appreciation and gratitude to England ring sincerity as reflected by his reference to these simple things (flowers, air...etc) - in other words, these things bear testimony to his sincerity.

    • Word count: 1684
  3. Explore the portrayal of war in the poetry of William Shakespeare and Wilfred Owen

    The descriptions depicted by Shakespeare are fairly persuasive, this would seem the correct interpretation when putting the poem in context (the troops are exhausted, morale needs to be raised); he conveys imagery of 'honour' and portrays 'The fewer men, the greater share of honour' even though this would suggest there is a higher risk of death. Back in the fifteenth century society was rather less diverse than the world we know today; there was direct social class and people were 'covetous' for 'honour' and bravery rather than materialism like today.

    • Word count: 1402
  4. Show how the anti-war poetry by Wilfred Owen dispels the myth of triumph and heroism portrayed by Alfred Lord Tennyson in ‘The charge of the light brigade.’

    In general Tennyson tends to illustrate war as a deed of bravery and fortitude on behalf of the loyal soldiers, whilst Owen with his graphic representations and cynical depiction of war eludicates the pointlessness of conflict. I am going to compare and contrast the poems and explore the different views of war of Owen and Tennyson. Tennyson's patriotic poem epitomised the glorification of war that Owen so despised. 'Anthem for doomed youth' is an elegy, a lament for the dead; it is a judgement of war based on Owen's experience itself.

    • Word count: 2939
  5. Women and the war effort in Britain, 1914-18 Sources Questions

    Source C is an extract from a book written in 1994 by historian Angela Woollacott. Source E is an extract from The daily chronicle newspaper published on the 19th of July 1915. The main difference between them is reliability. Angela Woollacott wrote the book with the main purpose of informing the audience of readers. It is unlikely that she would have 'made up' or added material as she pleased. We have no evidence to suggest that she has a history of being biased.

    • Word count: 1211
  6. Dulce et Decorum Est

    These men were forced to age before their time, due to their weariness and their bad health condition as a result of living in such circumstances. 'Like old beggars under sacks' also tells me that their once clean and smart uniforms were now muddy, tattered and torn, so much so, that the poet thinks of them as nothing more than 'sacks'. The poet uses words like 'knock-kneed', 'coughing' and 'limped' to give you a visual image of how the men were walking.

    • Word count: 1042
  7. Why was the Western Front so static for so long?

    The Germans inability to adapt to the fact that this was a war not just a war where men fought men because machines were now involved, is also the reason why the western front was static for so long. This was displayed by their attempts at cavalry charges against heavy artillery, and their numerous attempts at sending men over the top to face machine guns. This tatic of attacking by using men and horses alone against powerful machine guns had no hope of success in pushing forward and breaking the stalemate.

    • Word count: 1403
  8. Discuss the Ways which the Poets use Language to achieve their Purposes - Anthem for Doomed Youth, Does it Matter, War Exalts

    This also gives an idea of glory in death, which the government says, but is an unchristian belief. They 'die as cattle', innumerable, with no respect. Their only recognition is in the 'monstrous anger of the guns'. This is a mockery of a hymn, the closest they get to being recognised for their sacrifice. Calling them 'cattle' dehumanises them, as the war does, as they are just slaughtered like cattle, not men. They are no longer human, just animals for the slaughter. The word 'choirs' is repeated on line 7, making it stand out, and drawing the attention of the reader to the line.

    • Word count: 925
  9. Compare and Contrast ‘After Blenheim’ By Robert Southey and ‘Drummer Hodge’ By Thomas Hardy

    'After Blenheim' is a very suitable title telling the reader that the poem is about the Battle of Blenheim. It begins in a narrative form, at Old Kasper's farm. It starts oddly with a description of a warm evening. The discovery of a skull leads to his grandchildren asking him about the war. Kasper recalls how his father lived in Blenheim and how his dwelling was burnt down and 'with his wife and child he fled.' The poem goes on to describe children dying.

    • Word count: 1084
  10. Poetry: “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Dulce et Decorum Est”. Compare and contrast the poet’s attitudes to war. Comment on language and thought.

    This rhythm makes the poem seem to come at the reader in short bursts and is very effective and building a flowing pace which mimics the charging action of the Light Brigade on their way to battle. The poem portrays honour and a sense of dignity for the soldiers. We are told how many men there were, six hundred, and this is a significant point to the reader as it shows there was not a huge army in this case, it was six hundred individual men all attempting to gain some- honour by taking back their captured guns.

    • Word count: 2000
  11. Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori – The Truth or a Lie?

    I am going to look at poems from wars before and during world war one. People have always, at some point in history, been at war for whatever reason and statements have been made to rally troops and encourage them for battle. But whether 'it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country' is debatable. My personal opinion is that war in itself may sometimes be needed, but people will always die in them and nothing will ever

    • Word count: 347
  12. First World War

    France had a chance to counter-attack. In September 1914, Joffre counter-attacked at the River Marne, driving the Germans back to the River Aisne. The Schlieffen Plan had failed and both sides dug trenches to protect themselves from enemy fire. This was the first sign of developing stalemate in the war. Falkenhayn, replacing Moltke, decided to outflank the enemy towards the Channel, because the ports were vital. Due to their failure to outflank each other, both sides dug trenches, which stretched from the Channel to the Swiss border by November.

    • Word count: 1405
  13. ‘Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen and ‘The hero’ by Siegried Sassoon - How language is used to achieve their purpose

    The writer of this poem, Wilfred Owen also uses words like "sleep" to bring over this idea of inactiveness and gloom. To make this effect even stronger, he uses contrast. After describing the gloom, he mentions "voices of boys" and "play and pleasure". Another example of contrast in this poem is that he was expecting "cheers" and "smart salutes". However, when he returned back home, "only a solemn man" came up to cheer him home. The poem mentions that it was not as "crowd cheer goal".

    • Word count: 694
  14. War Poetry Assignment on different attitudes of poets’ to War

    In his poem 'Charge of the Light Brigade' Tennyson describes the valiant charge of the light brigade into the 'jaws of death' He makes use of repetition, allusion, and personification to paint a vivid picture of the charge, and, at the same time, he gives the reader a glimpse into the psyche of the valiant soldiers. Tennyson's poem is a celebration of the bravery of the six hundred British troops who went into battle against all odds; even though they knew that they would be killed.

    • Word count: 2442
  15. How do the poems ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘The last Laugh’ reflect the attitude of the poet towards the subject of war?

    He makes the soldiers sound like they are mindless zombies who no longer have any emotions as this is the reality that they are constantly facing day in and day out. Wilfred Owen describes the soldiers as 'Being drunk with fatigue' what Owen means by this is that they are so tired it is like they are drunk. In the frontline soldiers could not get much sleep very often. At the beginning of this stanza he starts off by, 'Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge' This uses alliteration and describes very well what the soldiers are now like.

    • Word count: 1156
  16. “War photographer”(by Carol Ann Duffy) and “Dulce et decorum est” (by Wilfred Owen)

    He witnesses the chaos, carnage and anguish during a war. He begins to realise the lie he has been tricked in to. Owen begins his poem in a very sad and depressing manner. Owen achieves this somber effect through his choice of vocabulary and also through the very gray and colorless image, which he begins to paint of a group of tired and exhausted young soldiers wearily making their way back from the front line after a prolonged period of heavy fighting. Owen describes the men: "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks."

    • Word count: 1643
  17. Conscientious Objection Sources Questions

    However it is also very likely that this cartoon shows how the staff of 'Punch' felt anyway. It displays John Bull (the average British citizen) hammering a huge nail into the Kaiser's head and bringing about 'The Crack of Doom'. As the hammer is labelled 'compulsion' one can tell that the message the image is sending is that with compulsory enlistment (conscription) the British will destroy its enemy. Therefore this source shows that the British generally were behind the idea of conscription.

    • Word count: 1675
  18. Sasson and Owen and their views on war as expressed in Attack and Anthem for Doomed Youth

    There are other quotes about imagery like "Lines of grey, muttering faces masked with fear". His diction is very sharp and straight to the point for example the title "attack" it is one word and a sharp quick word to say. There does seem to be a fair bit of assonance in the poem. There is some rhythm like "with furtive eyes and grappling fists ". Some good alliteration in parts of the poem like "Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud". A good example of onomatopoeia is "Flounders in mud" it is linked with Flanders where there was a war and the mud where they were floundering in the mud.

    • Word count: 689
  19. To what extent do you agree that in Regeneration Barker questions the notion of Heroism in wartime?

    By placing these two notions of heroism in her novel Pat Barker is immediatly facing them off against each other, and not only does she question the idea herself but in each of her characters there is a personal battle that they each face concerning society's recogntion of them and heroism. At the time Heroism came hand in hand with manliness, many at Craiglockghart suffer from their insecurities of being a man, and they cannot be a hero if first they are no a man.

    • Word count: 1599
  20. The Impact of the Second World War on a London Borough: Bexley 1939-1945

    Not only was a 'Black-out' curtain placed at windows, but also some households decided to put tape on the windows in the shape of diamonds or netting, in the hope that it would withstand the force of the bombs exploding and shattering their windows. Shelters were also distributed. There were three main types of shelters used in Bexley, these were Anderson Shelters; which were placed underground in the garden, Morrison Shelters; which were reinforced steel cages that would be able to fit about five people in and could be placed in any room in the house, and Public Shelters which

    • Word count: 2752
  21. Choosing 2 poems, one 20th century and one pre 20th century, Describe the poet’s views on war - The Drum and Dulce et Decorum Est

    to get young men to join the army and go off and fight in wars Scott calls these young men 'thoughtless youth' because they only see pleasure of war. In young men's minds whether they come from the city or the countryside they see the attractive uniforms, The shiny weapons and people seeing them as heroes and this is why they are willing to sell their liberty. However what the poet sees is that when the generals give the orders men will 'march' 'fight' and die 'In foreign lands'.

    • Word count: 782
  22. Mother Courage - Write a commentary on scene six

    He states "My talents and abilities are being abused in this place by manual labour," halfway through the scene. He is forced to take the position of a woodcutter in the war which , nevertheless, does not aid him an iota in his religious duties. Other than this he would have been preaching and performing miracles, according to him. We also realise that the war situation presented in scene six is not improving Mother Courage's business. She thinks of whether to stock up since prices are so low and thus, less profit less profit is being made.

    • Word count: 881
  23. In what ways does R.C Sherrif recreate the tremendous stress and fear suffered by the men at the front in Journey's End?

    The play is set in the officers dug out (a dug out is a hole in the ground with a roof over it) which all the action takes place. R.C Sherrif was an officer in the First World War so he had first hand experience of the war and what the officers would have had happen to them. In order to make the audience feel as if they are in the war R.C Sherrif adds notes in the stage directions like "the red and green glow of German alarm rockets comes faintly through the dugout door" in this example the

    • Word count: 1026
  24. Was there much change in warfare on the Western front between the end of 1914 and March 1918?

    During the war, air power made huge technological advances. Air forces of the different powers increased intensely in size and power, and the planes grew stronger, being able to travel further distances, achieve greater heights and hold more firepower. These advances were mainly due to the nature of the war itself. Trench warfare, being mostly stationary, gave planes many chances to prove their worth. Planes began to be used for observation and bombing missions over enemy territory. But as these missions became more frequent, so did the enemy's efforts to stop these missions.

    • Word count: 1477
  25. Personal response to "Dolce et Decorum Est", "Disabled" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade", comparing and contrasting the three poems

    The second line continues this as it compares the soldiers to hags, which are very like beggars. It tells you that the soldiers are knock-kneed and coughing, which implies a very low morale and ill-health. To add to the atmosphere of depression, the "haunting flares" implies that the scene is taking place at night, as flares are not visible in the daytime. The fact that the flares are "haunting" adds to the misery of the soldiers, as it could be that they are remembering past horrific incidents involving the flares that haunt them.

    • Word count: 5250

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