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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. Using selected poems by Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon analyse the poets attitude to war and death.

    I will first talk about the structure of the poem. This poem has a very regular rhyme scheme and follows a structure of 'ABAB'. In addition, it also has a fairly strict rhythm with around 10-12 syllables per line. The rhyme and rhythm delivers the poet's message with regularity and also all of the stanzas are approximately the same length. There are a variety of images used in order that the poet can show the reader his opinions. In the very first line of the poem he shows his hatred for war; "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks; Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge..."

    • Word count: 2108
  2. Blackadder Media Coursework

    that are in their quarters getting ready for the German Attack. They go through many different phases from acting mad and trying to get sent home to accepting that they will probably not make it back from the German Attack alive. The programme taught us the disgusting conditions the soldiers lived in. The film uses a humorous example of trench live being hard when Blackadder asks Baldrick to make him a cup of tea. Baldrick explains that they run out but of tea but he will use mud as a substitute of mud and dandruff as sugar. The programme teaches us that World War One was very different to previous wars.

    • Word count: 1568
  3. Why was Trench Warfare so terrible

    British trenches German trenches This is a basic diagram of a type 1 fire trench; it is quite narrow given that it would have to hold a soldier and his equipment. The enemy side would be to the left; there is a one foot parapet. There is another earth bank behind the trench (the parados) to stop back blast from enemy shells. As the depth below ground is 3 foot 6 inches and the parapet is one foot above ground, the total cover was 4 foot 6 inches (about 1, 4 m).

    • Word count: 4090
  4. Base Details is a poem by Siegfried Sassoon and is about how betteroff the majors were in the First World War, compared to the good men

    He says what he would be like and do if he was a major and makes a mockery out of them. He also tries to show injustice because the old soldiers lived and the young, fit soldiers died. The words used in this poem are very simple and direct but are very effective. Sassoon proves that the majors are lazy and in poor condition by using certain words and sentences, 'If I was fierce, and bald, and out of breath, I'd be with the scarlet majors at the base'.

    • Word count: 698
  5. Why Was There A Stalemate? Due to a change in the nature of warfare, it had become easier to defend than attack for a number of reasons:

    Also, war had become industrialised and the Western Front was dominated by rapid, accurate and powerful artillery. This helped to create No Mans Land. * Although there was a naval blockade on Germany, it took years to make any difference and so this made very little difference. * The failure of the Schlieffen plan, and the subsequent lack of any sort of contingency plan, resulted in the Germans having to dig in, in retreat. Initially this was just a temporary measure, but as stalemate developed they dug deeper into trenches on the Western Front.

    • Word count: 733
  6. "Saving Private Ryan" was a blockbuster hit when it was unleashed in 1998, by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a well known producer who has produced great hits like:

    Although the film is only loosely based on a true incident, it's hard not to accept these characters and events as real. But to create a dramatic impact on the overall movie, Spielberg generates carnage in the opening twenty minutes of the movie this was mainly based on realism as Spielberg explains: "I was looking for realism all the time" The movie begins with camera slowly zooming in onto a freckled face of an elderly man. Then fused through the eyes we see an American Squad on a Higgins Boat minutes before landing in Omaha beech.

    • Word count: 1216
  7. Literary Review of Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

    Her one goal in life was to gain the affections of Ashley, the man she wished to marry. Nothing else mattered to Scarlett O'Hara at the time. "Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts," her father would tell her, yet O'Hara's head was filled with adolescent affections for Ashley, and no common sense could make her think otherwise. In her opinion, success would be to marry Ashley, no matter what the situation, and everything else would be failure.

    • Word count: 866
  8. Alexander Fleming

    Tom encouraged him to enter business. After completing school he was employed by a shipping firm, though he didn't much like it. When the Boer War broke out in 1900, between the United Kingdom and its colonies in southern Africa, Alec and two brothers joined a Scottish regiment. But instead of fighting it turned out to be rather a sporting club as a military regiment; they made their shooting, swimming, and even their water polo skills more perfect. Soon after this, the Flemings' uncle died and left them each 250 pounds.

    • Word count: 1184
  9. Letze Jahr im August, ich war in Zypern geflogen weil ich bin griechisch, es war glnzend!!! Ich bin mit meiner familie dorthin gefahren, wir sind zwei wochen gebliebn, mit dem zug. Ich bereisen Limmasol, Phaphos and Larnica

    Ich bin mit meiner familie dorthin gefahren, wir sind zwei wochen gebliebn, mit dem zug. Ich bereisen Limmasol, Phaphos and Larnica und ich besuchen meine familie. Ich meine oma gebleien, in deiner fein f�nf stern hotel gewohnt! Aber das hotel war tuer! und die aufzug war kaputt! wir hast halbpension. Ich haben am zweiten tag ins swimmbad, dann eine rundfahrt gemacht.

    • Word count: 222
  10. Dr Iannis tells his daughter, " Technically the captain is an enemy," Explore de bernieres presentation of war- time relationships between Pelagia and Corelli in the light of this statement.

    During the Second World War, it was common for relationships to have to undergo extreme pressure. War was a factor that inhibited any possible romance between any two individuals, as the unknown was always expected. Men constantly had to go away for periods of years in order to fight for their country often in locations far away from their place of origin. Soldiers often found romance in locations they had been posted to. However, this was dangerous as wartime often created suspected conspiracies between two countries. This is particular relevant in, " Captain Corelli's Mandolin," as Pelagia is an inhabitant of Cephallonia and Greek.

    • Word count: 1461
  11. Compare and consider the ways Tennyson and Owen present war in "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and "Dulce et Decorum Est"

    Firstly, Tennyson's purpose was to glorify war and the sacrifices made by soldiers whilst Owens intention was to describe the horrors and tragedies of war. Tennyson was the Poet Laureate and therefore an establishment figure. This may have led him to write what amounted to propaganda as he would want to encourage respect for soldiers and their sense of duty. Tennyson was not a serving soldier but read about the war. Obviously, this could have led to a more detached view of battle.

    • Word count: 3438
  12. Compare and Contrast the way in which the poet presents war in 'On the Idle Hill' and 'The Drum' by Mahmoud Elsherif.

    Housman never partook in any war but heard about the terror of it from other people's experiences. The first verse portrays a peaceful, happy and a warm scene. Words such as 'summer', 'sleepy' and 'streams' emphasises this. However, the 'steady drummer' cuts through this peaceful atmosphere. It is the sound of the army coming, looking for new recruits to go to war with them. The first stanza seems to be about the drum and how it calls people to war and tears them away from their homes. The line; 'Drumming like a noise in dreams.'

    • Word count: 569
  13. Compare and Contrast the way in which the poets presents war in 'On the Idle Hill' and 'The Drum' War, in any shape or form, affects people in many different

    Housman's view of war is that it is futile; he shows some anguish but understands peoples' need for excitement. He was not writing about any particular war, but simply the horror of battle in general. Housman never partook in any war but heard about the terror of it from other people's experiences. Housman doesn't fully understand war because he has never experienced it first hand. Therefore his poem stills uses gentle words and after a while harsh words. The first verse portrays a peaceful, happy and a warm scene. Words such as 'summer', 'sleepy' and 'streams' suggests this, emphasised by the use of sibilance.

    • Word count: 1301
  14. Poetry comparison - Flanders Field, Fall In and Anthem for Doomed Youth

    'Fall In' was first published in a volume called Fighting Lines and Various Reinforcement (1914). The last poem will be 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' written by Wilfred Owen. Owen states in this poem that he does not intend to glorify war and tell people what a 'wonderful place' it is. Wilfred was born in 1893 and had been pressured by propaganda, where he volunteered on 21st October 1915 to become a war militant to serve for his country. It has been argued that Owen is the best war poet of England but there are many others that are just as inspirational.

    • Word count: 1852
  15. In the poem Dulce et Decorum Est Wilfred Owen uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey his anger at those who encourage young people to think that war is a sweet and noble thing

    "haunting flares" This is one of these phrases in which the word haunting puts a spooky or scary image into the readers mind. I also think Owen has used the phrase "haunting flares" because he himself was afraid of the prospect of returning to war and fighting their losing battle once more. The next few lines are describing the soldiers injuries and exhaustion. "Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood shod" This passage is explaining that many men had lost their clothing and equipment but they still had to go on.

    • Word count: 1100
  16. Eine schreckliche Verabredung mit... Luke Meine Verabredung letztes Freitag war furchtbar und sehr langweilig! Luke

    Luke hatte lange fettige braune Haare und graue Augen. Er war sehr gross, sehr h�sslich und wirklich schlaksig. Aber, er war ziemlich freundlich. Sein Leiblingshobby war trainspotting! Wir waren sehr verschie den weil er unheimliche Interessen gehabt! Auch, er hat seinem Hund gebracht. Das Hund war nass und �bel riechend! Wir sind nach Part in Birghton gefahren.

    • Word count: 214
  17. What were the main problems for soldiers involved in trench warfare? When the war first started everyone thought that it would be over in a couple of months if not weeks

    This was a big problem as it meant that there were fewer soldiers to fight. To prevent trench foot soldiers had to dry their feet and change their socks several times a day and by the end of 1915 British soldiers were given orders to change their socks at least twice a day. Soldiers were also told to cover their feet with grease made from whale oil. It is estimated that a battalion would use ten gallons of oil a day. As a result, cases of trench foot became rarer. Infestation of lice was another problem.

    • Word count: 1335
  18. Referring to your Wider Reading, Examine how Typical in both Style and Treatment of Subject Matter these writings are of Literature from or about the First World War

    ...Who'll give his country a hand?' As well as demonstrating Pope's use of rhetorical questions and the patriotism within her poetry, this quote also illustrates her technique of comparing the brutal war to a sport's 'game', which is further supported by her statement; 'Who'll grip and tackle the job unafraid?' in which sport's terminology is utilised, in order to enable her target audience, the young men of the time, to relate to what is being said: Sport's games were popular amongst boys of the early Twentieth Century, and by comparing the war to a such a game, Pope appeals to these boys.

    • Word count: 1855
  19. Trumbo establishes Johnny Got His Gun as an antiwar novel, rather than a pacifist novel, by illustrating the total negative effects of all war

    That is only if they are lucky enough to still have their lives after senselessly risking it. With Joe's firm belief that war and its unfathomable goals have nothing to do with him, or people like him, comes his understanding that people such as himself have nothing to gain by fighting in a war that others have started.. "It was a kind of duty you owed yourself that when anybody said come on son do this or do that you should stand up and say look mister why should I do this for who am I doing it and what am I going to get out of it in the end?

    • Word count: 1225
  20. Sun Tzu-The Art of War

    There were many situations that arose, and things discussed in this book that could, and should, apply to the world today. In the world today we are presented with the situation of an aggressive war. Mo Ti states that if a man kills an innocent man it is considered unrighteous. But when murder is committed in attacking a country it is not considered wrong; it is applauded and called righteous. I agree with this statement and feel that this applies to the United States today.

    • Word count: 606
  21. How do Wilfred owen's 'dulce et decorum est' and Wilhelm klemm's 'clearing station' show the true horrors of war? What are the similarities and differences between both poems?

    Owen's use language emphasizes his point, showing that war is terrible and devastating. It also shows the use of extremely graphic imagery adds even more to his argument. Through the effective use of all three of these tools, this poem conveys a strong meaning and persuasive argument. The poem's use of excellent speech helps to more clearly define what the author is saying. Words like "guttering", "choking", and "drowning" not only show how the man is suffering, but that he is in terrible pain that no human being should experience. Other words like writhing and froth-corrupted say precisely how the man is being tormented.

    • Word count: 1189
  22. The Horses - Edwin Muir

    As the line points out that the people hade come to an agreement with the silence. There is an emphasis on the absolute silence within the people when the poet says: "We listened to our breathing and were afraid" The fact that the people were able to hear their own breathing shows the immense silence between them. This is probably because silence in a way represents peace and after the war, the people are still afraid and need the silence to help stress that the war is over. Silence and death are predominant features in the poem and the lack of communication is emphasized again when the poet says: "If on a sudden they should speak again...

    • Word count: 1081
  23. How and why do National Cemetery/Memorials built in the 1920's commemorate those who died in World War One in such different ways?

    Compared to the Germans however they are very memorable and forgiving. As you look at the German cemetery at Langemarck you see that it is much more out of place and hidden away. The graves are flat and low and very insignificant. This is probably because the Germans lost the war and therefore maybe may Germans didn't want to remember that they lost in the war. As well as this none of the German soldiers had single graves o themselves (as in British cemeteries) and many were shared between 4-40 people in a single grave.

    • Word count: 3405
  24. Perception of War at Home

    He wrote poems about war before after and during his experience of war. If one looks at his earlier poems and then compares it to one of his later poems they will be able to see how his attitude to the war changed. An example of one of his earlier poems is 'The Ballad of Peace and War' which he wrote after war broke out but before he experienced war himself. Owen shows that he completely approves of the war throughout the poem. For example he wrote, 'But sweeter still and far more meet/To die in war for brothers...'

    • Word count: 1209
  25. The poems Joining the Colours and The Send-off both discuss, young, guileless boys marching off to war. The Send-off is written by Wilfred Owen, and ex-soldier, which explains why the reader acquires a deeper understanding

    Also it could mean Joining the Colours, colours being the army. Whereas Wilfred Owen titled his poem The Send-off, theoretically the send off to war, but he knows it will be for some of them a send off to death. The rhythm of Joining the Colours is lighter than The Send-off but has a very sinister undertone. The first line of The Send-off is typical of the tone of the poem. "Blithely they go as to a wedding day", which is ironic because the author and the reader know that they are going to the opposite, the wedding day symbolises flowers and a church service, also associated with poppies and funerals.

    • Word count: 1382

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