In his 1917 poem “Survivors” written during World War I, Seigfried Sassoon ridicules the blind patriotism of the non-combatants in society because they unrightfully belittle shell-shocked soldiers. He sardonically jeers this so called pride by opening their eyes to the unreasonable beliefs they hold in war.
Within the first line of this poem, the arrival of Sassoon’s sarcasm towards civilian ideas is evident. “No doubt they’ll soon be well” is a sarcastic mockery of the false hope that society possesses when dealing with the psychological struggles of war. The speaker’s tone suggests the reverse of just that; the effects of war do not disappear in a short time. Sassoon tells us about the soldiers’ “dreams that drip with murder” and their nights spent in guilt, haunted by “the ghosts of friends who died.” Scenes from the battlefield replay in their minds day in and day out, imprinting images they could never “soon forget.” Society cannot and does not want to imagine what soldiers encounter throughout the course of war; so they don’t. They blind themselves to the brutality and extremities of war as Sassoon repeatedly evinces. Civilians are embarrassed of shell-shocked victims so instead of supporting them, they sugar coat the realism by comforting each other with untrue notions. They like to think that their heroes are men made of strength, bravery and valor, not weak men with mangled minds in bruised bodies. Apparently the two can’t be one in the same so the only way to uphold society’s ideal soldier is to pretend the neurasthenic are not neurasthenic.
From “men who went out to battle, grim and glad” to boys who are scared witless and hate society for its self-indulgent views, Sassoon takes the reader through the transformation of a shell-shocked soldier. Boys unknowingly go into war hoping for glorious fights of power, victory, and something to be proud of. They are glad to go out and fight for their country. But instead these men end up with...
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