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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. Glasgow 5th March, 1971', by Edwin Morgan, is a modern poem about a shocking crime committed upon `a young man and his girl'

    The poem is laid out very realistically with no hint of omniscience from the author as everything depicted could have been watched sequentially from the same spot. No names are given; just rough descriptions of the different `characters' involved because who they are is not important - just the part they play in the overall scene. This adds to the feel that it is nothing but a record of some kind. Most of the poem is spent upon the two young people because if we had been watching they would have been the main object of our attention and the first thing we saw.

    • Word count: 759
  2. war poetry course work

    The Paschendale mud and the years of trench-warfare stalemate changed all that. By the time Wilfred Owen wrote his poem attitudes were starting to change and people saw no glory in dying for a pointless reason with soldiers used as canon fodder and forced to die like "cattle". Tennyson had expressed that war was extremely honorable in his eyes: "Honour the charge they made", "Honour the light brigade"... "Noble six hundred". The excessive use of "Honour", "Glory" and "Noble" shows the Victorian belief in the glory of war.

    • Word count: 1750
  3. In What Different Ways Do the Poets Portray War?Before Agincourt', 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', 'The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna', 'The Destruction of Sennacherib', and finally 'The Eve of Waterloo'.

    This begins the antithesis which is one of the key factors of this poem. During the poem it appears as though Henry V is creating a balanced argument of good and bad, but he twists all the bad points into good ones, such as "The fewer men, the greater share of honour." This quest for honour is a central point and is regularly mentioned, Henry makes it clear that the battles is not one for treasure but purely for glory. He states that he himself is covetous, but only for honour, stating a negative point which is, in reality a positive one.

    • Word count: 3152
  4. Was there much change in the fighting methods employed by the British Army on the western front in the years 1915-1918?

    had an upper hand and small numbers could hold off and often annihilate large numbers of attackers. Despite common belief and idea, the British army adjusted its tactics quickly and by early 1915 it was experimenting with novelties such as aircraft, gas, smoke, trench mortars, Lewis guns and even wireless. Although not to their full extent and nearly all had 'teething' problems which would eventually be refined over the next three years. Also more precise calculated bombardments from artillery were coming into use and especially the formulas needed to work out the correct timing and density were glimpsed but not fully grasped and understood.

    • Word count: 1934
  5. To what extent do the writers show that the British public knew little of the true extent of war?

    This is strengthened by the abrupt sentence structure throughout it and the frequent use of commas. When it says, "But after that, he stayed silent." The short and list-like structure and the image which is created by, "he could not join in, only sit there, staring at them" suggests little emotion and indicates that the man who has returned from war is an empty shell. However, Vera's letter is extremely emotional using emotive language such as "heart-rendering". War is romanticised through her it, "one day I shall wake and find you again", it is almost poetic.

    • Word count: 1581
  6. saving private ryan

    The landing sequence consists of soldiers coming on to Omaha beach by boat to try and take over/kill the Germans. The soldiers have to try and make their way up towards the beach to the enemy whilst trying not to get shot or bombed on, which would have been a horrifying thing for them to injure. As the soldiers come to land in 'Saving Private Ryan' there are mixed emotions among the boat, some soldiers sit trembling, anxious and vomit because they are so distressed.

    • Word count: 2262
  7. Claims to authority from Pope Boniface VIII

    The term the pope heard regularly, 'the vicar of Christ' had departed and the pope was no longer seen to have full power on earth. Pope Boniface VIII made an amazing impact on medieval Europe, however never quite won in fighting his cause. Historian Flick regarded Pope Boniface's reign as "the beginning of the decline of the power and the glory of the medieval papacy"(A.C Flick, the decline of the medieval church. [Wood, 1971, 6]) In this essay, I hope to cover how much authority the pope had, and had hoped to have had, and also the historic events that led to a society no longer directly ruled by the Catholic faith.

    • Word count: 2195
  8. Dolce et decorum est

    The mood of her poem is very upbeat and lively, this is because she is using propaganda to convince the men to go to the war unlike Wilfred Owens poem who states out about what she said about the war was wrong and a lie. I sense that she used personification less but rather strongly. I get this idea from "your country is up to her neck in a fight". This tells me that she is calling England a female.

    • Word count: 768
  9. "We only need the Pope there is no need for other people to help him."

    This means he cannot make mistakes so there would be no need for others to help him. Also if he was elected as pope the cardinals would have a lot of faith in him so he should be able to make good decisions about the church alone. Also, having one leader making decisions by himself gives Catholics one central person to look up.

    • Word count: 594
  10. In what ways did the attitudes of soldiers and civilians change towards the war and towards the enemy between 1914 and 1918?

    By the 8th September, both sides began to dig trenches to protect themselves from artillery fire and snipers. These were the first signs of a stalemate. The British and in particularly the French fought heroically to stop the advance and the fighting was intense: "[That] French soldiers who have retreated for ten days, sleeping on the ground and half-dead with fatigue, should be able to take up their rifles when the bugle sounds is a thing which we never expected," said a German army commander. This quote also shows that the conditions of living on both sides were horrendous and if anything conditions got worse as the war progressed, particularly in winter.

    • Word count: 4392
  11. Henri Barbusse: UnderFire. Review of novel about French squad in WW1

    According to Barbusse, soldiers were the material, flesh, and soul of war and they hated it. The inglorious image of war is central to Henri Barbusse's depiction of disillusioned soldiers in Under Fire: The Story of a Squad. Barbusse published the book in 1917 and dedicated it to the memory of his fallen comrades at Crouy.1 The book is, as Madame Mary Duclaux accurately describes it, a "series of episodes rather than a novel."2 Each of the episodes deals with themes that frequently appear in both post-war literature and the trench magazines: the image of soldiers not as heroes, but cannon fodder and the loss of friends and ever-present death and the horrible conditions of the trenches.

    • Word count: 1699
  12. Why did the British Government decide to evacuate children from Britain's major cities at the start of the Second World War? & Explain the differing reactions of people in Britain to the policy of evacuating children during the Second World War.

    the whole weight of explosives dropped in the whole of the period of the last war." The finding of the ARP Committee's meeting in 1925. So the committee began working on plans that would be put into action during war evacuate huge chunks of the population from major bombing targets or possible German landing sites. The committee decided upon two major things: 1) "That it would be impossible to relocate most of the activities normally carried out in London, and 2)

    • Word count: 1761
  13. World War One History Coursework Q1

    This advert suggests that brave British men who are "friends" should join the army and fight. Many of the men who enlisted at the time were not educated to a great extent so playing on their emotions was a definite way to manipulate and get men to enlist e.g. the case of William Dove: "They showed the Fleet sailing the high seas and played 'Britons Never Shall Be Slaves' and 'Hearts Of Oak'. And you know one feels that little shiver run up the back and you know you have got to do something." Pressure from women also persuaded men to enlist.

    • Word count: 790
  14. evaluation of war coursework

    In the end both families ended up dead and the moral of the story was in war people have to die and there are no winners. Others groups had a similar devised drama to us, their plays were all about war, and another group also did families at war. There performance was different because they did a Romeo and Juliet type of story where a boy loved a girl form another family problem was there families hated each other. Like our play there's ended in death, the children who loved each other ended up dead.

    • Word count: 971
  15. Impact on World War One

    The German had already planed the invasion of Belgium for twelve years ahead the war. The war started because the German leader, Kaiser, was jealous of the British Empire and wanted a greater one. The British got involved because the French were getting attacked by the Germans from all directions and in 1817, the British leader at that time signed an agreement saying that they had to help the French in difficult times. This war effected the men greatly because this was the time to show there loyalty and commitment to the country. This was helped by the propaganda that was sent to them, telling them they had to for fill their duty and to show that they are men.

    • Word count: 771
  16. Why did so many Britons volunteer to fight in the First World War?

    By 1916, the year that conscription was made compulsory, around two and a half million men had volunteered for Army service and life on the battlefield. The main policy that the government used to attract men was to deliver a constant barrage of propaganda all across the country, mainly in the form of posters, broadcasts and public meetings. The famous Lord Kitchener 'Your Country Needs You' poster is a product of this time. Public speeches were purposely held after popular events of the time, such as football matches and trade union meetings, with the intention of generating such an extent of patriotism that men would sign up there and then.

    • Word count: 1510
  17. The Send-Off

    The poet introduces the poem by explaining that these soldiers are being hid in the night as they are sent to war, "Down the close darkening lanes". However this only means that these soldiers are only being hid so that the people watching don't feel guilt towards these soldiers who are being sent to war which means towards a very possible death. We must also understand that as these soldiers are going to war, they are already spiritually dead since they are psychologically traumatised.

    • Word count: 1192
  18. In what ways did the First World War change the employment opportunities of women in Britain?

    Many women had to go to work to look after their children after their husbands were killed in the war. There was not a revolution in attitudes to women in the work place but there was a small change and it was the beginning of real change. Herbert Asquith, the ex- Prime Minister, said in a speech in 1917 that the war could not have carried out successfully without women's work contribution. He understood that everything was going to be different after the war and said 'in the new order of things' it would be impossible to deny women political power.

    • Word count: 2238
  19. How Was The Stalemate Finally Broken?From Christmas 1914 until March 1918 there had been a stalemate on the western front

    Although they were almost invincible for infantry they were susceptible to shell fire. The conditions inside were also incredibly bad. It would be cramped smelly and roasting hot. But when they were used at first they broke through the German defences and terrified the Germans which boosted morale for the British. But by 1918 although the tanks were much more advanced and could move faster than the troops the Germans had developed armour piercing bullets to penetrate the tanks armour.

    • Word count: 1325
  20. setting of the poem contributes greatly to the meaning. The title, "Casualty-Mental Ward" is essential to understanding

    More specifically, they are the dead soldiers, the ones that the speaker has seen die during the war. Lines 9 and 10 read, "I hold long conversations with the dead. Their presence comforts and sustains like bread." The use of the word "their" in this case is an indication that the speaker is crazy. The speaker feels comfort in talking to the dead just as much as we feel comfort in eating food. The conversations with the dead are like sustenance for him, the last thing that is keeping him from going completely crazy. The words "they" and "their" however, does not only refer to the dead, but also the doctors in the hospital.

    • Word count: 1079
  21. Right equation

    therefore I need to use less CuCO3 to produce less gas. "At room temperature, 25?C and atmospheric pressure at 1 atmosphere 1 mole of any gas will occupy a volume of 24dm� Thermal decomposition is a chemical reaction where a single compound breaks up into two or simpler compound or elements when heated. It is also an endothermic reaction as heat is required to break chemical bonds in the compounds undergoing decomposition. The decomposition reaction is irreversible as the copper oxide and carbon dioxide formed after being heated cannot bond to become copper carbonate again.

    • Word count: 2171
  22. Christians generally believe that war is wrong and that God wants everyone to live in peace

    * The reason for war must be just. It should not be for greed or revenge, but a genuine attempt to make the world a better place. * The cause of the war must be to try and establish good or correct evil. * The war must be a last resort. * The force used in the war should not be over the top and directed at military people instead of civilians. Christians today still use these guidelines when deciding whether to support their country's decision.

    • Word count: 881
  23. In what ways did the lives of women change during the war as a result of their work outside the home?

    When the men left to go to war they took over the jobs that the men left behind. Women began to work in manufacturing and engineering; they worked in factories making air craft, bombs and tanks. They drove busses worked as butchers and bakers became postal workers, in fact, any job that was previously considered to be mans work now became women's work. Until now it was a common belief that women couldn't do these jobs because working in manufacture and engineering were all considered to be men's work and that women were not physically or mentally capable to do them adequately.

    • Word count: 839
  24. Compare the ways on which two poems from this section convey powerful pictures of life in the trenches - 'The Dug-Out' and 'Breakfast'.

    The poet chooses to use the metaphor of a candle to portray the solder's dying as the burning out of a candle. The alliteration 'guttering gold' emphasizes the candle imagery and also shares the pain with the reader. 'You wonder why' is in narrative voice shows the rejection putting a sense of hopeless. The last two lines are in italic and this highlights its importance. The metaphor of 'fall asleep for ever' symbolizes the death and this 'remind[s]' the poet of the other 'dead[s]'.

    • Word count: 583

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