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The Presentation Of The Ordinary Soldier In The Writing Of The Great War

3081 words - 12 pages

The Presentation of the Ordinary Soldier in the Writing of the Great War

World War 1, the 'Great War' from 1914-1918, began as a conflict
between Austria - Hungary and Serbia on July 28th 1914, but was soon
to become a global war involving thirty-two nations. The immediate
cause of the war between Austria - Hungary and Serbia was the
assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, capital
of Bosnia.

Soon the world was at arms and fighting each other in one of the most
brutal and horrifying wars ever known. Battles at the Somme, Ypres and
Vimy Ridge were particularly terrible because of the large loss of
life they were responsible for. Allied leaders, such as Field Marshall
Douglas Haig seemed to be sending thousands of innocent men to their

Hostilities between the Allies and Central Powers continued until the
signing of the Armistice on November 11th 1918, a total period of four
years, three months and fourteen days. Casualties to land forces
amounted to approximately twenty-seven million with another ten
million civilian casualties.

Most of the twenty seven million casualties are those of the 'simple
soldier boys' and not the leaders of the First World War. These highly
regarded men instructed the ordinary soldiers from positions so far
away from the fighting and the terror that they were not always aware
of what they were sending these men into. The 'ordinary' soldiers did
not always fight however; they often waited for months on end, in
terrible conditions just waiting for something to happen. This waiting
was almost as traumatic as the fighting itself.

Siegfried Sassoon's short, but powerful poem, "Suicide in the
Trenches" gives us an insight into the horror that the soldiers had to
try and overcome. The first stanza is short and simple with the
opening line, 'I knew a simple soldier boy'. This simplicity is
reflected in the two rhymes, 'boy' and 'joy', 'dark' and 'lark'. This
gives the impression of an easy uncomplicated life for the 'simple'
soldier who has not yet had to experience the horrors of war.

The second stanza is a total contrast of the first, which is where we
get a description of the real conditions in which the 'simple' soldier
lived. The poem mentions 'glum' conditions in a winter trench with
lice infestations and a shortage of the one thing that must have kept
most men sane during their time in the trenches, alcohol. Then a
powerful, abrupt line stops the flow of the poem, 'He put a bullet
through his brain' shows how this ordinary soldier resorted to suicide
to escape the horrors of the war. This would have been a disgrace and
unpatriotic and the next line describes the reaction to his action,
'No one spoke of him again.' This is significant because it seems that
the death of a young soldier is just ignored, maybe because...

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