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    (Original post by kokopops1)
    if it'll help ive got loadsa info on birdsong...like individual characters and other stuff...
    That would help me loads kokopops, as I've hardly collected together anything on it yet.

    And guys, www.englishbox.com is invaluable
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    this is about stephen wraysford

    /EDIT :
    A) The character of Stephen

    Stephen is a complex character with many mysteries surrounding him. He is pensive, quiet and viewed by his comrades as strange and odd.
    When seated at the dinner table for the first time it was noticeable that Stephen didn’t speak to the Azaire family unless spoken to, he was polite and well mannered. He takes in every detail and is always searching for something in the eyes, face or voice of the person he is directed towards ‘Stephen watched her as she spoke, his dark eyes scrutinizing her face.’ He never gives too much of himself away and he could be considered by some as rude but that is just the personality of his character. Immediately after being introduced to Madame Azaire we see that Stephen has a fascination with her, he develops an intense interest in her.
    Stephen is a very intense and dedicated soldier, he takes his duties very seriously and was very strange. He found the war difficult but thought it had no purpose and therefore found it easier to deal with than his other comrades. Stephen seemed emotionless and felt that he had the ability to cope with the unfolding terror but as the novel progresses we see that Stephens own fears about the war prevent him from truly being carefree. When Stephen took his friend Weir to visit the mother and daughter prostitutes we see that he has been disturbed because he displays some extremely violent behaviour, he feels captured by forces he cannot explain and because of the person he is he seeks answers to the questions of why is there a war? Why do all the innocents die?
    Stephen is very passionate about the soldiers he commands and finds it inconceivable that he would have to leave them and go back to the country he feels he doesn’t belong in. He knew he wasn’t a popular officer and felt he gave insufficient support to those underneath him ‘he found it difficult to think of words of encouragement or inspiration when he himself did not believe there was a purpose to the war or end to it in sight.’ Stephens’ only friend was Captain Weir and he adopted a parental role over him, he was one of the only people that Stephen truly connected with. Even though Stephen himself feels unable to aid his men in anyway he does because he leads them and tries to encourage them to continue without fear, he forces them through the tunnels and it seems as though he is being harsh but in his own way he is giving them the gift of fearlessness and courage.
    Stephen continuously witnesses death and as we read about him it is obvious that although it disturbs him it doesn’t genuinely affect him as it does with some of the other soldiers. Stephen believes the war has no point when asked what he is fighting for he replies ‘If I am fighting on behalf of anyone, I think it is for those who have died. Not for the living at home but for the dead over here.’ He would never leave it or choose not to fight if he was given the option; the war to Stephen is like a sense of being. He sees it as a lifestyle and after losing Isabelle it gives him a purpose once again. Due to Stephens past he feels his future is in the war if he died then that would be ok and if he lived he would just carry on. When Stephen nearly dies it doesn’t give him an ambition to live life to the full as it would to many other people but the experience reinforces his view on the war. We see this in his behaviour towards the dying soldier next to him, he develops a caring for him and asks about him, in the night time he says prayers for him wishing that he could die and be put out of the misery and agony he is in. Stephen is compassionate and although he loathes the institution of war he is prepared to sacrifice himself in it.
    Stephen seems to undergo a change from 1910 he doesn’t concentrate on his love for Isabelle as much as he used to he focuses on his troops, he diverts his love from her onto fighting and his men. It is as if he hardens his heart against love and feeling so that he is able to lead his men and cope in the terrible situation.
    Stephen is admired by Weir as he feels he is very brave, he relies on Stephen to make the decisions and to inspire and spur him on. Stephen changes a lot during the book his personality is conflicting he tries to find out who he is and so does the reader. He thinks that he is no good with his men but his love and dedication towards them tells us different when Douglas is dying he comforts him and promises him that he will write to his wife he gives Douglas hope ‘You love your wife, Douglas. You’ll see her again. Think of her when you get to the hospital. Hold on to that thought.’
    Stephen is a fantastic character who is passionate and the portrayal of him in the book is sometimes disturbing but always moving, you see him through the eyes of others, himself and from the conclusions you are able to draw from the story. We see from his relationship with Isabelle that is capable of loving but has suffered nothing but abandonment throughout his life and has never experienced being loved by someone that is why he so willingly enters the war and continues it with perseverance, ardour and loyalty to those that serve him.
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    ISABELLA :

    B) The character of Isabelle
    Isabelle feels that her purpose in life is to care for her family. Her desire to leave home as a young woman meant that she had to marry Azaire, this was instigated by her father who felt that she could possibly end up as an embarrassment to the family and Azaire he felt was the perfect opportunity to give Isabelle security and himself peace of mind. The marriage was one of convenience the children may not be hers but she feels obligated to look after them and devote herself to them fully. As the war gives Stephen a purpose so does her family to her. Isabelle was an outcast in her family and her only friend was Jeanne they were the two youngest daughters and best friends, Jeanne helped look after her and teach her the ways of the world.
    Isabelle didn’t know what to make of Stephen when she first met him and there were emotions of lust, fear and pain directed towards him. At first she didn’t know whether she had true feelings for him or whether she was simply trying to escape her marriage to Azaire. The age gap made her feel powerful and initially she looked upon her feelings as condescending and unreal, she tried to withdraw herself from any situation involving him and especially when they were alone she didn’t want anything to happen between them but their passion was far too great. The first kiss was confusing to her and she tried to stop it from occurring after momentarily giving in, at first she succeeded then she went back to him and arranged a rendezvous in the red room here the lustful affair began. As it continued the relationship became less sexual and the infatuation turned into feelings that were more real prompting her after a while to reveal their affair with ease to Azaire when he questioned her at the dinner table.
    Isabelle is kind to those outside of the Azaire household especially to little Lucien who she sympathises with; she supports his cause even though it goes against her husband. Isabelle was seen by the outside world as an upstanding citizen basically due to her marriage to Azaire she was ‘a woman of dignity’. Azaire was a key figure in the town and she was viewed as doting wife and mother when truly she was in pain and wanted to escape. Isabelle was opinionated this was a total opposite of what people believed her to be she demonstrates this with her behaviour to Berard and his wife for with him she has the upper hand but allows him to think that he has.
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    DEPICTION OF SOLDIERS :

    C) The depiction of other soldiers

    In France 1916 two different regiments emerge Stephens’ friend Weir leads the minors and the front line soldiers are led by Wraysford himself. There is a union between the men as they have been brought together in the face of adversity, a comradery develops as the men sympathise with one another and understand what each other are going through. These bonds that develop are strong and unbreakable. It is not just in the battles that the men are together in the limited amount of social time they get they are also put together and their relationships evolve and their ties to one another deepen considerably.
    The war changed the soldiers because it took away their reality they felt isolated from the outside world and felt that this was their lives and all that happened. It was difficult for them to distance themselves from their surroundings and think of home. To them there was nothing to distinguish night from day as the pain never stopped coming neither did the bullets ‘this was the new reality, the world in which they were now condemned to live, and that the pattern of the seasons, of night and day, was gone.’ The soldiers tried to imagine what life would be like if the war went away and normal life was resumed, they try to think about the future but found it difficult to believe that things could ever be the same ‘If night would fall the earth might resume its natural process, and perhaps in may years’ time, what happened during daylight could be viewed as an aberration, could be comprehended within the rhythm of normal life.’
    The enemy are not a major part of the story but their presence is evident, no judgment is passed on the soldiers they are not familiarised in any way we are not drawn to them and they are more often than not far away and in the distance, however in one scene Stephen falls into a river and he is surrounded by Germans and for the first time he realises that these men are all fighting for their lives too but he can’t distinguish whether to hate them or to pity them ‘All around him the people who had killed his friends, his men. Close to, in their pitted skin and wide eyes he saw men like himself.’ ‘A boy, like so many, dark-complexioned, weeping. Stephen tried to hate them now as he had hated them before.’ The other men who helped Stephen out of the water fired at the Germans with no pity for them, they didn’t recognise them as human beings they were willing to kill just as they had killed many of their friends. Faulks shows that every soldier was different and found each situation they were in easy or difficult to deal with.
    The people back home are often mentioned when the soldiers write letters to their loved ones but an interesting idea was Weir’s contempt for those back home he talks of his families disregarding what was happening here and of the factory workers who went on strike he says ‘the people who went on strike for more money in the factories when we were dying on a shilling a day’, ‘I would like to see them all walk into the enemy guns in long thin lines. For one shilling’. The soldier’s feel that people in Britain don’t care or even understand what is happening to them and they feel there is no gratitude for their unwilling resistance and constant deaths.
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    DEPICTION OF BATTLEFIELDS


    D) The depiction of the battlefields

    The battlefields in the novel are presented as places of death and torture. We as the readers are shown a life of terror, slaughter and destruction. The images relayed by Faulks are graphic and there are many times when the scenes seem too real. We are spared no details when it comes to describing the battlefields ‘within minutes the hillside was seething’. We are never treated to picturesque beauty or scenes like in the beginning of the novel, which I believe, were there to show us how much war destroys nature and how nature is abandoned when war comes into play. Faulks wants to demonstrate the horror that occurred on those fields and he uses descriptive language to evoke gut-wrenching realism and sorrow for the men in the story ‘It was like a resurrection in a cemetery twelve miles long. Bent, agonized shapes loomed in multitudes on the churned earth. Limping and dragging back to reclaim their life.’
    I felt like I became part of what was happening and it gave the book a cinematic quality as if I could watch the events unravel, it made the deaths seem real and it was at times physically sickening ‘It was a s though the land were disgorging a generation of crippled sleepers, each one distinct but related to its twisted brothers as they teemed up from the reluctant earth.’ The descriptions showed chaos and destruction ‘The artillery on both sides had stopped, though there were occasional outbreaks of machine gun fire and the sound of sniping.’ The sounds and the passages where the firing is described add to the books realistic essence of war.
    When the soldiers are watching their fellow men being blown to bits by machine gun fire you feel as though you become part of them as they witness the mutilation of their friends and fellow men. The book takes you on a journey from one place to another but the scenes of the battles are still momentously important and ever present in your mind. The pace of the book is fast like the firing but slow like the agonising deaths they suffer, it demonstrates the futility of life ‘Within two hours they had blown Byrne’s head, bit by bit, off his body so that only a hole remained between his soldiers’. When the soldiers went through these battles it was evident that their was no relief for them it evoked strange feelings for them even those like Stephen who had felt hardened against the emotions ‘What he longed for was an end to the day and to the new, unbelievable reality it had brought’.
    The tunnels were described as hell holes where the men are deprived from sunlight and even a small sense of normality, they were dirty and cramped but the men who had a trying job had to sleep there as well as work. ‘They bore the stench of their packed, unwashed bodies.’ Here our attention is drawn to the plight of the men like Jack Firebrace who had to dwell in these conditions, there is huge contrast between the men above and below ground, their conditions are both harrowing but their experiences are very different ‘The smell was hard to breathe, but it was no better above ground where the chloride or lime seemed not to compound the atmosphere of putrefying flesh.’
    The scenes are descriptive, amazingly effective and disturbing at the same time, the battle scenes are evil personified and that is what I felt after reading them.
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    CHARACTER OF JACK :

    E) The character of Jack

    Jack Firebrace was one of the best miners of Weirs platoon he was a capable soldier and became able to tell when shells were coming and if enemy fire was to start or cease. Jack was forced to stay underground for many hours and this affected him.
    Jack got on well with the soldiers he worked with and he emerged as a leader type to those in the tunnels, he was known as the entertainer of the group and liked to make jokes and to sing to his fellow men in order to keep their spirits and morale’s high. Jack has an unspoken respect for his men and appreciates that they all have lives and families and a past, he sees them as people unlike many of the senior officers do. His respect for them goes beyond thought and he makes it his duty to help others in their times of need. It wasn’t until Tyson and Shaw died that Jack truly came to realise that he had honestly cared for them both, their deaths affected him as they left a gap in his group and it allowed death to once again reign in Jacks world.
    Jack was not directly involved in the battles or the fighting but still witnessed death and its consequences often, he hated the war and it destroyed him yet he felt it was part of his life and would not give up on it. At one point we see Jack’s pain when his wife writes to him and tells him that his son is ill, jack goes to visit his superiors and his request to go on leave and visit him is rejected, he resents them and the war for this and when his son dies we see a different side to Jack and his emotions. Jack loves his wife greatly and loved his son, his son was a gift to him and he was always thinking of him in awe and amazement. Jacks son was a special entity that he admired and adored, his son’s death was a devastating blow for him but to cope with it he thrust himself in to fighting and helping the others.
    Jack felt like a failure to his wife and she tried desperately to comfort him and he to her they were both united in grief but because they were apart it made it difficult for them to deal with it and Jack consequently put his pain aside to try and cope with the tragedy he witnessed day after day. Jack tries to save his wife from knowing the true pain he is feeling he talks in his letters of good things ‘It is dangerous of course and there have been some gas alarms, but we all feel better now we have had a new lot of canaries’. Jack really loves his wife and is always thinking of others like her before himself.
    Jack had a different relationship with Stephen than with his other comrades, when the two are brought together in the novel it is an incident surrounding punishment as Stephen caught Jack asleep on watch. Stephen tells Firebrace that he has to report to him the following day and Jack spends the night in fear and in dread of what is to come, he thinks that he will receive the maximum penalty and die, he constantly thinks about what will become of him and his family when he is shot by his own troops but Stephen’s exercise of authority is nothing more than that and the next day he has forgotten about it. This is not a good start to their relationship the foundations are rocky from here on in and although the two develop a relationship later on it is disturbed again by the time that Jack finds Weir and Stephen drunk ‘the affection and gratitude he first felt began to evaporate’. Jack is grateful to Stephen because he knows that Stephen tries for his men but he dislikes him as an authority figure and doesn’t connect with him.
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    i have some more stuff on individual passages...want me 2 post?
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    1. From ‘Jack placed his head…’ to ‘how ineffective they were as soldiers’ page 122-page 128. Presentation of events and attitudes.

    The author uses Jack and the other soldiers to convey images and emotions of tension, fear and tragedy.
    It is written with gut wrenching realism, it is evident that something bad is going to happen as the tension is built up by Jack’s indecisiveness ‘on the other hand, if he failed to identify German digging coming back the other way, the loss of life would probably be greater, he had to be sure.’
    The images are extremely horrific ‘Jack saw part of turners face and hair still attached to a piece of skull rolling to a halt’. Only moments before Turner had been alive then Faulks uses this description of his death to allow the reader to see how easily life was lost in the war.
    The camp is haunted by the deaths of the tunnelers we see an emotional side to the soldiers and see how they deal with death and each does in a different way even though it says of Jack ‘already immune to death’ we can see that he is affected and feels he is to blame.
    The soldiers develop bonds with each other Faulks demonstrates this with the other soldiers trying to comfort Jack ‘Don’t worry, anyone can make a mistake’ it is an emotionally low key scene but says so much of the love they have for each other even though they know they could lose each other any minute of the day. It shows comradeship and feelings, which we are constantly led to believe the soldiers are devoid of.
    The emotion of fear is expressed in the narrative ‘he lay rocked between the fear of being buried by a shell….’.
    Destruction – ‘They would find that part of Turners’ face and head and they would bury it beneath the earth with any other bits of bone and uniform they could bring back from underground.’ This shows once again how easily life is lost and humanity destroyed.
    Faulks uses Turner collapsing to describe to the reader the conditions in the tunnel, which is very effective as its Jacks hallucinations that reveal the pressure on him and his mental state ‘thought for a second…’.
    When Jack receives the letter from his wife we see how he deals with his homesickness ‘He could not bring his mind to bear on the distant world her handwriting suggested’. The soldiers felt distanced from the real world Jack is used as an instrument to convey this, he dreams of his son which brings him the only happiness he has felt in a long time.
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    2. From ‘Who are you?’ page133-138. What are your impressions of Stephen five years on from his last appearance in the story?
    There is a description of Stephen that is so different from when we first met him in the novel, initially it is unclear that this man is in fact Stephen ‘Jack saw a man with dark hair going grey at the sides’ ‘He could have been any age from twenty-five to forty.’ The experience of war has aged Stephen.
    Stephen seems more serious and not very nice, he is not like the Stephen that the readers had once known.
    He disregards the fear and anxiety that he put Jack through it is as if he doesn’t care.
    It is obvious that Stephen now drinks excessively ‘Jack looked towards Weir and noticed an almost empty bottle of whiskey on the table. There were only two glasses.’
    In Jacks observation of Stephen we see someone completely different to the confident and smart man in the beginning ‘He seemed forgetful and distant, but also enthusiastic about going underground. It was though he was not all there’.
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    3. P133-144. How does Faulks establish the mood and atmosphere in the rest of the period?
    The quietness and serenity of the village creates a huge contrast to the guns and damage at the front. Faulks tries to create a sense of normality and the men try to preserve that illusion of normalcy.
    The town serves, as a chance to forget and escape even if it is just for one minute, for Jack it is uncomfortable, as he feels alienated from humanity. ‘The comfort of not being under fire was diluted by a growing homesickness’.
    A sense of nostalgia is created as the memories of forgotten lives come back to them, Jacks memories of the trains and the noise in London.
    They feel tortured by their own existence and they don’t feel relieved as you would believe they would because they can’t forget ‘what happened a few miles away was kept secret. None of these men would admit that what they saw and what they did were beyond the boundaries of human behaviour’ This feeling of being abstract from humanity is how Faulks shows us the emotional disturbance that war evokes.
    The scenery changes but the mood doesn’t lift, not for Jack he tries to forge an alliance with the world he feels is a fantasy ‘No one told; and Jack too joined the unspoken conspiracy that all was well, that no natural order had been violated’.
    We are given a clue about Jack’s former life and the severity of his poor background ‘He was too ashamed to admit that the army food, though irregular and sometimes contaminated when it arrived at the front, was generally better than what they would afford at home.’ This reveals another side to this character that we previously didn’t know and represents one of the reasons that men would have had to join the army and sentence themselves to death.
    They can’t escape ‘Jacks solemn face glistened with the effort of his comedy, and the men’s determined response, whistling and slapping each other in mirth, was a token of their determination and their fear.’ Their actions show their courage and their fear; even in a place of merriment they fear death and all the uncertainty that surrounds their mortality.
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    sorri guys, thats all i got, hope it helps...
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    WOW! Really impressive and so helpful to read though Thank you!
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    (Original post by slowjamz)
    WOW! Really impressive and so helpful to read though Thank you!
    no problemo...just hope it helps
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    oh and thanks for the rep slow...
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    wow! that is a lot of notes, :eek: and very helpful too! thanx sooo much for those kokopops1, i hope typing it all up didn't disturb ur revision!
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    (Original post by sneezyme)
    wow! that is a lot of notes, :eek: and very helpful too! thanx sooo much for those kokopops1, i hope typing it all up didn't disturb ur revision!
    its k..i copied it from my work
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    I've typed up a long list of quotes that are suggestive of the main themes in war literature - rather than posting it all I'll just list some of my favourites!

    (Great idea to post quotes by the way!)

    - ‘I’ll stick it out now’ (Stanhope). – Journey’s End, by RC Sherriff.
    - Patriotism, or lack of.

    - ‘Yesterday’s Mail; the casualties (typed small) and (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.’ – Smile, Smile, Smile, by Wilfred Owen.
    - Attacking propaganda.

    - ‘The quarter master… Miles and miles behind the lines.’ – Hanging on the old Barbed Wire, a trench song.
    - Blundering officers.

    - ‘You believe that chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.’ – Glory of Women, by Siegfried Sassoon.
    - Gender issues.

    - ‘Thou owest God a death’ (Falstaff). – King Henry the Fourth, Part One by William Shakespeare.
    - Quite important in showing the importance of honour before WWI.

    - ‘He succumbed only with reluctance to the friendship of Tyson and Shaw, but found to his dismay that their company had grown important to him.’ – Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks.
    - The reluctancy to befriend other soldiers for fear of them dying is a common theme in WWI literature.

    - ‘Jack saw part of Turner’s face and hair still attached to a piece of skull rolling to a halt.’ – Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks.
    - Horrors of war, etc. I like using this quote to contrast with romanticised war literature.
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    hey are you talking about aqa a2 level eng lit synoptic on 22 june only i have not got this yet and was just wondering if it is on the war?
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    (Original post by euphoria57)
    hey are you talking about aqa a2 level eng lit synoptic on 22 june only i have not got this yet and was just wondering if it is on the war?
    yea its on the war... arguably the worst exam of the lot... 3 hours of pure torture!!

    Thanks sooooooo much kokopops1 that was so helpful!! rep on its way!
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    (Original post by wibble...)
    im reading "strange meeting" by susan hill at the moment... does anyone know why hilliard hates the smell of roses? it probably says further on but im finding it a bit confusing... :confused:
    I'm reading Strange Meeting at the moment too -- in answer to your question, I don't remember/haven't reached that point, but possibly because they remind him of the smell of gas?
 
 
 
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