Hi, could somebody please give me feedback on this essay I wrote from the power and conflict cluster, comparing the poems 'Remains' and 'Bayonet Charge'.
Compare how poets present the effects of war in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and in one other poem from ‘Power and conflict’.
In both poems, Bayonet Charge and Remains, war is presented as scarring, inextricable and poignant. A common theme explored is one of the unjustified suffering and long-term psychological impacts on the soldiers, taking part in war.
Both poems centre around the idea of the psychological impact of a soldier, and inextricable inclination towards war. Bayonet Charge based during the heat of the battle, presents the soldier facing an epiphany, as his patriotism soon transforms to fear at the abhorrent sight of death. Greatly influenced by the tragedies of the first two world wars, Hughes wanted to spread awareness of the brutal reality of war, as well warn the future generations about the human tendency towards warfare. In order to present the physical and mental struggles a soldier faces, as he charges towards the enemy at the battlefield, it is written in a third person narrative, inspired by the PTSD faced by the poet’s father, who fought in WW1. This creates a sense of detachment between the soldier’s psychological and physical state as he keeps ‘running’ unaware of the purpose behind his actions; as though the speaker is a spectator, watching on but able to share the soldier’s thoughts and feelings. For example, ‘his sweat heavy’ clothes further emphasise his physical and mental struggle, as the hyperbole exemplifies how confusing and disorienting the chaos of warfare is for the soldier, as well as the intense fear he feels throughout the heat of the battle. The assonance makes the phrase itself seem very long and substantial, not comparing to the actual panic and exhaustion the soldier himself must have felt. On the other hand, Armitage criticises war and killing, through a sense of guilt and regret he feels upon his own actions, as well as the inexorable PTSD faced by those involved in warfare, after the outer conflict has concluded. Remains is written in a dramatic monologue and a first-person narrative, based on a true account of a soldier in Iraq. This gives a more direct and personal insight into the soldier’s incapacity to cope with his frantic experience of the looter’s potential murder. For example, the quote, ‘His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol’, suggesting his inescapable guilt and inner conflict. The shadow, with connotations of ghostly behaviour, is not only symbolic of the place of the looter’s death, but also the shadow of the memory that will haunt him forever.
Furthermore, the extremity of the soldier’s torment, as well as the desensitization towards conflict is a large theme presented throughout Bayonet Charge. He is presented as more of a disposable object and machine like, rather than a human. Similarly, in remains, the soldier is also presented less humane, as he has become so used to warfare and death, that in the beginning, it seems as though the entirety of the experience does not have an effect on him. However, Armitage trivialises life, as he is responsible for the looter’s death, rather than the treatment of soldiers, like in Bayonet Charge. As he ‘Tosses his guts back into his body’, it is suggested through colloquialism how the looter’s life is just ‘carted’ away, as it perhaps holds no significance to the soldiers; perhaps they had been desensitized to war. In addition, the plosive sounds add a harsh, biting quality to the line, intensifying the sense of violent disregard being shown for the man's body. However, this contrasts to later on in the poem with the soldier’s inarticulate sincerity. This crude and brutal image might be created to mask their emotional reaction, grief, and guilt, perhaps as a coping mechanism, as they might be unable to express their feelings. On the other hand, Hughes highlights how the suffering of soldiers perhaps is not valued, but instead reduced to a meagre statistic on paper, further objectifying the soldier to an insignificant piece of meat, suggested through the adjective, ‘raw’.
Through the use of the media res, ‘Suddenly he awoke’ also a technique used by Armitage, it is implied how something has taken place before the start of the poem, which we, the readers, are unaware of similar to the situation of the confused soldier, as he charges forward with his bayonet, unsure of the reason behind his actions. It is also implied how perhaps at this moment he has become aware of the reality of war and has experienced an ‘awakening’, foreshadowing his epiphany. Furthermore, at this moment, the soldier might also have accepted his fate to become a ‘fighter’ and detach himself from his emotions and feelings as a human, as he carries on ‘running’, further emphasising the futility and human inclination towards war. This perhaps foreshadows how the soldier will suffer from PTSD after the war is over, as he will have no choice but to return to his ‘human form’, and not be able to transform into a machine. This implies how a soldier will experience inner conflict, and be ‘dead’, regardless of whether or not they succeed in war; it will always be a loss to them. Similarly, in remains, the quote ‘end of story, except not really’ is used to suggest how the soldier’s job is done and he can let go of the experience, however, it is not possible to do so, and how the incident has affected him profoundly and will continue to haunt him, thus the use of the media res and conversational tone.
Another difference is how in bayonet charge, through the use of propaganda, young men are fooled and essentially left with no choice but to blindly sign up out of idealism, whereas in remains, men are put into impossible situations. Through the nouns, ‘King, honour’, the national identity and justification of war is presented. Whereas in remains, soldiers are put into impossible situations, that they cannot make sense of. For example, as he follows the description of how they got ‘sent out’, the imperative implies how the command has given him no choice, as he is trying to rationalise his guilt for killing the ‘looter, by as he is trying to assure himself that his actions are justified and fair, implied by the violent and criminal acts of the ‘raiding’ looter.
Topic sentence addressing both poems
Sub topic sentence: Poem A
Embedded quote and terminology
2/3 layers of interpretation
Sub topic sentence: Poem B
Embedded quote and terminology
2/3 layers of interpretation
Compare how poets present the effect of war on people in war photographer and one other poem?
Both poems present how war has left people in shocked and disturbed. In ‘War Photographer,’ this is highlighted by the use of an ABBCDD rhyme scheme to imply how the photographer copes with his experience. When you are anxious or feeling out of place, the first thing people do is control their breathing to calm their heart rate down. In this sense, the photographer is deeply disturbed by his experience of war that he almost has this natural subconscious reaction of trying to restore a sense of order inside his shocked thoughts- and he does this almost interchangeably from destination to destination (as the ABB changed to CDD). On the other hand, the constant change from ABB to CDD can represent the ‘’ostrich effect’’- a cognitive bias that causes him to avoid information he perceives as unpleasant, in essence he stops himself acknowledging the terrors of war after a certain extent (hence the change from ABB to CDD) because he cannot bring himself to face the fact that every day he watches people suffer and yet does nothing but take photos of them. Similarly, in Remains, when the soldier is recounting his war experience of killing people (line 1-2), he uses enjambment. This flow essentially demonstrates how the memory of the looter is like a disease which has the one purpose of survival. This further implies that the soldier has been struggling with a more sustained version of shock (PTSD) than the photographer, because he was the one actively contributing to murder. In addition, the reader reads the link from the first to the second line without a breath, suggesting that Armitage wanted us to realise that the soldier had no choice in the matter, and it was his duty to kill, yet we see that he doesn’t realise that and instead holds his breath and rushes to tell us about it further implying that he is disturbed by his actions most of all.
Both ‘War Photographer’ and ‘Remains’ explore the guilt caused by war. In war photographer, this is highlighted when the photographer starts to develop his photos where ‘’light is red as though this were a church’’. Red light can be used to heal scars/wounds with suggests that the photographer is ignoring the guilt of first world privilege (no war etc.) instead of facing it, because normally you would wait for your wounds to heal, but red-light therapy is unnatural and speeds up the process. Duffy did this to make the reader aware that most people in first world countries have never experiences traumas as horrid as war therefore we don’t understand the effects and choose to disregard them along with the guilt so overall, it is the nature of civilization which brainwashes our understanding. However, Carol Ann Duffy was Roman Catholic, therefore by placing the red (healing) light inside the noun ‘’church’’, she is essentially stating that the photographer has used his religion to cure his internal conflict (guilt), which suggests we can reach peace through God. In addition, Duffy compares the photographer to a ‘’priest preparing to intone mass’’. This simile is referring to a funeral, instead if a eucharist, which ironically may imply the symbolic death of his faith due to suffering he has witnessed, or on the other hand may imply his realisation that religion is a coping mechanism for escaping his guilt not salvation. Nonetheless, in Remains, the soldier has difficulty finding adequate language to describe the effects of war. He uses colloquial language to downplay and understate the magnitude of his horrifying experiences, which is represented by the metaphor ‘’his bloody hands in my bloody life’’. The repetition of the colloquial adjective ‘’bloody’’ highlights the soldier’s frustration towards himself for being unable to remedy his PTSD as well as his inability to exonerate himself from the blame of killing the looter. In addition, this metaphor also implies that he will never forgive himself because the ball is in the looters caught. Only the looter can remove his hands from the soldier’s life, which essentially states that the only thing that will relieve his remorse is death because at that point he and the looter will be united so that forgiveness is an option. The usage of colloquialism is also surrounded by iambic pentameter which re-humanizes the soldier. It makes the reader realise that everything that they are fighting for will influence their personal life and that the reason for guilt is due to the fact that they can’t listen to their natural moral impulse (represented by the rhythm of natural speech) as they must obey orders instead.