Jane Hill’s Reading Question for March 24

  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke (Pages 104-106) is unusually optimistic or positive about the war, describing it in religious tones that one would more likely find in pre-WWI descriptions of ‘good and moral wars’. Is there any value to be found in this perspective about the war, and if so, what?
  • Isaac Rosenberg was born in 1890 to a poor Lithuanian, Jewish family that had to flee due to the harsh Russian occupation. Rosenberg then was raised in England and became a noted poet and artist before the war began. He was a strong pacifist and lacked any feelings of patriotism, and he faced a great deal of anti-semitism in the Allied army. In Rosenberg’s poem “Break of Day in the Trenches” (pages 137-138) the focus is on a rat with “cosmopolitan sympathies” as it rushes back and forth between the British and German trenches. What does the rat mean in the context of this poem, and how does Rosenberg’s unique background seem to shape this perspective? What are your responses to the ideas and views presented?
  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke and the poem “1916 seen from 1921” by Edmund Blunden stand in sharp contrast to each other in terms of tone and feelings about both the Great War and war in general. “1914” is overall more optimistic, viewing war as a holy and righteous cause worthy of the pursuit of all who are virtuous, while “1916 seen from 1921” talks about the war as a tragic obligation that has destroyed a great deal. Brooke died in 1917, while Blunden lived until the 70s. How is it that the same historical situation produced such different views in different men in the same situations? Are both of these poems valid in their points, or is one or the other more or less valid than the other. Is there something to gain by reading these two works together, and if so what?
  • In the excerpt from “In Parenthesis” by David Jones, a consistent pattern of repeated sounds and phrases is used, such as “the rat of no-man’s-land” going “scrut,scrut,sscrut” or the repetition of the word “nor” in the final section. What emotion does this consistent style evoke in the reader, and are there other stylistic techniques used by Jones that you’d want to comment on?

15 thoughts on “Jane Hill’s Reading Question for March 24

  1. I think that the perspective of the speaker in “1914” discredits a lot of soldiers own viewpoints during the war because this poem uses religious features to help glamorize the war. The first line under the ‘Peace’ section mentions how God will be ‘thankful’ towards the soldiers that fight in this war. It isn’t mentioned in this poem how thousands of soldiers died horrifically or sustained other major injuries.

  2. I think there is value to be found in this perspective because it explains some of the reasons for why the war started. If we never heard the voices of people who think this way and glorify war, we would have no way to speak against it. In my opinion the problem arises when this perspective is the only one, or even the main one heard. It would be extremely problematic to only allow voices like the one in “1914” to be heard, but I do not find it to discredit those who do not glamorize it. I belive authentic descriptions do enough to discredit the glamorized thoughts on the war especially as time goes on and people are not restricted quite as much from speaking freely. Religion has a dangerous role in war, especially when people try to convince soldiers to fight by bringing God into it. However, I think it can also provide great comfort for some soldiers once they are already forced into it. The glorification of honor strikes me because I am somewhat torn on the concept of honor. I admire the men who want to fight for honor, but I also recognize how dangerous that is as a concept too. There must be a balance between remembering the fallen soldiers fondly and honoring how they died, but also being honest with the future generation about how terrible war is and not allowing honor to cloud the horrifying details of war.

  3. 3) You ask this question of how two different men could be impacted so differently by the same situation, but I feel like that is inevitable. History has shown that while many people can face the same situation, they are all impacted by it differently. In the majority of these books, however I feel like we have seen some repetition in the circumstances and feelings the main characters embrace. In these two poems, however, as you’ve noted we see two strongly contrasting tones and emotions. While it is possible that these two individuals may have had contrasting experiences, it could also be that they have different methods of coping with them, and these poems are their varying methods of response.

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