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War Literature

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Describe the tone of each stanza in Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Suicide in Trenches." Provide textual evidence to support your answer.
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Terms in this set (13)
Sassoon begins the poem with a happy tone. The speaker describes the life of a good-natured, innocent boy who is far from the horrors of the war:

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark

As the poem progresses, Sassoon shifts to a melancholy tone to describe the increasing depression of this once-joyful and lively boy. His miserable life in wartime breaks his spirit and pushes him to commit suicide in order to free himself from the suffering and hardship:

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.

Sassoon ends the poem with a bitter and sarcastic tone that mocks British civilians, who he believes will never understand the horrible realities of war as they cheer the returning soldiers:

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
The speaker of Owen's poem is keenly aware of the agony that soldiers undergo during the war. He also acknowledges the waste of life that war represents:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge...
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots...

By using appalling but accurate images of suffering, the speaker emphasizes the futility of war. He makes readers visualize what it is like to be in the midst of the fighting:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

At the end of the poem, the speaker directly challenges the morality of fighting for one's country in a war.

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

His words imply that war is not worth sustaining for causes such as political or national glory. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is an "old lie." This text of the poem shows that the speaker strongly disagrees with the sentiment "It is sweet and right to die for one's country."
The excerpt is an expression of Hitler's hatred for the Jews, his desire to wipe out the Jewish race, and his rationalization of his hatred. The excerpt also shows Hitler's views on race. He believed that the Aryans were the supreme race and should be treated with the greatest respect. One of Hitler's reasons for his hatred seems to be that he blamed the Jews for the defeat of Germany in World War I.

Hitler's purpose in the excerpt was to urge the Germans to turn against the Jewish people. He did so by raising fears about the intentions of the Jews. He accused German Jews of manipulating the "broad masses" of Germany and conspiring to control the country. He stated that Jews were not victims and that they were not being attacked by the Germans:

Since the Jew is not the attacked but the attacker, not only anyone who attacks passes as his enemy, but also anyone who resists him.

Hitler suggested that the Jewish people were corrupting the pure Aryan race by mingling with them. He also blamed them for bringing people of other races into Germany. He considered these races to be inferior to Germans:

With every means he tries to destroy the racial foundations of the people he has set out to subjugate. Just as he himself systematically ruins women and girls, he does not shrink back from pulling down the blood barriers for others, even on a large scale. It was and it is Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its master.

And so he [the Jew] tries systematically to lower the racial level by a continuous poisoning of individuals.

He attacked the Marxists for inspiring and encouraging the Jews:

In the organized mass of Marxism he has found the weapon which lets him dispense with democracy and in its stead allows him to subjugate and govern the peoples with a dictatorial and brutal fist.

Hitler arouses fear in his audience by referring to the "approaching victory" of the Jewish people. He talks about their "rising confidence and sense of security" and their economic and political schemes to overthrow the Germans:

He works systematically for revolutionization in a twofold sense: economic and political.
Your answer should include some of the following points:

Hitler's writing includes several characteristics of political propaganda.
He plays on his audience's fear, sense of identity, hatred, and prejudice; invokes arguments based on race; and makes sweeping generalizations and extreme claims.
His primary purpose is to convey hatred and loathing in extreme terms, relying on the audience's prejudices for effect.
His accusations are indiscriminate. He implies that all Jews have the same characteristics.
He vilifies or demonizes the Jewish people through assertions that either cannot be tested or are not supported by evidence. For example, he suggests a conspiracy on the part of the Jews without verifiable facts as evidence. (There is no way for his audience to verify his statements about what happened in Russia.)
He accuses Jews of what he himself is inclined to do (authoritarian rule, torture, destroying the intellectual leadership, and so on).
He frequently uses derogatory language and loaded terms such as vileness, satanic, stock-exchange bandits, and gang of Jewish journalists.
Your answer might include some of the following quotes from the text:

Hitler repeatedly compares the Jewish people to devils:
Here he stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.

With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.

Hitler portrays the Jewish people as liars and cheaters:
But the means with which he seeks to break such reckless but upright souls is not honest warfare, but lies and slander.

The ignorance of the broad masses about the inner nature of the Jew, the lack of instinct and narrow-mindedness of our upper classes, make the people an easy victim for this Jewish campaign of lies.

He paints a negative picture of the state authorities and accuses them of turning a blind eye to the methods of the Jews in the name of protecting the law:
While from innate cowardice the upper classes turn away from a man whom the Jew attacks with lies and slander, the broad masses from stupidity or simplicity believe everything. The state authorities either cloak themselves in silence or, what usually happens, in order to put an end to the Jewish press campaign, they persecute the unjustly attacked, which, in the eyes of such an official ass, passes as the preservation of state authority and the safeguarding of law and order.

He calls the Jewish people tyrants and accuses them of seeking to oppress people:
And in politics he begins to replace the idea of democracy by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The democratic people's Jew becomes the blood-Jew and tyrant over peoples. In a few years he tries to exterminate the national intelligentsia and by robbing the peoples of their natural intellectual leadership makes them ripe for the slave's lot of permanent subjugation.

The most frightful example of this kind is offered by Russia, where he killed or starved about thirty million people with positively fanatical savagery, in part amid inhuman tortures, in order to give a gang of Jewish journalists and stock exchange bandits domination over a great people.