Commentary on Aftermath by Sassoon

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Aftermath commentary

“Aftermath” gives insight into the post-war British culture that places a lot of importance on subduing agonizing memories and reveals how that culture, by expecting an individual to forget, intensifies the leftover desolation that proceeds from the war. The poem sends a very thought-provoking message that conveys to its readers that for society in order to regenerate after such a catastrophe, one needs not to submit to the urge to repress agonizing memories, but to remember and accept the sufferings he has undergone instead. 

“Aftermath” is a reflection upon the war after it has ended, critically discussing the post-war society and that society’s progression of moving forward from the tragedy of war. The motif that consistently reoccurs throughout the poem evaluates the key issue that is evident in its title – the “aftermath” of war. Sassoon’s exposition recounts how although young men are “reprieved” from war and have made their ways back into society, they still are confronted by the “haunted gap” of their minds; his recount therefore suggests that returning soldiers are unable to properly move forward with life, because they still have not yet learned to accept and live with the terror of the past. This elaborates on Sassoon’s exploration of how the repressive post-war society, instead of nurturing and offering social support to these soldiers, have actually prevented them from remembering and coming to terms with the past. Sassoon’s evaluation is greatly enriched by his use of imagery. Very pleasant images such as the “clouds,” and the “lit heaven of life” are being layered alternately between disturbing images such as the “dying eyes,” the “lolling heads” and the “doomed and haggard faces.” It is noticeable that there are not nearly as many pleasant images, and that the number of disturbing images is dominant and overpowering throughout the poem. This once again hints at the underlying disturbances that will continually haunt the soldiers who are supposedly enjoying life. It intensifies Sassoon’s powerful remark: soldiers have been “reprieved” and have been given the precious gift of life, but they are still being subconsciously haunted by the memories of the “slain of the War”; however hard they try to move forward and however much they cherish life, men returning from war would forever be troubled by the memories of the massacre and butchery they have caused.

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The poem is written in the second-person perspective, addressing the “you,” which most probably represents the society Sassoon is trying to appeal to. This renders Sassoon’s message even more critical because it directly speaks to the reader, which not only immediately appeals to their interest and gains their attention, but also makes it more solemn and despondent: “Have you forgotten yet?” What’s more, by incorporating such an interesting perspective, Sassoon also shares his emotions – whether longing or plaintive, contemplative or mournful – with his reader, inviting them to undergo the dismal and “[haunting]” experience of the war’s “aftermath” with him and ...

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