"When War Begins, People Often Cheer. The Sadness Comes Later." Use A Variety Of Literary Sources To Analyse The Attitudes To War In The Period 1914 1918.

1711 words - 7 pages

When war was declared in 1914, many young British and German men rejoiced. They greeted the news enthusiastically. With the rush to enlist, their patriotic and nationalistic attitudes were clearly on display. At this time, the reality of war was overridden by the romantic notion that this war would simply be a 'good ole biff'. Aroused by the overwhelming sense of mateship and duty, men rushed to enlist in their thousands. Almost everyone expected a brief, spectacular, and triumphant campaign. Everyone wanted to be a part of it; everyone wanted to be in it. Such attitudes reflected the culture of the age. However as the first wave of troops were sent to the front line, and the men came to experience the horrific nature of trench warfare, their romantic notions were quickly dissuaded and the realisation of the reality of war set in. As the war progressed, attitudes changed. There was a major turnaround in morale and enthusiasm for continuing the war from both the perspective of the soldier on the Western Front and those at home.For the young men of both Britain and Germany, their enthusiastic attitude towards war reflected their belief that this was an opportunity for adventure, to travel and see the world in a way that most would never have been able to do. Their patriotic attitude and national zeal was a product of the times, institutionalised through their class, education and society's understanding of what it meant 'to be a man'. In the early stages of the war, both countries saw a huge influx of men wishing to enlist; only the fittest and healthiest specimens were selected. Although the legal age for enlistment was 18, many boys, as young as 14 lied about their age and forged birth certificates to ensure they would not miss out on, what they believed to be, the 'opportunity of a lifetime.' Such was the enthusiasm to fight for one's country. This determination, and youthful exuberance, accurately conveys the fervent attitudes held toward the war by young men of the time. Their lack of knowledge and inexperience reflected upon their naivety to truly understand the implications of war. Emotive words such as 'shirkers', 'wasters', and 'disloyal' were used to describe those who expressed anti-war thoughts, those individuals who declined to volunteer, and those parents who failed to urge their eligible sons to enlist. The propaganda of the time also helped to cultivate the attitude that it was a man's duty to enlist and that failing to do so, was to turn ones back on country and friends.The impact of peer pressure and the nature of group psychology meant that friends would join up together. Initial enthusiasm to enlist and the reasons for such attitudes is effectively explored in the film All Quiet on the Western Front. Through the character development of Paul and his friends, the changing attitudes of the boys and their increasing dependency on each other can be traced throughout the film. Due to constant suffering, friendship and companionship...

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