A Few Thoughts/Questions on Owen

My post focuses on “Apologia pro Poemate Meo” (160-1) and “Mental Cases” (170-1).

“Apologia pro Poemate Meo” means “in defense of my poetry.” When I read the first line, “I, too, saw God through mud,” my first thoughts were that the poem was going to be about how he lost some of his poems in the trenches. We discussed that some authors lost their work, so I thought that would be the case here. But as I kept reading, I got the feeling that Owen wrote this poem to emphasize that there were still stories in the trenches: ones that had “poetic” emotion, so to speak. He mentions a lot of poetic tropes in it: death, laughing, “Fear,” friendship, “Joy,” beauty, love, music, and more. Since people censored a lot of WWI works, I can see why Owen wrote this to defend his poetry.

For “Mental Cases,” I had a question for discussion. Owen describes the soldiers in this poem as animalistic, crazed, and demented, but at the beginning of the second stanza, he says “These are men whose minds the Death have ravished.” To me, this hints of PTSD. So, my question is, does this poem dehumanize the soldiers or does it accurately portray symptoms of PTSD?

Interesting Tidbit about Senlis (well, sort of)

When I was reading Lawrence’s accounts of her time in Senlis in Chapter 2, I noticed that the name “Senlis” felt somehow familiar to me. I couldn’t remember where I heard it. Suddenly, I remembered that it was mentioned in a documentary about the crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 981 in 1974 (I watch a lot of documentaries about airplane crashes when I’m bored). The flight crashed in the forests of Ermenonville just a few minutes after takeoff from Paris-Orly Airport, which is just south of Senlis. Relatives and friends were brought to a church in Senlis to identify their loved one’s belongings. A British journalist who was at the church stated that “one of the saddest sights [he’d] ever seen was in [that] church.”

Even though this wasn’t a wartime event and took place well after the Great War, it made me think about how we’ve talked about how physical destruction connects with emotional upheaval this semester. Lawrence mentions “ravaging” and “ruin” in the chapter, and how the people who live there will never be the same again. Those experiences are etched in their memories forever, just like the memories of the church will always stick with the journalist. It’s mind blowing to me how one place experienced that amount of devastation in that period of time.

For anyone who’s interested in the documentary, it’s called “Behind Closed Doors.” It was recently taken down on YouTube due to copyright (no surprise there), but I think it’s been uploaded in its entirety on FaceBook.


One quote from the “Blind” chapter really stuck out to me. It’s the one that starts with “I see it all through a mist” on page 101 and ends with “We are one body, suffering and bleeding” on page 102. It captures how shared this experience is between everyone in the novel. Borden acknowledges that they’re going through a horrifying experience that has left them numb and confused in a way, hence the “mist,” but she’s “never been so close before to human beings.” Whether she personally knows these soldiers or not, she feels that she knows what they’re going through and can read what they’re “saying” through their facial expressions. Reading this part and thinking about this solidarity also made me think about the collective experience people have gone through during tragedies in the modern era, especially the American people after 9/11. This war brought some people together but also tore the world apart–the ultimate irony when it comes to thinking about solidarity.

Happy Halloween!

Hey, everyone! This isn’t exactly related to class, but since it’s Halloween, I thought it would be cool to celebrate with a piece of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This is the clip where Snoopy is in the role as a World War I flying ace on a mission to shoot down The Red Baron.

I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween! Enjoy your festivities and be safe!

Edits: I found a higher quality clip that included a part that wasn’t in the clip I originally included.

Laura’s Review of Lawrence of Arabia

The movie Lawrence of Arabia–which was directed by David Lean and released in 1962–depicts the feat of British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (played by Peter O’Toole) uniting rival Arabian tribes to defeat the Turkish army. Lawrence is an intuitive and intelligent man, but his commanders don’t appreciate his blunt behavior. They decide that he would be better suited to go to Arabia to join Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness) and his tribe. Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sharif) joins Lawrence on his journey across the desert after he kills Lawrence’s guide. When Lawrence reaches Faisal, he discovers that his people are ill-equipped to fight the Turks. He decides that the only way Faisal’s people will have a chance is to somehow get multiple tribes that are at each other’s throats to fight together in a surprise attack at Aqaba, a major Turkish port, and eventually get more advanced weapons from the British. The other tribes are amazed by Lawrence’s leadership, and do come together–even the tribe led by Auda Abu Tayi (played by Anthony Quinn), whose motives are to find gold in the city. The army successfully seizes Aqaba and other Turkish strongholds. Lawrence later leaves after feeling torn between the Arabs and the British, but he still left a strong legacy to those who knew him, even after he dies in a motorcycle accident in 1935.

The story is a telling of the traditional “unappreciated protagonist rises up to become a hero worshipped by many” trope, but it doesn’t become too much of a cliche. Lawrence has to face a lot of obstacles on the way to get there, especially travelling through the formidable desert. Plus, the others don’t get behind his movement right away. The tribal rivalry is still strong when the men come together and never completely goes away; they only set is aside temporarily for the sake of defeating the Turks. Lawrence also doesn’t come back after he leaves them behind–the heroes come back most of the time in other stories. He still has his own demons to face that won’t go away in the desert, which is understandable under his circumstances. I appreciated that this movie stepped away from the cliches of that trope, since I see it so much in other movies.

This movie is also strong with its characters. They don’t conform too much to a particular stereotype, nor are they flat. The two strongest examples of this are Lawrence and Ali. Lawrence doesn’t use his intelligence just to show off how much he knows; he takes it to figure out what would be best for the army to do. He also accepts his new identity as a member of the Arab tribes (at first) and regards the other members as human beings, breaking the “white savior leads people he thinks are barbaric” trope often used in other war media. He expresses a variety of emotions well. O’Toole’s acting helps with this a great deal, as I could really see when Lawrence is calm when he has to be and traumatized in scenes when he has to deal with murdering a man he saved earlier in the movie and being tortured by men in the Turkish army–experiences that make traumatic reactions justifiable. I also appreciate how Ali isn’t portrayed just as a cold-blooded killer. He is still a man that is faithful to his people and passionate about fighting against the Turks. His reason for killing Lawrence’s guide–the well he drank out of belonged to Ali’s tribe–may not be justifiable but is understandable because of his closeness to his tribe and reflects the tribe rivalry during the war.

Another strength of this movie is the set. The visuals are realistic and stunning, especially for a movie released when color TV was still developing. I could picture myself being there in the desert and city if I was part of Lawrence’s army. The contrast between day and night scenes are also done well. The day scenes show how the intense sun and heat affect the desert journey, and the night scenes give a good sense of calmness and relief from being able to rest. One particular scene that I liked with this is the scene where Lawrence turns back to help a man who fell off his camel earlier. The man is walking to find the army, but the sun has risen, which makes the chances of getting back alive virtually impossible. The shots of the sun rising, switching back to the man, and occasionally switching back to shots of the sun getting more intense made me feel like I was feeling that heat and increased the sense of urgency that that man make it. The costumes reflect fashions of that time period well and suit each character well. The weapons they use also reflect the time period well. This is importance since a lot of new advanced weapons were used in the Great War, and that it shows how ahead the Turks were in warfare compared to the Arabians.

If any areas of the movie could be improved, they would be the use of the score and including some more information about Lawrence’s life. The music is captivating and expresses the feeling of the story well, but one part of the theme is used a little too frequently in some parts. That takes away some of the epic feeling of the music. Plus, the playing of the theme at the beginning just with the black screen feels empty. Again, the music is well-done, but I couldn’t bring myself into the atmosphere of the movie as much as I could have without a visual connected to that music. In terms of Lawrence’s life, the movie should have put in more about how he was part of an archaeological dig in Syria and an expedition in Sinai before he went to Arabia, since those experiences made him more connected with the Arabian land and its culture. Other than that, Lawrence of Arabia is a strong movie with a gripping story, believable characters, and a beautiful set.

Word count: 1017

–I pledge.

Outside sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/lawrence_te.shtml (information about T.E. Lawrence)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056172/ (names of the cast members)

Childbirth during the war…and other eras

Reading about Catherine’s ordeal of giving birth made me interested in researching a little bit on what childbirth was like during the time period during the Great War. I couldn’t find one specific to the Great War (only lengthy scholarly articles), but one website I found talked about childbirth as far back as the Renaissance all the way through the 20th century. Here’s the link:


I knew that gas was common to get women to sleep so they wouldn’t feel pain back then, but I was interested…and shocked…to find out that doctors and midwives used stuff like chloroform and morphine. Those are deadly for both the mother and the baby in high doses, as the article states. I have a feeling that possibly had an impact on what happened to Catherine and her baby.

“Fight or Die”

“We don’t fight.”

“You’ll die then. Fight or die. That’s what people do. They don’t marry.” (94)

This part really stuck out to me as I was reading today’s assignment. One reason is because of the irony of the whole situation: Catherine and Frederic fight constantly (I know they’re written to be kind of playful, but their fights are really cringey and are about the littlest things). The other reason is that it made me think of how marriages went back in that time period if people lived through the war. A majority still married for money and inheritance, not love. A lot of fights are bound to happen in a loveless marriage. Even in a loving marriage, people coming back home from war would most likely be suffering from post-traumatic stress. That probably caused a lot of fights at home, since post-traumatic stress wasn’t supported and soldiers were supposed to act like manly men at all times with their wives. A few years ago, I read The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (really good book by the way, I highly recommend it), where the main character is struggling to get through her senior year of high school while her veteran father suffers from extreme PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That strays from my argument a bit since it’s about a father and daughter and not a married couple, but I thought of it because she and her dad had a lot of fights over the course of the book.

Frederic should’ve listened to Ferguson, but seeing how he’s acted over the course of it so far, I doubt he’s going to care about any of that. I’m interested to see how his relationship with Catherine is going to pan out in the rest of this book (no spoilers, please).


Shell Shock From the Past

**Disclaimer: This post contains a spoiler from the show The Tudors.

Since we had the rest of this week off from classes, I spent time catching up on some Netflix. One of the shows I watched was The Tudors, a four-season series depicting the life and marriages of Henry VIII. In the eighth episode of the fourth season, “As It Should Be,” Henry’s army is invading the French town of Boulogne in a bid to eventually seize Paris. Part of the army puts explosives underneath the castle so it would collapse. When a group of men set the explosives to go off and try to run out of the underground cave, I saw a young man start to show the devastating symptoms of shell shock. As they run out, he witnesses his comrades, his friends die right in front of him. He manages to get out alive, but when another man asks him if anyone in the cave is still alive, he whispers “no” a couple of times, visibly shaken. Later on when the army leaves, he visits the grave of one of his friends that died, puts down a flower, and says “I’m sorry.”

Watching this shook me. I kept thinking about how we talked about in class that soldiers still experienced shell shock in past wars, but it wasn’t viewed as a psychological condition until the Great War. This man had to go through this horrific experience just for a power-hungry king who wanted to seize French territory just so he could rival the fame of his ancestor, Henry V. He was told he would fight for the honor and greatness of his country, and he comes home with the memories of horrible death, never to be the same again.

It goes to show that shell shock goes back a lot further than we might think.

Perspective of Nature

Last fall, I took the Folktale, Myth and Archetype class with Dr. Kennedy. We talked about Lord of the Rings for a while, and one of the topics we discussed was Tolkien’s representation of nature in that work (fun fact: he was a soldier during the Great War). He often lamented about the loss of the great British countryside through industrialization, urbanization, and the Great War, which is why he used great detail to describe the vast, beautiful frontier inside Lord of the Rings. This passage from our reading reminded me of this idea:

“Between the meadows behind our town there stands a line of old poplars by the stream. They were visible from a great distance, and although they grew on one bank only, we called them the poplar avenue. Even as children we had a great love for them, they drew us vaguely thither, we played truant the whole day by them and listened to their rustling. We sat beneath them on the bank of the stream and let our feet hang in the bright, swift waters. The pure fragrance of the water and the melody of the wind in the poplars held our fancies. We loved them dearly, and the image of those days still makes my heart pause in its beating” (Remarque 120).

This takes a more real-life approach to the destruction of nature, but it has a lot of the same feeling that Tolkien’s work does. We get strong imagery of Paul’s river at home, and it’s described to give off a beautiful and calm feeling. It’s hard to find places like that these days since urbanization is a constant, ongoing process. Paul also has nostalgia for what once was in the last sentence, which is something that Tolkien also felt later in his life.

If you have another connection to a Great War novel that discusses nature, feel free to comment about it. I know it’s a common trope in Great War novels, so I’m curious to see what other novels people have seen it in.

Perspective of Wartime Trauma

A quote from the PowerPoint we had in class:
“Therefore she must remember, try to remember, try to
be things she had been before the war—no before
it started. The world was caught as she had been caught.
The whole world was breaking and breaking for some
new spirit. Men were dying as she had almost died to
the sound (as she had almost died) of gun-fire. Guns,
guns, guns, guns. Thank God for that. The guns had
made her one in her suffering with men—men—men”
(H.D., Asphodel 114).
This quote stuck out to me because it moves away from the divide of masculinity and femininity people were expected to have at that time (to a certain extent, at least). Instead, it emphasizes that both men and women feel trauma in war. The narrator here feels it a different way than a soldier; that is, hearing the sound of guns all the time as opposed to being out there on the front line. It still doesn’t take away from what she’s feeling though. I think it’s important to have a perspective like this, since people from all sides felt the effects of this war. I’m wondering if anyone feels the same way about this quote, but if you have a different feeling or interpretation, feel free to comment about that too.