‘’the Experience of the Great War Stripped Men of Their Masculinity’’Explore the Ways in Which Barker, Sassoon and Owen Portray This in Their Writing.

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‘’The experience of the Great War stripped men of their masculinity’’explore the ways in which Barker, Sassoon and Owen portray this in their writing. Sassoon and Owen as poets and Barker as a novelist, explore through their works of literature the changing and challenging notions of masculinity experienced as a result of The Great War. Furthermore, all three writers suggest that the often overlooked reality of the conflict was the creation of a subversion of the stereotypical ‘heroic soldier’. Replacing this image through their work, with that of the truth, we see an exploration of the emasculated and dehumanised shell that many men truly became as a result of what they experienced in service. This extends throughout their texts, to explore the paradoxical nature of war itself largely causing more harm to its soldiers than it gains in military desires, and a practice that reshaped an entire generation of British men into no more than physical and psychological carcasses of their former selves. However, each of the writers' narrative style is dramatically different in order to create evoking literature. In Barker’s case, the novel's structure creates a relationship between character and reader that allows the stripping of masculinity of The First World War veterans to be explored and a sense of reality to be conveyed to the reader. Barker as a contemporary writer creating literature for a contemporary audience, in contrast to both Sassoon and Owen, is able to encapsulate each poet’s texts within her own to greater its sense of reality. Never is this more evident than in Barker’s use of Sassoon’s Declaration as the opening to her own narrative. The shockingly honest and realistic nature of Sassoon’s words ‘I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops…which I believe to be evil and unjust’ serves a starting point for the thread of verisimilitude that Barker weaves, highlighting the reality of emasculation and war to a previously unaware 20th and 21st century audience. The experience both poets had first-hand of war and Barker's ability to capture this using their interactions in the novel add a dimension of reality to her literature; equally this in turn gives a moving contextual understanding to both Sassoon and Owen’s poetry allowing the reader to truly understand the level of emasculation these men experienced. Arguably all three writers do this by challenging traditional ideologies of what both war and masculinity should be; whilst their methods may differ, all strip away the sentiment of ‘masculinity’ in traditional literature. Soldiers returning from The Great war, often had their masculinity disabled both mentally and physically, as a direct result of conflict as well as its effect upon them as individuals in society were felt both mentally and physically. Owen explores this concept that flows through all three writers' work, and highlights the extreme level of loss of masculinity that many suffered. Owen’s poem, ‘Disabled’, is a representation of this through the assessment of one soldier’s loss of multiple limbs. Owen suggests throughout his stanzas that the man documented sees himself as no more than a skeleton, mentally and physically ‘Legless, sewn short at elbow’, of the boy he once was. He presents the idea that women ‘passed from him to men that were whole’, which evokes the suggestion that he no longer feels male, having lost the sense that he could attract women. Equally this could be seen to explore the idea that war has physically broken him, using Reminisant imagery as a central feature of the poem, Owen alludes to the notion that ‘After the matches, [he would have been] carried shoulder-high’ creating a sense that he would no longer feel the elevated feeling of victory. In the same way that the conventional heroic soldier never really experiences the stereotypically victorious feeling after winning conflict but instead returns damaged as an individual. Owen also extends the characterisation of the...
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