World War I, 1914-1918, was the ‘Great War’, the ‘war to end all wars’. In that conflict, the most important battleground was the ‘Western Front’ in France and Belgium where great battles were fought with names that were once household words in Australia During the Great War -1914-1918- poets tried to enlighten the British people about the realities of war. This is because the government were putting a different point of view forward. Behind all the posters and propaganda, these poets had the experience and feelings of being in the war.
These poems, Recruiting and The Target, put the real truth and thoughts across, they include techniques that emphasise the dreadful conditions these soldiers went through and how they had to solve it in their heads. To achieve this, Gurney highlights the thoughts and feelings of the soldiers, whereas Makintosh conveys the desperation and the need for soldiers by enforcing the amount of persuasion. In this piece of writing I will describe how two poets- Gurney and Makintosh- tried to enlighten the British people about the realities of war.
In The Target, Gurney shows realities of emotional impact and understanding in the war. These realities affected how the soldiers felt mentally. Emotional impact for the soldiers could be making life and death decisions. These decisions could make the soldiers worry that they may have made the wrong decision and then never forget it, when it comes to understanding why we are at war and why it always turns to violence. Questions like this will be repeatedly heard in these soldiers’ minds and it will be hard to figure out some statements they may come across. “I shot him, and it had to be.” This conveys that the writer is trying to make justification to himself. This enlightens the British Public because it shows that it is hard to understand what’s happening. It portrays that it is hard to come to terms with reality.
This is reinforced by the first person narrative. By using this sentence the poet is trying to highlight the fact that this soldier is trying to understand that what he has done isn’t that bad. This enlightens the British people by showing them that there is a mental impact, when they may think you just shoot and walk away. It will also enlighten them by making them realise you come against some really difficult situations, when they may feel that every soldier just shoots every bad man he sees. “I shot him, and it had to be.” “One of us! Twas him or me.” Enjambment helps the poet to reinforce his point that one of them had to die. This is because it highlights “One of us!” by ending the sentence half way through the second line.
The technique is also used in Recruiting but in a different way, “Go and help to swell the names in the casualty lists.” He uses it by emphasising the fact there are lists of casualties and draws attention to that particular part of the sentence. This has impact on the reader because the reader would empathise with the soldier that has to make the awful decision. This quote also shows an image of two soldiers pointing a gun at each other waiting for the other person to shoot first. This could have a big impact on the reader because the reader may think why does it always have to turn to violence? As well as thinking why can’t they just sit at a table and talk?
In The Target, the poet also reveals the reality of war by not being certain about whether he could have been a soldier in the war, assuming a persona or being the soldier in the war. Then finding out the feelings of that one soldier. These soldiers have to live with gore and very many dreadful sights. These images and sights can be very disturbing and stick with them for a lifetime. “This is a bloody mess indeed.” This evidence suggests that the visual effect is a bloody mess, but it is also a bloody mess mentally. This enlightens the British people by making them realise what it is like to be them and how guilty you feel that the image stays in the British Public’s – at the time – head. It also helps them realise that the mess made isn’t cleaned and gone by the next day or week, when the British people may think that someone collects up all the bodies and disposes of them, “This is a bloody mess indeed” The technique of metaphor is reinforced with ‘bloody mess’ this is because it can either be a bloody mess visually or a bloody mess in which someone cannot quite understand something fully in their minds.
I feel this has impact on the reader because it is highlighting the fact that this is important and really pushes the point that the soldiers are not comfortable. Imagery is also a technique that is reinforced because it makes the reader think that there is blood everywhere and it’s all a mess. This may have an impact on the reader because the reader may worry about what the soldiers have to see, they may feel what the soldiers feel and deeply empathise with them.
In the Recruiting, Makintosh shows a reality of desperation and the need for soldiers as well as volunteers. The war needs people because there is not as many people joining the war as people not surviving. People are needed to come and die not coming and fight for their country. “Lad’s you’re wanted.” Using this phrase the poet is trying to show that they are being asked politically to fight ‘the hun’, it shows their wanted. This enlightens the British people by conveying the fact that they are wanted to come and die not to come and fight ‘the hun’. “Lad’s you’re wanted, come and die.” The poet is helped by imagery as it helps to evoke a particular feel and disturbing death scenery in which the soldiers have to be around.
This is because as a reader, interprets a well described sentence that can be intervened with an image, then they will start to imagine what it is like from the soldier’s point of view and put themselves in the soldier’s position. The technique is also used in The Target which is a very similar way, “This is a bloody mess indeed” the poet uses this to portray an image in the readers minds that where the soldiers are is not a pretty sight and is therefore a bloody mess. This may have a great impact on the audience, because when people are relaxing and thinking they may think of this, this may become disturbing or depressing for them.
There is also another technique of repetition, this is reinforced by repeating the line “Lad’s you’re wanted.” This is reinforced because it is reminding the reader that people are wanted continuously throughout the poem. This affects the reader because it adds to the fact that they were being persuaded and not thinking through what they properly want to do. The use of the noun “Lad’s” highlights the fact that young men are needed. It makes the reader feel that they are not wanted unless they are young fit men.
There is a reality of sexism in Recruiting. They want men not women, they never mention women, and probably think that women won’t match up to the expectations of men. They also do not want men that are too old or too heavy. “Leave the fat old men to say; now we’ve got them on the run.” By using these lines, the poet emphasises the fact that all the soldiers, command in army and government was male, not women and men that are not too heavy as well as being old. This enlightens the British people because they may think you can go at whatever age or fitness, when they seem to only want fit, young people. They also may think you are allowed to join if you are female, this then shows them that they obviously have no use for women because they are not mentioned.
A technique of enjambment is reinforced by ending the sentence after the second line. This highlights that the men left behind are still picking up the pieces. This makes an impact on the reader because they may be thinking both genders are fighting ‘the Hun’ when they are not, then change their view towards the war. There is also a technique of imagery this evokes the fact we can still join in sat at home, this may also have an impact on the audience because it shows they are not being forgotten about and left out the reader then may feel more involved and care more about what is going on, then pay more attention.
In Recruiting, as well as sexism and desperation, there is also a reality of how many casualties there are. “Go and help to swell the names in the casualty lists.” This evidence suggests that the soldiers/volunteers are going to add to the casualty lists. This enlightens the British people because they may think that they are being looked after when they are not. It also helps them realise that they do not have emergency services or drugs (treatment) needed, when they may think that they have doctors and nurses ready right at the time, when someone is badly injured; then they improve up to 100% health after seeing somebody.
There is a technique of enjambment reinforced by finishing the sentence on the next line, this emphasises the fact that there are lists of casualties, not just a few. There may be an impact on the reader here because, reading ‘casualty lists’ sounds like nobody is getting seen to, which can be very distressing. There is also a technique showing the regular pattern kept throughout the poem, this adds to the sympathy the reader is feeling because there isn’t as many pauses or hesitations.
Overall, I feel that the two poems, Recruiting and The Target enlighten the British people different ways, but both very effective and emotional. The poet of The Target seems to concentrate more on what the soldiers need to understand as well as their thoughts and feelings, where as Makintosh seems to talk about desperation, and the types of people the war needed. The tone in Recruiting is harsh, sharp and demanding where as the tone in The Target is more gentle and sympathetic.
This is because the Recruiting poem is more persuasive to get people to join up to the army but The target is more of an insight into the lives of soldiers. I also feel that the techniques used in both poems would have had an impact on the readers, because they would have been empathising throughout as well as deeply sympathising. Therefore between these two poems, I think Gurney and Makintosh put war life forward as it is-with no lies or excuses-. The poems also enlighten the British people of the truth and nothing but the truth.