World war 1 poetry

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During the First World War it is estimated that a total of 10 million people were killed and twice that number were wounded. The war lasted from 1914 to 1918. The war was fought between Britain and her allies and Germany and her allies. Most of the fighting took place in France and Belgium. At first, British people thought that Britain would win very quickly and the soldiers were lucky to be able to fight the Germans. Men were eager to join up because they wanted to impress their families and girlfriends. However, as the war progressed, people realised that it was not going to be that easy. British and French soldiers faced the Germans in their trenches and both sides used bombs and guns to kill each other. When the British side tried to advance by sending men over the top of the trenches, they suffered huge casualties. Altogether 750,000 British soldiers were killed, 2,500,000 were wounded and many were permanently disabled. By the time the war had ended the British people were fed up with the fighting and just wanted to get back to normal. The returned soldiers who were wounded were an unwelcome reminder of the war. During the war writers and poets were beginning to write about the horrors of war rather than the glory.

Two important poets of the war were Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 in Shropshire. He signed up in 1915, but by 1917 he was sent home a nervous wreck with shell shock. He later recovered and returned to France. He wrote many letters home and poems before he was killed in November 1918, aged 25, just one week before the war ended. Siegfried Sassoon was born in 1886 in London. He joined up in 1915 and fought in France. He wrote poems during the war and after it. He was wounded and suffered shell shock but he survived the war. Siegfried Sassoon died in 1967, aged 81. Both poets wrote about disablement and how this affected the soldiers themselves. They also described the attitude of the British people towards the disabled and often disfigured soldiers. “Does it matter?” and “The one-legged Man” by Siegfried Sassoon, and “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen are the examples I am going to look at. I will be showing how the poets dealt with disablement and the attitudes to returning soldiers in the poems.

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All three poems describe the common war wounds suffered by soldiers in the trenches. "Does it matter?" talks about anyone losing their legs, not a specific person, "Does it matter? - losing your legs?" (Line 1). It also talks about other disabilities such as losing eyesight, "Does it matter? – losing your sight?”(L6), and losing your mind, "Do they matter? – those dreams from the pit?” (L11).  This also makes the poem much more general. The other two poems are about a particular person who lost one of or both of his legs. For example, in "Disabled" the loss ...

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