Owen’s inclusion of famous ‘faces’

Just had some final thoughts on Owen’s poetry. A couple of lessons ago the question was asked what made his poetry so well known even to this day? After reading ahinton’s post (you can read it here! They bring up some interesting information!) about how Owen included W.B Yeats at the beginning of The Show, it led to me thinking that maybe by Owen including or eluding to some very well known people helped his poetry become as renowned as it has today. For instance in Dulce et Decorum Est, the popular line we discussed (Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori) was also a reference to the British Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill. From reading the back of the book, it states how ‘Churchill had argued against this very phrase because it was inappropriate to the squalid reality of death in battle’. Owen is agreeing with Churchill in this poem (by how he states it’s a lie), and perhaps during that time people would have been able to make a connection between the two. The blog post about why Owen would pick a Yeats’ quotation made me think of this. Owen may have added Yeats as a form of retaliation, as Ahintons blog post also talks of how Yeats disliked Owen. Of course these thoughts don’t involve the fact that, obviously, Owen’s poetry is very emotional and personal, and his linguistic technique is one that allows his poetry to be so memorable even now.
But yeah credit to goes to ahinton for this!

Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

Reading Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, I found it very interesting how he ends the poem with ‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’. Searching it up at the back of the book and online, it translates as ‘It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’, and comes from Horace’s Odes.
Owen describes this sentiment as a ‘Lie’ and the fact that he capitalises this I think makes it even more profound. Maybe he capitalised it for some other reason that I’m not entirely sure about, but I personally read it as being capitalised to emphasise the inaccurate truth and ‘patriotism’ that people back at home would have been fed about the war (not to say that patriotism is a bad thing, but just that maybe during this time it was surrounded and pushed by more lies and less reality?) I think it’s similar to Paul’s narrative in All Quiet on the Western Front, and even Nellie’s when she quits working as an ambulance driver, and of course Borden’s numerous narrations on the medical horrors that we read. All feel, maybe some more than others, that they were unable to say aloud the truth or go against the ‘lies’. By Owen also claiming that it was the ‘children’ who fed into this ‘desperate glory’ makes it more chilling, especially after reading the horrific ways in which these men died (‘his hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin’).

Stragglers in the Dust and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Dr Scanlon raised the idea of the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Solider’ in the Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC whilst we read Daly’s Not Only War, and we talked briefly and questioned whether the unknown could be an African-American soldier. May Miller’s short story Stragglers in the Dust eludes quite a bit to this idea (in the beginning), and I think it’s fascinating that this story also happens to be set in DC (the references to the ‘Potomac’, ‘Arlington Tower’ and the ‘Capitol dome’). It can be argued that this very short story, published in 1930, could be in response to such a debate, as the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ was erected on  4 March, 1921, whereby ‘Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater’ (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier).

Although some may argue, I think the fact that the ‘Straggler’- or ‘Captain Lester Bradford Jr’ which he arrogantly and conceitedly refers to himself as – is so vicious and racist to the ‘unknown’ soldier ‘who has taken his place’, it’s as if Miller may have very well been instigating the conversation of exactly who the unknown soldier is – and does their race matter? All soldiers killed, from all countries, equally and even forcefully gave the ultimate sacrifice. So why should the colour of their skin matter? Although, this is to some people more of an issue than others, clearly, as Mac seems indifferent and sympathetic when learning how the man who saved the ‘Stragglers’ life was killed by a shell – ‘Poor lad—poor fellow’(p.7).

Furthermore, ‘Nan’ describes the ‘tomb’ (she believes Jim is buried there) as ‘dat marble box’ (p.3), and the official Arlington Cemetery website describes the tomb as being ‘white marble sarcophagus’ (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier). Perhaps this story was obviously made to be cohesive with the unknown tomb and I’m just stating the obvious, or maybe, in my view, Miller did want to raise the idea of who the unknown soldier is – or lower it? – but I personally find the parallels and ‘clues’ between the two intriguing. I admit that I found this story quite confusing, especially its ending, so if I made any errors, don’t be afraid to correct me!

Fredericksburg Memorial and Arlington Cemetery

I recently passed this memorial in Fredericksburg, near what people call the ‘bamboo forest’ (it’s a really nice area and I would encourage people to go for a walk – it’s very beautiful!) and it’s a memorial for the people of Fredericksburg who lost their lives in World War One and World War Two. It reminded me of the exhibition at the Fredericksburg Area Museum that some of us may have visited, where there were many examples given of how the people of Downtown Fredericksburg were affected by these conflicts. It serves as a reminder just how much damage can be felt by a small community and I think it really hits home how this is just one small in town in Virginia – never mind the other cities or towns across America and Europe that would have also been affected.

I also recently took a tour of Washington DC and passed by the Arlington Cemetery (excuse the very blurry photographs below, but I just wanted to try and show how expansive this cemetery is) and its very intense to witness physically the amount of people that lost their lives to wars like the one we are studying (even if passed by very briefly in the car). I think it’s a lot more ‘real’ almost to see the affects in front of you, first hand, in combination with some of the texts we are studying, and wanted to include it here as we discussed briefly last lesson of the ‘tomb of the unknown soldier’ which I found out is also located here in the Arlington Cemetery. I think it just places the consequences of this war a lot more in perspective and gives a further ending or story to the ones we have already read. Someone like Paul, Kat, Montie, Bob or even Nellie could be buried here.

Sophia’s Review of A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms (1957), directed by Charles Vidor and starring Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones as Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley respectively, provides a meaningful and enchanting narration to the lives of these individuals and the prevailing debacles that would have been abundant during World War One.

Image result for a farewell to arms 1957

I enjoyed the way in which the film opens with Frederic narrating – his voice-over makes for an effective beginning that already helps us relate to the mysterious and – undoubtedly – traumatic events, considering it is indeed a film of the Great War.
His voice really sets the tone and adds to the auspicious tenure of the film – that combined with the romantic, enchanting soundtrack by Mario Nascimbene, along with the background information of World War One, the films romantic and yet foreboding foundations are conveyed to us.

The ‘relationship’ of Catherine and Frederic – to begin with – seems to be much more comical compared to that of the novel, and there was not much of a build up to it; it was very sudden and I felt that their meeting and ‘relationship’ could have appeared more realistic, authentic and less comical had there been more growth and development (in a similar way to the novel).
I felt that the suddenness took away from the entertaining and intriguing partnership that Frederic and Rinaldi have, as it is only slightly regarded in the opening stages of the film (in the novel, their playful and humorous kinship is an aspect that I particularly enjoyed). I think the opening of the film did not allow their goodnatured friendship to be thoroughly shown, as the instant connection to Frederic and Catherine took over.

As the film progressed, and Frederic must return to his role as an ambulance driver – alone – it felt slightly saddening, as the progression of Frederic and Catherine’s relationship was, in my opinion, bewitching. To witness them ‘separated’ made me apprehensive, as the ensuing drama that Frederic faces make me yearn for something more charming and picturesque – as such was Frederic and Catherine’s relationship displayed throughout.  For example, the idyllic scenes of Italy’s lakes were provided as a backdrop to their bond, and such places were the definition of charming and picturesque.

Furthermore, my yearning for them to not be separated was also in part due to the phenomenal, original soundtrack by Mario Nascimbene. It is authentic and tender in the scenes of Frederic and Catherine, and ambient and sorrowful in the scenes in which it needed to be – such as their separation. The music was therefore vitally important in the emotions that the film evoked.

Interestingly, however, the final scenes of the film provided minimal background music, a decision I think enhanced, rather than belittled the sadness evident in the scenes. Instead, the silence led to a much more profound depiction of the endings event, and made it even more personal and realistic – it was almost as if we are there. There were no distractions and no disturbance, but simply our own thoughts and emotions to what we were witnessing.

Not only this, but the actors also played a role (pun intended) in my yearning for their reunion. Rock Hudson plays the function of a very masculine and rugged, handsome lieutenant extremely well. What also makes him an exceptional actor is his ability to switch from the slightly arrogant, charming and resilient masculine demeanor he holds into that of a softened, melancholic and forlorn human when needs be.

One of the final scenes in which we see Frederic momentarily staring out the window, whilst we hear the rainfall, with its inherent foreboding, outside makes for a very poignant scene. The atmosphere the sinister rainfall provided also led to a connection between us, the viewers, and Frederic. I felt that I knew what he was thinking in this scene, whilst he was staring out at Catherine’s worst fear: the belief that a shocking event may occur, even though we desperately do not want it to.

Finally, what I thought was an exceptional decision made by director Charles Vidor, was the fact that the ending provided a voiceover, only this time given by Catherine. This is the opposite to the beginning of the film where we heard Frederic’s narration. By the film choosing to end in such a way, the film’s premise comes full circle: we had begun with a volunteer army lieutenant who seemed to be breezing along with the war, its women and its fellow comrades. Yet, it ended with the voice of only one particular woman playing, what could be interpreted as, in his mind, a final farewell to what could have been and to what Frederic had been clinging on to. The film comes full circle by beginning and ending with the two main protagonists telling their story – a story that indeed does not have a happy ending, and Catherine’s voice we hear in the final moments is a reminder to this.

Word count: 820

I pledge.

Mary Borden’s ‘The Preface’

Having discussed upon ‘The Preface’ of Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone, I just wanted to add on something that I thought of whilst reading it, and how it relates somewhat to Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

Where Borden states that she has ‘blurred the bare horror of facts and softened the reality in spite of myself, not because I wished to do so, but because I was incapable of a nearer approach to the truth’, it reminded me of Paul’s return home on leave. Paul had an inability to tell his mother of the true horrors that he had witnessed at the Front, partly as it was too painful for even him to do so, but also because he did so to protect her. He is shielding her mind in the same way that Borden had to shield hers. Paul instead provided his family with ‘a softened reality’, much like Borden, as he simply could not bring himself to, unbearably so.

Also, the fact that the Preface ends with the statement that ‘all the rest can never be written’ also pertains to the idea that it would be simply too unmanageable to speak upon the debacles of the Front. There is almost a shared and unspoken belief among those that had seen what World War One was truly like. Nellie also could not speak on them, and such is the reason why her and Roy are able to connect so well: they understand what each of the other has gone through, and no words are necessary to speak of their experiences. It is something that those who did not take part in can truly understand, and those that did are only able to provide a fragment of the truth to us.


Spoilers below for those who haven’t finished the book.

Having read the final parts of the book, I feel heartbroken at the deaths of the baby and Catherine. Hemingway set up the final chapters of the book in a way that made us anxious as we knew something awful was about to happen. There was much foreshadowing with the weather, the constant, dreadful descriptions of the rain and snow. It was bitter and concerning, especially considering the way Catherine had previously described how she hated the rain because she ”pictured Henry dead in it”. Hemingway is setting us up for the ending – we knew something vicous would happen, maybe Henry caught and arrested, but personally I was not expecting the death of both Catherine and the baby.

The way Hemingway also accelerates the months and portrays the time passing makes us apprehensive as we are made to feel as if something is coming – but we didn’t know what (besides the baby of course). Chapter 40 – ‘We lived through the months of January and February and the winter was very fine and we were very happy…In March came the first break in the winter. In the night it had started raining. ” Hemingway displays the months passing rapidly and thus the arrival of a sinister event is also following it, and there is almost a sense of irony in ‘we were very happy’ as we know the raw realism Hemingway is known for will eventually catch up, as much I was hoping it wouldn’t. The foreboding ‘rain’ just accentuates the harrowing events that we will eventually see, and it’s also very fitting how Henry is described as ‘walking out in the rain’ in the very last sentence of the novel: he has survived this far but at what cost?

Amidst all the chaos and destruction of the war, which Hemingway is able to point towards subtly by the fact that Henry still occasionally reads the papers, I was hoping that happiness would be able to outlive it, and that something as happy as Catherine’s and Henry’s relationship would last. As crazy as their relationship was, as well as their pretend marriage and their made up family existence (Catherine tells her hairdresser she has two boys and two girls), they were still content with each other and at times it was entertaining even to see them interact with the dialogue Hemingway includes. I think he led me to like their relationship, which is why I’m hurt at their demise.

‘Glory of Women’ and ‘Not So Quiet…’

I really enjoyed reading some of Sassoon’s poetry, especially ‘How to Die’, as the language he uses is very descriptive, and even in some ways it contains romantic elements (Where holy brightness breaks in flame;Radiance reflected in his eyes, And on his lips a whispered name. Stanza 1), which is ironic considering the very title of the poem and the depressing events he goes on to talk about.

However, the poem ‘Glory of Women’ really reminded me of Nellie’s Mother and Mrs Evans-Mawnington in Not So Quiet… Sassoon here is essentially berating women for the beliefs they hold about the war, and in the same way as Nellie’s Mother and Mrs Evans-Mawnington, they only care for their reputation and how they will be perceived by the rest of society. As we discovered towards the ending of Not So Quiet, Roy’s injuries are mitigated by the fact that he receives an M.C, and which Nellie’s Mother describes as a ‘great compensation’, as if a medal makes up for the fact that he’s blind, lost a leg and can’t have any children. ‘Glory of Women’ is similar in this way, but Sassoon is obviously much more direct and accusatory in condemning the women of war (‘You worship decorations’ seems to hold a very bitter tone towards the women – they only care for the medals and the ‘glory’ it will bring). In the same way as the mothers in Not so Quiet, the women in this poem take ‘delight’ in the stories they are told about the war: ‘You listen with delight/ By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled’, and it’s as if we are purposely made to feel disgusted by the thoughts these women have of others being killed. This line also reminds me of how Nellie’s Mother in her letters states that she hopes ‘they use lots and lots of liquid fire to teach those Germans’, which she clearly also takes ‘delight’ in. I also noticed by reading more about this poem online (https://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/glory-of-women-summary-analysis.html#.W60N66AXY0M) that it is a an form of a sonnet (probably should have noticed that earlier), and how sonnets are, clearly, more often associated with love and affection (Shakespeare is an obvious example of this). I think that Sassoon may have purposely used the form of a sonnet to juxtapose with the horrors that are described in this poem, which in turn makes its much more prominent, particularly at the end with the use of the last line ‘His face is trodden deeper in the mud’. It could also be used to make an ironic claim about the women: Yes they have love and affection, but only for their reputation.


Just wanted to touch upon what was mentioned in class today about the scene where Nellie takes her Mother, Mrs Evans-Mawnington, and essentially us, on a tour of the men’s injuries, and the use of the direct address that allows us to bear witness to such a painful scene. Last lesson we talked about how the novel, in its opening stages, was very humorous, with the crude and sarcastic conversations the women, especially Tosh, hold, but I feel as we progress further into the novel this is just no longer the case. The reality of the situation is becoming more abstract as we read on, and its as if the humor we once had only served to disguise the true horrors that we are now starting to witness. Not just the physical aspect, in terms of the awful description of the men’s injures, but more specifically the mental aspect. We see The Bug completely losing her rationality and sense of self and her erratic behavior shows what the consequences of war can place on someone. We see Nellie driving the ‘screaming’ men to ‘Number Eight’ (pages 97-103), the italics of which serve to highlight the amount of damage, mentally, these men have experienced, so much so that we are given the impression that they have even started fighting each other in the back of the ambulance. The broken syntax can even be described as reflecting the broken bodies and minds of the men. And, finally, we see even Nellie begin to descend into a state of chaos with the way in which she responds to Tosh’s death and the fact that her sister Trix is now said to have ‘general depression’ (page 148). Almost everything around Nellie is beginning to crumble, and it seems as though her mind may even begin to disintegrate wholly too.

The novel is just no longer humorous, and it is clear based on the last few chapters we have read that such descriptions and events will only be getting worse, and as a reader, I have even started to question the future of Nellie’s mental well-being and even her life, (as Paul’s death in All Quiet on the Western Front was a shock to say the least).