The world wars in British poetry: different perspectives
AuthorPromee, Mashiyat Ibtisum
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World War I began in 1914 and lasted till November 1918 and World War II started from 1935 till 1949. During this time period, the whole western world underwent a radical change. An entire generation was destroyed by these wars. The First World War killed more than 9 million of people and cost more than any other wars had cost in the history of the world. In the Second World War almost 11 million of people were killed. The adverse effects of war were immeasurable in scale but it had also diminished the societal value of people and left no sense of morality and ethics. John G. Ervine said, “the effect of war on all imaginative literature is immediately adverse and ultimately incalculable.” The aim of this thesis is to look at the spiritual state of post-world-war of the British society as reflected in the poetry produced at that time. Writers and poets were inspired to produce masterpieces that reflected this condition of a society reeling from the effects of the war. A new genre of literature emerged from the poet which is known to be as war poetry. Since ancient times poets have been writing war poems, but this genre acquired a new dimension in the post world-war period. Many poets wrote war poetry during that time period. The major British poets of this period were Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Richard Aldington, Rupert Brooke, Issac Rosenberg, Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon, Laurence Binyon, Julian Grenfell, Edmund Blunden, Wilfrid Gibson and Charles Sorley among others. In World War II, W.H Auden, Elizabeth Jennings, Vernon Scannell and many more were well known war poets. The wars had made people into cynics who questioned everything around them and suffered a sense of loss, alienation and isolation. They were turning to pessimists due to their tragic experiences during the wars. Their life became absurd and death became their reality. The poets and the writers wrote about their experiences, their losses, and sacrifices. The wars on one level suppressed people’s imagination; the things they could only imagine were weapons and bloodshed. It seemed as if the war would go on for a lifetime. The way people gave up their hope and forgot about positivity was shown in the war poetry. ‘Each one of us in Europe, broadly speaking is connected with the battle front by bonds that are not easily broken or forgotten. (Ervine 93).’Everyday soldiers left their houses and never came back. Only a telegram used to inform their family about the deceased soldier. These issues were highly portrayed by the poets who wrote about wars. The poetry is presented the actuality of the war. This paper will look at the work of two World War I poets, namely W.B.Yeats and T.S. Eliot and two World War II poets W.H Auden and Siegfried Sassoon to explore the issues related to war in their poems. The entire thesis is divided into four chapters. Each chapter will expand the idea about war and literature and discuss how literature played an effective role in people’s life at that time. Thus, it will be comprised into the following chapters with elaborate discussion.