The Beauty of Wwi
In the WWI poems “Suicide in the trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon and “The Leveller” by Robert Graves, an important idea that is conveyed in both poems is that war is not beautiful. It is an end to humanity and war itself is destruction. Sassoon uses imagery and emotive words to show us the true horror of war and Graves uses metaphors and similes to highlight the idea that there is no glory in dying and that those back home have been misled about the death of the soldiers.
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In Siegfried Sassoon’s Suicide in the Trenches poem, he highlights the idea of some of the youngsters that enlisted in the army, had no aspirations for the future and thought it was a good option to go to war and come back; they thought that there was a good range in the army. Unfortunately, they were deceived by the propaganda of the war, a very influencing form of communication that is aimed at a community like the soldiers or their families back home. An example is a recruiting poster. Sassoon uses imagery such as, ‘he put a bullet through his brain’, to evoke an image of a young man in utter despair.
It forces us to consider the way the soldiers and not just the young man on how they were terribly treated in the trenches with rats, the size of cats and other filthy pests living with them. These conditions seemed to encourage them to commit suicide at an early age knew that they had that they have no other options left, hence the title ‘Suicide in the Trenches’. This is important because Sassoon directs us to the idea of propaganda that made the young recruits join the war. Another technique Sassoon used was emotive words to illustrate the living conditions of the soldiers.
For example “cowed and glum” It precisely describes the trenches where the soldiers stayed. The words “cowed and glum” means dispirit and sullen and it basically shows us that the young man, unable to find solace in the trenches, is unhappy and desperate. This is important because Sassoon criticizes the unhygienic trenches the poor soldiers stayed in. The Suicide in the Trenches poem implies the word dishonesty which leads us back to the idea of propaganda. The real problem is that no one knows the real truth, no one can know what the people in charge are thinking and even good intentions can result in terrible consequences.
In Robert Graves’ The Leveller poem, he uses metaphors to show us the sufferings each and every soldier offered to that ‘great war’. For example “He had known death and hell before” compares war to death and hell, and to all the other connotations of war like torture and fire. This is important because Graves forces us to consider the idea of war as not being the amazing experience that young men assumed. Another technique Graves’ used was simile. For example “senseless and limp like slaughtered sheep” is used to explain the horrible deaths of soldiers.
By using the simile and comparing the soldier’s bodies to those of slaughtered sheep, we get an image of the bloody, brutal deaths like those in a slaughtered house, quick but bloody. Graves used this to emphasise the idea of the soldier’s innocence and truth having no place in war. This technique is important because it was used to tell the families back home that their sons did not go off and fight in a ‘beautiful’ battle filled with honour but died in horrible and painful conditions. I believe with the saying that says ‘Sweet is war to those who have never experienced it’ by Pindar, a Greek poet.
Therefore, I feel compassionate towards the young recruits because their innocence had led them to their downfall as they failed to understand what the propaganda of war is all about. As a reader, I also feel anger towards the nations of Europe. They did not only promise the recruits a great war but they also lied to the families back home about the deaths of the soldiers. This makes me think about the other wars going on right now like the ‘South Kordofan Conflict’, ‘Syrian Uprising’, or the ‘Kenyan Invasion of Somalia’.
It draws my attention to the soldiers on the battlefields, who have sacrificed a lot and who have been misled to. Both texts, Suicide in the Trenches and The Leveller, give explicit insight about how the soldiers were treated in the Great War. The poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, have successfully establish their opposition to war by using range of techniques to effectively help us understand the idea of war as being awful. Both the poems express a message of war being horrifying and unpleasant. It was a wonderful heroic thought at first but it ends with an unmerciful death.