Analysis of the Deserter by Winifred M. Letts

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Opening Lines Poetry Anthology

Section H

1914-18 War (ii)

This revision guide is intended to support the work you have been doing in class on the following poems:

Joining the Colours
The Target
The Send-Off
Spring Offensive
The Bohemians
The Deserter
The Hero
Falling Leaves
In Flander’s Fields
The Seed-Merchant’s Son
The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
Spring in War-Time
Reported Missing
E.A. Mackintosh
Katherine Tynan Hinkson
Ivor Gurney
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen
Ivor Gurney
Siegfried Sassoon
Winifred M. Letts
Siegfried Sassoon
Margaret Postgate Cole
John McCray
Agnes Grozier Herbertson
Wilfred Owen
Edith Nesbit
Vera Brittain
Anna Gordon Keown
Historical Context – The 1914-1918 War

The 1914 -1918 War was also known as the Great War, and is infamous for the millions of young men millions of young men who died, using old-fashioned battle tactics against the first modern weapons, such as machine guns. Young men volunteered to go and fight believing they were on a heroic mission.

The horror they faced when they got to the trenches is the subject of much of their poetry. The soldiers felt betrayed by those who had persuaded them to go and fight, and were desperate to show the reality of war.

“Recruiting” E.A. Mackintosh

“Recruiting” shows that the reality of war is different to the propaganda recruitment, the poem contains bitter criticism of the politicians who sent the soldiers off to war and the journalists who write about it. The poem comments on the recruitment drive in Britain; taking issue in particular with posters encouraging young men to sign up to the army. Mackintosh focuses on the discrepancy between the image of war as presented by the advertising campaign of the “fat civilians” and the reality of war as experienced by the young “lads” called up to fight.

Constructed of 11 verses, each made up of 4 lines (quatrains) with a regular rhyme scheme abcb defe ghih …The structure of the poem is rhythmic this reflects the way they were cajoled into going to war without giving it proper consideration.

The poem is an obvious attack written from a soldier’s perspective who has had experienced the reality of war and realised the falsity of their advertising campaigns.

1. How does the poet use the following techniques to get the point across • The four line verse (quatrain)
• Colloquial language
• Rhyme
• Alliteration

2. The poem uses accessible, straightforward language. What does this suggest about the purpose and audience it was written for?

“Joining the Colours” Katherine Tynan Hinkson

The poem tells of a regiment of soldiers leaving Dublin to fight in France; written from a female perspective the poem juxtaposes (directly contrasts) images of the innocent naivety of the young soldiers with images of death. The poet speaks of the sad realization that the love felt for these men by the women left at home “cannot save” the soldiers from their uncertain futures and likely deaths.


1. Compare this poem to “The Send-Off” which is also about men going off to die. Look at:
• Settings
• Verse forms
• Standpoint of both poets
• Each poet’s feelings
• Patterns of imagery
• Your own response to the poems
• Use of contrast

“The Target” Ivor Gurney

“The Target” is told from the perspective of a soldier who agonises over a man he has killed. The soldier says that his mother lives in fear of his death, the speaker suggests that it might be better for his mother if he died so that she might at least find some peace in not having to worry about him anymore. The soldier then goes on to contemplate the situation of the soldier that he shot, and remembers that the man he shot is another mother’s son. The soldier feels that God gives no guidance and does not seem to care. The speaker wonders who “felt the bullet...
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