God, Gorillas, and the Great War

I found the art and propaganda that we reviewed in class to be extremely helpful in connecting ideas about the war to the outside world mainly through religious or popular culture references.

In the poem “An Incident” by Mary H.J. Henderson we see how the sacrificial offering of Christ is mirrored in the death of a young soldier. However, I think this poem takes on another level that we did not discuss in class. To me there can also be a comparison made to Mary as a metaphor for the Motherland or the mothers back home. Upon first glance of the poem my mind went straight to the Gospel passage between Jesus and his beloved disciple who many believe was the Apostle John. Jesus facing certain death at Calvary turns to his mother saying “Woman, behold, your son.” and then to John saying “Behold, your mother.” Then we know that from that hour onward the disciple took her into his home. The relationship that Baumer has with Franz’s mother embodies this concept. When Baumer talks about writing the letter to Franz’s mother and recalls how Franz’s mother pleading for Baumer to watch over Franz, I very much see the communal aspect of motherhood and patriotism mixed with religious motifs within this poem.

I also took notice that the advertisement that read “Destroy This Mad Brute” reminded me of King Kong. However, I think of that as a more modern film than the early 19th century. Ironically, the original movie came out in 1933 while the propaganda poster was credited with the year of 1917 so I wonder if the poster had any influence on the movie. Like the image of a bizarre Trump lookalike maybe there was some foreshadowing going on that just can’t be explained.

In general I’m interested to see how religion and popular culture are utilized in this war because I never really thought about the three being intertwined until I saw these pieces of art and literature.

1 thought on “God, Gorillas, and the Great War

  1. I think the concept of the “Motherland” relating back to Mary is incredibly interesting. Especially because of the differences in language between English and German (the language the book was first published in) are enormous. In the book, Paul refers to what we typically call the “Motherland” as the “Fatherland.” However, we see so much imagery relating back to Mother Earth in the book. Boys in this time are taught to protect women because the widespread idea is that they cannot protect themselves. At the same time, they’re meant to stand up for their nation because it is the “manly” thing to do.

    I wonder if this is just a fluke in language and how these comparisons are learned in the different cultures.

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