How do the Poets McCrae, Kirkup and Owen Present their Opinion of War?
Through the poems "No More Hiroshima's" and "Mental Cases," the poets convey their views on the impact of war, and the devastation it can cause; Owen's powerful account of the effect of war on the soldiers, and Kirkup's poignant description of the destruction of Hiroshima, is in stark contrast to McCrae's patriotic language and use of euphemism in the poem "In Flanders Fields. Written from personal experience of war with Owen and McCrae, and by Kirkup from having explored the city of Hiroshima years after the devastation, the difference in language illustrates the different perceptions of war through different eyes. Owen's, at times, deeply traumatic language reflects the use of poetry as an emotional outlet, whereas Kirkup's writing is far more narrative, using free verse, and allows the reader to see the lasting impact of the atomic war through the eyes of the poet. McCrae contrasts to both of these in that he speaks from the perspective of a soldier who has died as a result of war, which has a dramatic impact on the audience; he illustrates how, even though the war culminated with so many lives lost, they were ultimately fighting for a cause, and it would have been worse if they had surrendered and died for nothing. "No more Hiroshimas" also studies the impact of war, but looks more closely at the impact, not just on the soldiers, but of a whole city and the community within it. Kirkup's simple, yet hugely poignant poem evokes a sense of purpose; he shows the reader how the aftermath of the atomic bomb is still painfully apparent, but to him it is ironically by how everything has changed: "I had forgotten to remember where I was... a cheerfully shallow impermanence." It is as if they have tried to remove all visual recollection of what has happened, but in doing so the town feels empty, reflected further through Kirkup's language, where he uses words such as "thinly", "forgotten", "ramshackle", "drab" and "shallow." These simple words that are scattered throughout the poem convey the lasting impact of one catastrophic action, illustrating how it should never be repeated. Kirkup's language suggests an antipathy towards the apparent commercialisation of Hiroshima, and how the facade of "flimsy department stores" and "souvenir shops piled high with junk" is almost obscuring the memories of what happened. Kirkup's description of a "memorial ruin tricked out with glitter-frost and artificial pearls" creates an ironic image of a smokescreen being used to hide the truth; even a memorial, which was created to honour the dead, tries to conceal the horrifying reality of what happened. The poem "Mental Cases" explores the psychological impact of modern warfare; Owen's language conveys the deep mental anguish felt by war, and how the everyday life of a soldier after he has returned will be tarnished by the memories of what he saw. Owen's writing was strongly influenced by his time in the Craiglockhart War Hospital and by fellow patient and poet Siegfried Sassoon, who became a close friend to Owen. Sassoon is credited with encouraging him to begin to write as an emotional-outlet, resulting in the very vivid imagery in his poems. The victims of shell shock whom he saw at the hospital also directly influenced his poem. In the poem, he describes them as "purgatorial shadows," creating an image of them being only half alive; his use of language in distorting the physical features of the soldiers creates an unsettling, and almost horrific image: "what slow panic gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?" The word "fretted" brings to life the suffering of the soldiers, and makes it appear more real; placing the word "slow" next to "panic" has the same effect, in creating this prolonged image of suffering. Owen's frustration, like Kirkup's, is acutely apparent throughout their poems. Their desperation to have the reader grasp the harsh reality of warfare is...
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