‘Survivors’ by Siegfried Sassoon
In his poem ‘Survivors’, Siegfried Sassoon gives a satirical portrayal of life in the war. Though short in length, his poem is effective in using irony to poignantly expose the facade of war and its effect on the soldiers. Sassoon translates the realities of war into a soliloquy of contemplation and derision and with this the reader gains a sense of the writer’s experience and anger.
The opening line gives the reader a sense of misleading hope. The calm feeling emphasized by the assured ‘No doubt’ reflects an ominous complacency that is indirectly criticized by Sassoon. The structure of the poem makes it doubly effective. Statements are written that seem to reassure the reader that the wounded and shell-shocked soldiers will be fine and that war is glorious but the writer immediately follows such statements with a graphic presentation of the physical and mental scars created by the war.
Again the disassociated, unfeeling voice make its presence felt. The flippant remark, suggesting that all soldiers were willing to return to the front, makes us imagine that the soldiers are raring to go out to the war front again and fight. This is again negated by describing the soldier’s faces as ‘old’ and ‘scared,’ contrasting the youth and innocence of the soldiers with the ageing process of the war and showing how war made these courageous men afraid and old before their time.
Siegfried Sassoon uses ghost imagery to symbolize the psychological trauma of the soldiers. Once again the reassuring statement that they will soon forget their haunted nights is contradicted by stating what haunts them in their sleep. Their sleep is filled with nightmares of the ghosts of friends who died in battle and the horrific scenes in the battlefield. When they are haunted by these how can they ever ‘soon’ forget anything?
The underlying tone of sarcasm that runs throughout the entire...