Olivia’s Bridge to the Blog

So in class today we talked about a lot of interesting ideas and themes from the stories and poems we read. One area that interested me was our discussion was the Aldington story. I think we all found this story to be captivating, with the gothic elements Dr. Scanlon brought up, but also in the way it explores what we have all discussed wanting to see. We didn’t get to see Paul go home, or Nellie either. We leave them to their own ends. We don’t know if Paul would have become an anti-war activist, or if Nellie could have worked to recover from the shell the war condemned her to. In the Aldington piece we get to experience what it’s like for a soldier reintegrating into society. Hard, haunting work. Lieutenant Hall doesn’t get killed in battle, but the lack of post-war resources, the absolute misunderstanding of him and fellow soldiers by those back home, these are all effects of the war. We get our glimpse of a soldier returning home, but he is not quite able to escape the trauma and aftershocks the war. The war kills him just at killed Paul, and I can’t help but think at least Paul went in peace. Would Paul have experienced something similar to Hall if he had gone home? Would he have been able to reintegrate? Clearly some soldiers managed it despite the odds stacked heavily in their favor. Should reintegration even be the goal, if it will lead to more cases like Lieutenant Hall?

Another topic I wanted to bring up was one of the poems we read for last class but didn’t get to, “They”. I think it tied together well with our discussion of religion and religious critique evident through several of the works we’ve read, including Sassoon’s poetry. Reading this poem along with “The Redeemer” makes clear Sassoon’s critique of the use of religion and faith towards war propaganda. We have some truly fantastic, sarcastic lines in these poems that make that goal clear. We have the Bishop’s assurance, “their comrades’ blood has bought/ New right to breed an honourable race” ( Sassoon 4-5). After this assertion Sassoon goes on to say how one soldier has “lost his legs” another has “gone syphilitic” or “shot through the lungs” in the second stanza. This is hardly the heroic brave deaths soldiers were promised in the War Propaganda is they enlisted. What does Sassoon’s negation of the religious, patriotic war narrative do here? I think it attempts to embarrass folks like the Bishop, who explain away horrors with the simple, unsatisfying and rather patronizing line “‘The ways of God are strange!'” It also shows how Sassoon holds similar ideals to later modernists, as he questioned religious hegemony and absolute as they often did.

“They” was my favorite poem we read for this class so far, and I wonder if you guys agree with me, that it absolutely shredded the popular religious dogma and ideology at the time, the ideas we talked about today of divine right, and God being on the side of the British. If this poem was published during war time I would be shocked, it’s outright blasphemous…

244 thoughts on “Olivia’s Bridge to the Blog

  1. Your question about Paul’s ability to integrate made me wonder. I think it really hinges on having a support network. Paul has his family and especially his mother, but I think he would have just as hard a time integrating to a job after having his whole identity revolve around being a soldier. It does make me wonder though.

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