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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. Defence of the Realm Act

    playing with soldiers and on one on his lap looking expectantly at him this is all accompanied with the slogan "Daddy what did you do in the Great War." another type like that one would be source C which plays on the pride of men who want to serve king and queen and show their loyalty to their country it also uses a trick of making it look as if the general is looking straight at you and pointing you out of the crowd this is also accompanied by the word "YOU" in big letters and stands out just under the general.

    • Word count: 630
  2. Human society, as we know it, is becoming lazy and antisocial

    45 klicks, top. Can run about 200 kilometers on a battery. Offers little or no protection against cars, which is a moot point because it's nowhere close to being street legal. All you have to do is stand. In other words, it's a big wheelchair for the able where you don't have to move your arms, legs, or even eyelids for that matter. Makes walking obsolete. Pretty lame invention for 5000 bucks a pop, huh? Here comes the scary part.

    • Word count: 1045
  3. Consider the novels ‘Birdsong’ and ‘Regeneration’ compare Faulks’ and Barker’s presentation of life in the trenches during world war one.

    existed; a lesser one would rip pieces from him; even a contained wound brought greater damage to the tissue of the body than a bullet. Infection or gangrene often followed'. Faulks uses overpowering imagery to demonstrate such themes as, the horror and wastefulness of the war ' Once more in ragged suicidal line they trudged towards the pattering death of mounted guns. Bloodied beyond caring. Stephen watched the packets of lives with their memories and loves go spinning and vomiting into the ground.

    • Word count: 5687
  4. The End of the War is Just the Beginning

    Though written without stanzas, I could see this poem being divided into four separate parts. The first part serves as an objective view of the cemetery itself and describing the image before the speaker. The first line "That winter, the dead could not be buried" (1) creates the sort of impact that Olds wanted to have carried throughout the whole poem. This unflinching depiction of truly gruesome scenes is what makes this piece so powerful. Readers are given an image of bodies lying in the cold and then told that the coffins were burned for firewood and that the gravediggers too hungry to work.

    • Word count: 2141
  5. Comparisons of war poems - Before Agincourt and Anthem for doom youth

    As the two poems where written in an interval of five hundred years it shows us very clearly the different point of few people had in their perspective time about war. Before Agincourt is a very patriotic and heroic poem. In the first stanza Shakespeare uses a courageous tone. He uses emotional adjectives and verbs to make the reader feel the same as he does. He also uses a lot of positive nouns to create this affect e.g. "greater share of honour' "Gods will".

    • Word count: 657
  6. Study of the Poems: ‘The Drum’, ‘For The Fallen’, and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’.

    'The Drum', was written by John Scott; the poem was written in 1798, a time when many people were beginning to question the need for war. Also Scott was a Quaker, one of the first groups to express themselves as being opposed to all forms of war. Scott wrote 'The Drum', because he was so angered about the effects of the 'Drums Discordant Sound', on the young men of the day. How on hearing the 'Discordant Sound', its 'pleasure yields' the men to surrender their lives and freedom, 'liberty' for the 'charms' of the enchanting weapons and showy uniforms, 'of tawdry lace, and glittering arms,' of the officers.

    • Word count: 1949
  7. To compare the way in which the two poets write about the subject of death.

    He uses vivid descriptions to describe simple things. " Knock kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge" In the poem the soldiers are retreating, this poem is extremely grim and morbid. The author was trying to create a picture in our imagination of the horrid scenes. He is also trying to tell future generations not to fall for the old lie, Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patri Mori. This he claims is propoganda which will make you feel patriotic & want to die for your country. In the poem a fellow comrade dies from a gas attack.

    • Word count: 641
  8. Dear Peter, (Letter to a soldier on the Home front in the first few months of the war)

    The War will be over in a matter of months and our lives will back to normal. However, I am quite annoyed, just like most of my neighbours and colleagues, about the DORA. It has restricted the way we live. For example, we can no longer feed the dog.

    • Word count: 235
  9. Of The Two Poems You Have Studied Which do You Find The Most Realistic?

    Of the six hundred who battled less than two hundred survived. Tennyson wrote the poem after reading an article on the massacre in the newspapers. It is a poem of patriotic celebration trying to glorify the slaughter of 400 men. The poem's opening line, "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward," uses the image of steady movement to set a steady rhythm for the poem. The next line tries to personify the soldiers' struggle by calling the battlefield the "Valley of Death". We are told the number of soldiers and given the "noble" image of men marching into war and not the idea of fatigued soldiers walking into their doom.

    • Word count: 1689
  10. Jessie Pope, Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen

    This is shown when it says "With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power." It is implying that the training they have been given has made them excellent soldiers. He says 'glad from a world grown old and cold and weary.' This implies that they are happy that there is a war as the world was 'cold and weary' before the war started. 'Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move.' This says that people who did not sign up were sick hearts and not honourable men. In the second paragraph Rupert Brooke talks about finding true peace and release from normal life which is shown when he says 'we have found release there.'

    • Word count: 2494
  11. Medicine Sources Question

    It tells us that there were many issues to the success of the discovery. The issues include chance, war and printing. It also shows how he thought that the oil and the cautery did actually work. The written source shows that the war was a great help for the discovery. He was working on the battlefield so he could try his new discovery on the patients of the war. Without him running out of oil on the battle field Pare would not have had to make up the remedy of egg yolks, oil of roses and turpentine.

    • Word count: 807
  12. “Charge of the Light Brigade” written by Alfred Tennyson and “Dulce et Decorum est” written by Wilfred Owen.

    In stanza two Tennyson makes a reference to the mistake, "someone had blundered". It's like everyone realised that there had been a mistake. In the lines "Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die", he is stating how the soldiers had to do exactly what they were told, even know some of them realized there was a mistake, they weren't allowed to ask questions. In stanza three you start to get a feeling of what it was like. "Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them".

    • Word count: 920
  13. War in the Air

    Later in 1915 a man called Anthony Fokker a Dutch designer working for Germany designed a machine gun timed to fire between the airplane's propellers. The invention made air combat more deadly and lead to dogfights which was clashes with enemy aircraft.

    • Word count: 384
  14. The New Technology of War

    The tanks were sometimes unreliable and most broke down at the start. This meant that lots of them would be a waste of money. There were still many mechanical problems with tanks, but they proved themselves to be a weapon of the future. In the event, the full potential of the tank was not to be realised until it had been from its infantry support role. Once it appeared, backed by air power, the age of battlefield domination was over.

    • Word count: 2063
  15. World War One Sources Questions

    Is source C more reliable than source E as evidence about how enthusiastic women were to support the war effort in the first world war? Source C is written with hindsight , when this was written in 1994 it is likely that the truth is more easily accessible than it would have been during the war when things were highly censored. This is written upon the account of somebody who actually witnessed these events and as far as we know had no reason to lie.

    • Word count: 792
  16. Slaughterhouse-Five.

    As a Tralfamadorian says to Billy of the Tralfamadorian test pilot who destroys the universe at the press of a button, "He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way," (149). This acquiescence to the inevitability of events illustrates how society "Ignore[s] the awful times, and concentrate[s] on the good ones," (150) - just like the Tralfamadorians. Vonnegut as an author and societal commentator relies on the negative reaction of the reader to this simple acceptance of war and destruction to convey his theme.

    • Word count: 665
  17. Having Studied War Poetry From The 19th And 20th Centuries, Discuss The Various View Of War As Expressed Be Some Famous Poets.

    It could be said that Tennyson is trying to underestimate the death of so many men. Tennyson was not in the war, he was in Britain during the campaign therefore he relied on accounts from soldiers (most likely high ranking officers) and his imagination to write the poem. He does not consider the dreadful realities of war, only the honour and bravery. The two writers try to make their poems sound as realistic as possible and as convincing as possible. Both writers use direct speech in their works. In Tennyson's poem "Forward the Light Brigade" is used and in "Dulce et Decorum est", we hear "Gas!

    • Word count: 1776
  18. Life on the Western Front - Sources Questions

    They were able to do this under the defence of the Realm Act 1916. Postcards and letters were limited because the government wanted to maintain high morale on people back home so that recruitment would not be affected. The postcards are useful to historians studying the Western Front because it shows how little time the soldiers had. They also tried to be more optimistic when writing back home to family and friends. This is because they didn't want them to worry too much so tried to keep a happy tone in their letters.

    • Word count: 2028
  19. A comparison of the ways in which World War One is presented by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in their poetry with close reference to “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Owen and “The General” and &#1

    That image is the complete opposite of what we would consider to be a heroic and romantic figure, an attribute that was always given to soldiers in pre-twentieth century poetry. Owen goes on to describe the soldiers as 'knock-kneed' and 'coughing like hags'. Neither of these images can be associated with the glorified, smartly dressed soldier that would be fixed in almost all of the minds of women and children back home. The comparison of the soldiers to hags is not a pleasant one as hags are often scruffy and dirty.

    • Word count: 2406
  20. How would you describe Owens perception on religion based on "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Futility"?

    ?Until? the soldier was killed on this ?morning? and this ?snow?. The word ?morning? sounds like ?mourning? creating a sad imagery and ?snow? which suggests the cold, the opposite of warmth, the devil. Although the soldier?s life was already taken he still had faith in god, he believed there ?might? be a possibility that the sun, the god could bring life from dead again. Moving on the second stanza, the change of tone is very obvious. This is suggested through the demanding word ?think?.

    • Word count: 914
  21. The Theme of the Pity of War in "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen

    Starting with the very title: ?Anthem for Doomed Youth?, Owen uses juxtaposition between ?Anthem? and ?Doomed? to create an irony. As anthems are associated with praise and triumph, and doomed means certain demise, Owen creates an irony that helps draw attention to the sarcastic bitter tone underlying the poem as he makes mockery of religious funeral services. This irony is continued further through the poems structure, whereby Owen uses a patrician sonnet to express his feelings of war. This introduces irony, as sonnets are associated with love as they are usually lyrical, smooth flowing, therefore, as this poem is about

    • Word count: 2061
  22. Siegfried Sassoon presents his personal experience in the war in Counter- Attack with raw brutal imagery of the battlefield.

    The poet describes how at first even before the attack begins the soldiers are already ?blind with smoke?, yet they are made to continue to work as soon as ?dawn? begins; all the soldiers are immediately forced to join in with the ?clink of shovels?, a sign of the hard conditions of living in the trenches, while the militaristic onomatopoeia coincides with the perceived orderliness, such as the ?bombers posted? and ?Lewis guns well placed?. The poet therefore establishes the horror of the almost methodical methods to which the war was fought, and that the death that would come later made to seem almost mechanical.

    • Word count: 1123
  23. A poem which deals with the important issue of war is Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

    These soldiers are forgotten and are almost like outcasts of society and this is described here. The poet uses similes such as ?coughing like hags? to emphasise their pitiful and unwell state. The use of ?cursed? as a verb here suggests that they are worn down from the constant battle and they are regretting being there. This helps us to understand the issue of war by highlighting the appalling conditions of soldiers at war. The reader is given a very fatigued and desperate image of the soldiers.

    • Word count: 1405
  24. Thomas has a very distinctive eye for the miniature of nature, often overlooked by others. Explore his appreciation of the natural world in the poem But These Things Also.

    The tone of the poem on a whole is relatively pessimistic to mains appreciation of nature. He begins the opening line almost defining the characteristics of Spring, that he and spring are almost linked with the use of the world ?also?, an attempted to glorify spring itself. It then moves onto something slightly more sinister in the grass is ?long dead? ? something which is not normally attributed to spring itself which is seen as the coming of new life and rejuvenation.

    • Word count: 1310

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