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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. Comparing and Contrasting War Poems

    They are compared to this because they have been dragged down to that level. It just makes them seem even more alienated and strange to our minds. The alliterative 'knock-kneed' phrase slows and dulls down the tempo greatly, also telling us about the grim war: "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind" And this is just the first stanza of 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. In contrast, the second of Owen's poems 'Exposure' it talks about the same thing except the soldiers are in winter ice freezing temperatures, and they have to fight for their country in weather, which is unlivable.

    • Word count: 2152
  2. Different attitudes towards war

    The charge of the light brigade is written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poem tells us about the light brigade going after guns and end up in valley surrounded by Russian soldiers "cannons to the right of, Cannons to the left of them, cannons in front them". The men knew the order was wrong but they went on " Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die".

    • Word count: 385
  3. The Soldier

    Continuing, he writes "There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed; a dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, a body of England's, breathing English air, washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home." These lines metaphorically describe his corpse as becoming "a richer dust" than that of the earth's, and personify England as being his and every English person's mother with the metaphor "a dust whom England bore". They also describe his body as "a body of England's"; implying that he belonged to his country.

    • Word count: 1938
  4. Referring to at Least Three Poems, Describe How the World War 1 Poets Challenged the Way Society Regarded War.

    Anthem for Doomed Youth is relatively short and split into two stanzas, although also consisting of 14 lines, and therefore a sonnet. In the first stanza, every other line is a rhyming couplet, which gives the poem a regular rhythm reminiscent of the drumbeats leading ancient soldiers into battle. But in the second stanza, the first and fourth line are a rhyming couplet, with the second and third, and also the fourth and fifth following this pattern. This has the effect of splitting the stanza into two parts which helps to emphasise the slowing down of the last two lines that are full of words which have obviously been chosen for their association with a lack of speed.

    • Word count: 2908
  5. Disabled by Wilfred Owen

    Shivering is usually a sign of coldness or disease, and a "ghastly suit of grey" is dull, and forgotten. It is about a man who has come home from war with lots of injuries, no legs, and a missing arm. He listens to other people having fun, and he wants to join them, yet he can't because nobody will come close to him because of how he is. He thinks about how he used to have fun before he went to war. He used to think injuries would make him cool, like having an enormous gouge in his leg after a football match.

    • Word count: 701
  6. Compare and Contrast Wilfred Owens ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and Rupert Brookes ‘The Soldier’

    He definitely doesn't agree with people like Jessy Pope who used nice pretty words to hide the true ugly fact of war. So he used sick disgusting words to send the real picture home. The whole poem is about a group of soldiers who are being bombed with gas and he describes every single sick moment. Dulce et Decorum est tells of the true effects of the war on the soldiers. It tells of present experiences rather than future that are postulated in The Soldier.

    • Word count: 1456
  7. Imagine you are a soldier writing home from the front. Write about what you see and feel – describe your conditions and the attitude of your fellow soldiers

    Rose, please tell the children that I am deeply sorry about not being able to spend Christmas with them and tell them that on Christmas day when they are celebrating the wonderful joys of Christmas I will be thinking of them. I am truly sorry to have to tell you this. Since I arrived here I have been digging trenches. Not only do we have to compete against the bursting shells that come over from the Germans as we work but the weather has become more of an enemy to us as well and because of this, some of the trenches needing repairing, widening, deepening and strengthening.

    • Word count: 2331
  8. Was Blitzkrieg the only reason why the Germans were so successful in the first months of the Second World War?

    Germany had a big army with some well-trained and equipped tanks that were used together in armoured divisions. This in itself was an advance upon traditional tactics as tanks were usually used only as unit support and not as units in there own right. Germany needed a short war as they had not the economy for a long, drawn out, war of attrition that the First world war had been.

    • Word count: 402
  9. Comparing Jesse Pope’s ‘Who’s for the game’ and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Disabled’ and ‘Anthem for doomed youth’

    She says "who'll give his country a hand?" This is a patriotic, jingoistic reference, participating in war makes you a patriot. Jesse even says that war is fun "be out of the fun," However a risk as well, "it won't be a picnic, not much." Pope says or hints that if you don't go to war, you are a coward, "who thinks he'd rather sit tight" "who wants a seat in the stand." Wilfred Owen was very much against Jesse Pope's poetry. He wasn't anti war but he believed in joining war for the right reasons.

    • Word count: 925
  10. World War One Poetry

    The poem treats war as a game like football or rugby, it starts who's for the game the biggest that's played, this is a total lack of understanding for what war is really like. She calls war a picnic and makes men feel like cowards if they didn't sign up. The volunteer was another poem written to make men sign up for the war. It was written by Herbert Asquith, about a man who all his life had a boring job until he went away to fight for his country.

    • Word count: 761
  11. Sassoon’s Poetic Protest against the War

    This was an advantage to the soldiers, as they needed to be kept on their feet with positive attitudes, leading them towards success. 'Now the Soldiers he smiled at are most of em dead' suggests the general's character is friendly, but he does not think of the soldiers as humans. Sassoon expresses the message that the general is sending out to his soldiers. The final two lines of the poem are sarcastic. From this poem, you can tell that there are a lot of criticisms made towards the generals.

    • Word count: 1561
  12. War Photographer

    Yet, the stem of the poem remains loyal to the spectacle of the photographer. There are lot of complex ideas floating from the writing but the poet does well in trying to anchor them, whilst allowing a certain volume of economical ambiguity to fill the readers' mind. Perhaps the poem is about pictures- and not any other aspect of reporting war- because images capture the moment, capture the passion and capture the reader...and are a constant reminder of the sorrow they snapped. Something is happening. A stranger's features faintly start to twist b4 his eyes, a half-formed ghost.

    • Word count: 685
  13. How did warfare change between November 1914 and March 1918?

    It would be argued that this was an almost impassable. They also developed the concrete blockhouses in Paschendaele because of the state of the mud; they couldn't build good trenches. They were much quicker to realise this than Britain. It didn't take long for both sides to develop many lines of trenches: the front line, the support trench, the reserve trench and the communication trenches. This is a clear change from the early shield against machine gun fire. In comparison of the two sides, Germany had much better trenches. Communications is an obvious example of continuity during this time.

    • Word count: 2311
  14. World War One Poetry

    Suggesting that war is no more than a big game which everyone can enjoy. Who'll grip and tackle the job unafraid? And who thinks he'd rather sit tight? Who'll toe the line for the signal to "Go!"? Who'll give his country a hand? Pope is asking the reader if they would be brave, do as they are told, go out there are do well for their country or who will prefer to miss out and sit at home. Who wants to turn himself into the show? And who wants a seat in the stand?

    • Word count: 1266
  15. The Changing Role of Women Throughout the First World War

    To fully understand the scope of the social effects the First World War had on the women's role in society, it is necessary to examine their position before conflicts began. Though women were found performing low-wage industrial work in the early 19th century, most were seen as temporary workers who were expected to leave as soon as they were married. Employers, unions and workingmen expected women to be unambitious about their work, thereby ruling out ideas that would enlarge their opportunities.

    • Word count: 1592
  16. Comparison between “The Soldier” and “A Dead Boche”

    * On the other hand the sonnet "A Dead Boche" discriminates war tells us how brutal it is, how much devastation there is in the war. He doesn't go into all the 'hero talk' but goes to the point straight away saying: "To you who'd read my songs of War And only hear of blood and fame, I'll say (you've heard it said before) "War's Hell!" and if you doubt the same..." He then goes onto to tell us why the war is so gruesome and blatantly not a break or some 'life's tournament' it is maybe a 'life's waste' he may describe the same.

    • Word count: 853
  17. Discuss Wilfred Owen’s portrayal of the First World War. Comment upon his use of language and attitudes towards the war

    It was there he met up with fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, who was also a patient. Sassoon already had a reputation as a poet and after an awkward introduction, he agreed to look over Owen's poems. As well as encouraging Owen to continue, he introduced him to such literary figures as Robert Graves, which in turn, after his release from hospital, allowed Owen to mix with such luminaries as Arnold bennett and H.G. Wells. This all helped Owen develop his obvious flare for poetry and made him able to express his views of the war in this form of writing.

    • Word count: 1068
  18. The British Government had to introduce many new ideas to rule effectively between 1914 and 1918, including restricting personal freedoms, considerable use of propaganda and rationing. Explain the effects of these policies on British People.

    Other women would have found it hard to adjust to the new changes as they might of had young children at home to care for. Women did may other jobs as well, they became plumbers, electricians while others joined the newly formed Women's police service. Other women who were capable join the VAD, Voluntary Aid Detachments, these nurses looked after wounded soldiers when they arrived home, but also were sent to France and often worked just behind the front lines.

    • Word count: 1812
  19. How vividly does Wilfred Owen describe war and its consequences in the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”?

    Some more examples, which he uses to indicate that the soldiers have little pride left, are "coughing like hags", "began to trudge" and "fumbling", as these are all words with which we do not associate with soldiers' behaviour. We are unfamiliar with the graphic term "blood-shod", which is a visual indicator that the men are wearing their own blood. However we do not normally use the word "shod" to mean "wearing", instead we use it more widely to talk about shooing horses.

    • Word count: 1265
  20. Compare And Contrast Two 1900 War Poems

    Tennyson's poem is very straight forward, using limited vocabulary. "Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them" This makes it attractive to the people of the time, most of which would have been poorly educated. It would appeal to more people than Robert Southey's poem. This is because Southey's poem in my opinion, is too well written. It is too clever for the audience to which it is directed at. Southey's poem is much more complex.

    • Word count: 1158
  21. As organisms increase in size they have to develop strategies to enable adequate gas exchange to occur. Explain why this is and how organisms overcome this problem.

    Certain organisms have been adapted to cope with this problem. They have formed specific methods and organs to aid their gas exchange. In flatworms, their shape provides a good surface for gas exchange. Their long, thin bodies create a large surface area but because of their narrow bodies, they have a small diffusional distance. Because flatworms are relatively small organisms, this strategy is sufficient for the level of gas exchange that is needed for them to live healthily. (GIVE FIGURES AND OTHER EG'S)

    • Word count: 626
  22. Comparision of 'Suicide In the Trenches' and 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.

    This is most likely due to his battle-wearied nature, and the long-term effect war had upon him. Although Tennyson is almost saying death is a good thing making the nobility of the soldier the more powerful. Both of the poets depict war although Tennyson refers to war as honourable and noble and uses increased motions of nobility, hero fell, this is due to his lack of experience. Sassoon refers to war as suicidal as he has experienced it. He expresses this by telling us about how a young lad who was hungry and fed up with war Put a bullet through his brain.

    • Word count: 929
  23. “For 3 years from the end of 1914 to early 1918, the Western Front never moved more than a mile or so. In 1918 considerable movement occurred as first the Germans and then the Allies advanced. Why did these changes happen so quickly?”

    The War was one of no heroic deeds, no great pride shown in red uniforms, it was lengthy, disgusting and simply boring to be a part of. These massive changes, due to the new technology available (machine guns that could kill 10 men in 5 seconds, shells that could blow 20 men away) meant that sending men charging into battle was simply unacceptable. Unfortunately for so many men in the First World War, the Generals didn't for-see this so therefore they didn't make any changes in battlefield tactics.

    • Word count: 2439
  24. Examine the ways Wilfred Owen uses Contrast in his poems; “Anthem for doomed youth”, “Disabled” and “Dulce Et Decorum Est”.

    Owen uses cancer in a simile, which emphasises the obscenity of the situation as, in those days especially, as cancer, was almost certainly fatal. Owen calls the "men" as addressed in other authors poems "children", and I think that he calls them this because he is addressing the vulnerability and innocence of the young men who signed up without being fully aware of the consequences or severity of war. The ending of "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is very powerful as he completes the juxtaposition between the title of the poem and the true meaning of the poem which creates contrast.

    • Word count: 1474
  25. Lieber Mario!

    W�hrend die Reise es war kalt weil wir sind w�hrend eine Nacht geflogen. W�hrend die Reise meine Mutter war Krank. W�hrend die Reise habe ich die Freiheits statue von America gesehen. Ich habe in einer Jugendherberge gewohnt. Die Rezeptionistin war dumm weil sie immer dieselben Fragen stelle. Es war ein Kino, eine Disko, ein Gasthaus und ein Sportzentrum in Orlando etwa hundert Hof weg. Es war angenehm und saube jeden Tag.

    • Word count: 436

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