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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 War Poems of Wilfred Owen, ‘Disabled’ and ‘Mental Cases’

    In 'Disabled'; '...before he threw away his knees.' - which is emphasised by 'He thought he'd better join - He wonders why', showing us how effortless it was to make his first mistake. The comparative references within 'Mental Cases' are less clear, however can be found; 'Carnage incomparable, and human squander Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.' - the horror was too much for the men, sending them mad, I feel an implication of waste. Expanding on the anti-war message - we can find hints of bitterness towards the 'System', or government.

    • Word count: 732
  2. Did Poems, Paintings, songs, stories, and Films about the western Front give a more accurate picture of soldiers’ experiences than official accounts?

    This source gives us a rare insight of what people working in agriculture at the time thought would happen if most of the working men went off to fight in the war. This source is very reliable because it was written in a dairy, which was not begin written for the public and so is censored by the government. Although it is a reliable source it only tells us of what farmers in this particular part of the country felt like and dose not tell me what people felt like in other parts of the country.

    • Word count: 2058
  3. Comparing Lord Tennyson and Wilfred Owen

    These two poems describe war, and scenes from war, with varying levels of intensity and also from different viewpoints. Wilfred Owen was a soldier in World War One and he writes from first hand experience. Alfred Tennyson's poem was written in the Crimean War. Lord Tennyson was the port Laureate at this time of war and he witnessed no fighting. Tennyson's poem was written about a military blunder and how 600+ men were sent right into the camp of the opposing force and shot down like fish in a barrel. Owen's poem was written to show the disgraceful conditions on the trench and to show how many people die in this "Game".

    • Word count: 764
  4. New Technology, The American Entry into World War One, The Blockade of German Port and the German Summer Offensive were important in causing the end of World War One. Discuss.

    Tanks were introduced to cross "no-man's-land" but commanders could not use them effectively until 1917 and even then, they sunk in the mud. The few that did cross, unfortunately when they arrived at the enemy trenches they were almost immediately destroyed and so the stalemate continued. Gas was a vicious discovery to the new technology; poison gas, chlorine gas and mustard gas were used to disable opposition, although, gas was only used effectively if weather conditions were right (winds affected the way the gas blew)

    • Word count: 1044
  5. Britain and the First World War 1914 –1918 Sources Questions

    Cavalry were almost useless in trench warfare because it was impossible for them to get in and out of the trenches, and even so were extremely vulnerable to machine gun fire. Also, the traditional uniform of the British army was bright red, and was not exactly fabulous camouflage for advancing troops at dawn over no-man's-land. The tank was invented by the British soldier and scholar Ernest Swinton, and first used in the Battle of the Somme, on the fifteenth of September 1916.

    • Word count: 1414
  6. Did the Battle of the Somme change British attitudes towards the war?

    Patriotism was the overwhelming feeling everywhere, and recruitment was amazingly high. People were enthusiastic to join the war. They believed that the war would be over by Christmas. We need to discover if, in what way and to what extent these attitudes changed as a consequence of the Battle of the Somme. Some would argue that the Somme changed military attitudes from enthusiasm and eagerness to disenchantment and horror. There was a small minority of soldiers who did show these feelings after the Somme. There were 16,000 conscientious objectors who refused to fight. Comparatively this was a minute figure. In fact, Britain was the only one of the major armies not to have significant opposition to the war.

    • Word count: 577
  7. Myth or Reality on the Western Front. How accurate are the soldiers’ views of the experiences of the Great War?

    It was implied that men should fight for their families and not feel guilt about leaving home. Posters were also important because they were simple and their meaning was always clear. It helped that they were visual as the literacy rate was not high. Sources A1 and A2 are both posters. Source A3 is from the book 'First Day of the Somme' by M Middlebrook, and Source A4 is from a modern history book. All these sources show that men joined the army through patriotism and because of propaganda, which is what sources A1 and A2 are.

    • Word count: 2978
  8. Wilfred Owen

    You get this impression because the whole poem is very negative towards the war. There the poet has nothing good to say about the war. The line "his hanging face, like a devils sick of sin" suggests that they have to watch their friends die in the battle, it also suggests that the war is worse than hell. The line "The old lie: Dulce et decorumest pro patria moria" means that the government lied to them, it wasn't an honour to die for your country.

    • Word count: 508
  9. Was the Public Mislead About the Conditions In the Trenches?

    The source lacks information to make a realistic statement because it doesnt say whether it is before or after 1916 which was when conscription was introduced. If its after 1916,this would be new recruits that were conscripted to go. Also, it is only one photograph and I am unable to make a general statement about it without other information. Using my own knowledge of the first world war, the British Government issued these postcards to the soldiers in the trenches because they wanted to censor every thing that didnt look or sound nice.

    • Word count: 1975
  10. What is Zahra’s reaction to the fighting surrounding her in context to her relationship with her family, and the sniper, and in a larger sense her outlook on life.

    It comes as no surprise, then, that Zahra should feel liberated by her family's exile to the village. Zahra's time with her family had become monotonous, "all the while knowing how my day would end, my tomorrow begin: sitting and giving my mother a hand in the kitchen" (123), yet unrelenting in its irritability. The war had almost given her an excuse to "speak as little as possible to [her] mother", and "the moment night falls [to] sleep soundly." Zahra's reasoning led her to become an extreme introvert. When I heard that the battles raged fiercely and every front was an inferno, I felt calm.

    • Word count: 1447
  11. Compare and contrast the ways in which Wilfred Owen and Ted Hughes write about nature.

    This line evokes a sense of pain (physical and emotional) and yearning for something lost. This is also reflected in 'Exposure' through both the severe pain the men experience, and their dreaming of home. Not only do the heads of the soldiers' ache but the core of the head, the brain. The soldiers are in the trench, cold. There is no noise, an awkward and unusual situation during a war. Generally we would expect shells exploding and artillery being fired.

    • Word count: 3568
  12. From looking at ‘Dirge of the dead sisters’ and ‘Charge of the light brigade’ make comparisons and show the differences between the two.

    The poem starts in the middle of the action. 'Light Brigade� is written in dactylic feet (one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables) and this gives a sense of the excitement of the galloping horses in the cavalry charge: 'Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward� Tennyson creates a vivid impression of the bravery of the soldiers with many verbs of action: 'Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air, Sabring the gunners there� The heroic command in stanza 1, which is repeated for effect in stanza 2, sweeps the reader along without time to question the futility of the gesture: 'Forward, the Light Brigade!

    • Word count: 1016
  13. Referring to First World War Poetry, Explain Who was the real enemy?

    The rhythm and rhyme in the poem Makes the poem sound very passionate. The first line of this poem says: "Bent double like old beggars under sacks". The heavy use of the letter "B", gives me the impression that the poem will end in a disaster and very tragically. Throughout the poem, Willfred Owen uses the same scheme, trying to make the poem sound very sad and tragic. Wilfred Owen describes what was happening on the night of which he is writing about and again he does very well making it sound very catastrophic.

    • Word count: 1723
  14. Does the Great War deserve to be called Great?

    The Germans had planned for a quick war that would not cost many lives on either side. They named the plan "the Schlieffen plan" which described that France should be attacked first, using surprise attacks through Belgium with the aim of capturing the French capital Paris and forcing the French troops to surrender. They would leave some soldiers there and then march to Russia and fight the weak and untrained Russian army and then take Moscow. The plan was a good idea but it relied on everything having perfect consequences e.g. the Belgian people allowing the Germans through, and being able to take Paris very quickly, and the Russians not raising an army very quickly.

    • Word count: 796
  15. The diffusion of Ammonia Gas

    Also the distance between the litmus paper is a factor because if it is a small distance then it will take less time for the gas to reach the next litmus, but is they are further apart then it will take longer. Finally, the angle of the tube is also a factor because depending on the angle it may take a longer or shorter time to change the colour of the litmus paper. For my experiment, the factor that I am going to change is the angle of the tube.

    • Word count: 952
  16. The problem with war is that it tends to brutalise everyone involved, even those who are fighting for the best of motives

    I needed no light of my own, as the frequent explosions provided enough. "Dear Mable," I started, "We lost 60,000 today, and the Hun are getting closer. Old Johnny went down this time. Our platoon is shrinking more and more each day. There are more new face than old now. How's young Tommy. Tell him I'll be back in blighty by Christmas. Hope you are well, love Wilfred." I am going to give it to a runner as soon as possible, but I doubt it will reach blighty. When I woke up, it was raining bullets again. I could see Gibson through my sleep-encrusted eyes. I shouted to him, "Gibson, what's for breakfast?"

    • Word count: 1118
  17. A comparative study of war poems.

    Owen refers to him as a 'disease' The third verse talks about how he lost his legs and what he lost along with that. 'And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race And leap of purple spurted from his thigh' What this shows me is that along with losing his limbs he lost his youth and wasted his life. The fourth verse is the longest in the poem and describes how and why he signed up for the army in the first place.

    • Word count: 1438
  18. War poetry essay

    Throughout the poem Pope asks questions, "who'll grip and tackle?" "Who wants?" "Who would much rather?" These are direct questions. They are designed to make the reader think about himself. This is what men like. Similarly, Harold Begbie asks the question in his poem 'Fall In' 'what will you lack, sonny?' This provokes thought and the young men realise that they would benefit much more through going to war. At the end of each stanza, in 'who's for the game' after asking questions about things that men enjoy, Pope contradicts herself by asking questions like "And who thinks he'd rather sit tight?"

    • Word count: 1676
  19. Compare two poems by Wilfred Owen, which make you feel sympathy for people involved in war.

    He's sarcastic over the way other poem's almost 'praise' the war and how they seem to embrace and encourage it. He criticizes people like Jessie Pope by saying "my friend you would not tell with such high zest". He's basically having a go at those who think the war is good and who glorify it. The men had to watch their friends die, yet they could do nothing to help them, or themselves due to the immense amount of fatigue they suffering from.

    • Word count: 1016
  20. What Attitudes to War are Evident in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade and Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est and how are they Conveyed?

    Having never seen the deaths for himself, Tennyson fails to convey the real horrors of combat. In contrast, Owen was a soldier poet who based his poems on his own experience of war. Owen fought in the trenches in France in the First World War, which took place between 1914 - 1918. He was sent to France in 1916 and was sent to hospital in Scotland after a shell burst near him in the trenches and he had to be treated for shell shock.

    • Word count: 1137
  21. Hilliard’s experience of war renders his home life meaning less. With close reference to the text, demonstrate how Susan Hill conveys this to the reader.

    Hilliard relates it to what is happening at the present time. Hilliard is unhappy when he returns home. ' He had been unhappy at home, where he could talk to no one, nobody knew, where old men aired their military opinions, where they gave dinner parties and he could not join in, only sit there, staring at them, and then down his food in disbelief.' He is angry and annoyed at the way people could sit there and discuss the war as if they had been there and knew what was best.

    • Word count: 1553
  22. War poems

    Brimming with verbs and adjectives such as 'cool', 'sweeten' 'vital', 'ripe', 'deeper green', 'yellower' and 'redder'. This lulls us into a false sense of tranquillity. 'the farm prospers well' and 'down in the fields all prospers well' this shows us that the farm is doing well, al ready for the son to take it over when he returns from the fighting. But this letter arrives. Whitman uses use this word, 'but' to change from the tranquillity to panic and anxiety. With the mother 'her steps trembling' she is flooded with fear, and what the words in the letter may tell of.

    • Word count: 1017
  23. War poems coursework

    The entire poem is onomatopoeic. This is especially evident in the four lines starting " Cannon to the right of them" which has a beating, galloping rhythm imitating the galloping motions of the British soldiers on their horses charging toward the Russian guns. Tennyson uses an image "Into the jaws of death" to help us imagine both the landscape and the utter stupidity of the attack. In verses 1-3 the charge itself is being described and there are striking images of the outward curve of the attack and the movement of the horses " Volleyed and thundered" Verse four is

    • Word count: 997
  24. Examine the Presentation of WW1 In “Regeneration” and Comment On the Effectiveness of the Blend of Fact and Fiction and the Attitudes Revealed Through the Writers Approach.

    These descriptions all put the war exactly how it was. No pleasantries. No lies. Just honesty and candid details. The author portrays the experience of severe traumatic stress principally through the interactions between several soldiers and their physician, Rivers. All of the characters are recreations of known people. Rivers was a distinguished neurologist and social anthropologist whose published work informs the clinical aspects of the novel. The "shell-shock" patients were known individuals. Siegfried Sassoon was a major English poet and an army officer decorated for gallantry under fire.

    • Word count: 743
  25. How do writers articulate their feelings to war?

    We can clearly see her view toward the death's war has provided in line 17 when she comments "I wouldn't'." Roberts is writing here about maybe an incident she saw on a bus or maybe her own view, that we do not know. But what is very clear throughout all of the poems is that no one agrees with the extreme violence carried out for good reason. Mary Hershel-Clarke writ her feelings how death was so commonplace at that time, that papers didn't report on it anymore.

    • Word count: 1143

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