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How Does Faulks Present The Impact And Significance Of The War Within ‘Birdsong’ ?

1466 words - 6 pages

Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’ is a novel which spans three different time periods, in all of which we meet characters directly connected to the War. Faulks choice of structure allows us to view the impact of the War from numerous viewpoints as well as understanding its significance today. Faulks uses the structure of the novel as well as language to demonstrate this.

For much of ‘Birdsong’ Stephen is the centre of consciousness and so we witness the impact of the War on his life at a personal level. Faulks’ decision to introduce the character of Stephen before World War One allows us to build a connection with him and it makes the effects of the War more apparent when they occur. The form of a novel ...view middle of the document...

Such a (seemingly) uncaring, inhumane way of thinking is referenced when Stephen reflects that you ‘could be human yet act in a way that is beyond nature’ expressing the terrible actions of men at the time of War, but also the indifference that many began to feel towards death. Faulks presentation of the myriad effects of the War allow us to comprehend the impact that the War had on individuals.

The idea of the War being ‘beyond nature’ is one which is emphasised by Faulks as it highlights the impact of the War upon all those involved. The life in which the men are forced to live is a New Reality; one which has taken over from the ‘rhythm of normal life’ and which gets worse and worse. The War is described as ‘an aberration, [which] could not be comprehended’ if living in an ordinary world. The word aberration helps to indicate the change which the War has brought about in terms of the way that the men live. The character Weir says ‘we’ll never get back to how it was before’ after considering this change, demonstrating how the men’s previous live felt lost to them; it belonged to another world. Stephen’s character discusses the inhumane actions carried out by the soldiers. Faulks choses to write ‘(the actions) will be carried out by millions of boys’. Faulks use of the word ‘boys’ rather than men or soldiers is particularly tragic, because it suggests that many of those fighting are like children; they should not be forced to witness or carry out such horrors. Faulks also introduces a juxtaposition between the natural, beautiful world and the world of War. Faulks’ directly juxtaposes these two ideas when he discuses the soldier Shaw, describing ‘[his] big miner’s hands ran down the animal’s soft back’ which is a juxtaposition not only of the natural dog and unnatural, damaged soldier, but also of innocence and loss of it. Shaw’s hands have done terrible things (predominantly killing people) yet now they are caressing a pure animal. Such contrasts highlight the impact that the War had and how it changed people’s lives. The massive effect of the War upon this generation can be seen to echo through time with the character of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s character represents the post-war world; one which is completely different from the ‘narrow inferno’ in which the men lived during the War. Faulks also uses the character of Elizabeth to represent the importance of the War in our lives today and the fact that it should never be forgotten. Elizabeth reflects that there is ‘a danger of losing touch with the past’ which is a key point that Faulks makes. The use of the word danger suggests that there will be terrible consequences for us if we are not aware of the events that occurred. The ignorance of many towards the War is presented when Elizabeth exclaims ‘my God, nobody told me’ in reference to the extent of the War. Faulks is inviting us to consider whether we understand the sacrifices that have been made for our safety; a point which is still...

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