Representations Of Warfare In Literature.
-Through whose eyes do we see warfare and its effects in each text?
-To what extent does the context (setting, race, gender, political stand point, etc) effect societies views on warfare?
-What similarities and differences are there between how warfare affects society in the texts? What does it tell us about the ways in which people have viewed warfare over time?
The Western Front Diaries
A collection of diaries about the experiences of the ANZAC soldiers in the western front during world war 1.
In the western front diaries we see warfare and its effects through the eyes of frontline soldiers, men and women who put their lives on the line where the fighting was thickest. And the war was at its peak.
I believe the context had little to do with how the soldiers and society as a whole viewed this certain theatre of war. All the diaries compiled into the book were written by middleclass Australians and New Zealanders, most diaries ended before any insightful comments were made however. Some soldiers wrote of how war had just changed where they sleep while others had much more dramatic transitions. An example of a smooth and indifferent transition comes from the diary of one Devonne Chuck, quote, “…most Aussie men were so used to roughing it out in the bush that the trenches were like a second home, give an Aussie a sheet of corrugated iron, some planks and he’s set for the next month. War didn’t really change nothing…” a very small percentage of men, nicknamed budgers by their comrades, questioned the war and it’s purpose in their diaries, asking such rhetorical questions as “Why are we fighting?”, “Is it really worth it?” and “Are those German chaps really as bad they say?”
... their large duty to the returned servicemen. The war separated the soldiers from other British civilians and felt that one another ... Macdonald’s Voices and Images from the Great War an ex-soldier in 1923, Sydney Chaplin, discusses a park full ... was further fuelled by a housing crisis. Following World War I, soldiers expected employment reforms and more opportunity for work rebuilding the ...
The Western Front Diaries is very similar in setting to Alamein aside from the time difference it is the same enemy and very much the same political circumstances. Both books involve seeing from the soldier’s point of view, and in both books some soldiers possess the idea that war has rules and regulations, in both books percentages of soldiers have doubts about their war. This tells us that in the span of about 40 years, warfare and societies view on it had not changed drastically in any way. If we go back further and compare it to King Henry V however, we notice that while both books involve two governments at war over a large scale. In Shakespearean King Henry V War and battle are seen as gentlemanly past times where honour and glory are won on the battlefield with chivalric ideals such as never attacking an unarmed opponent, In the Western Front Diaries the soldiers and officers see war as a thing with rules, however it is portrayed as a brutal slogging match instead of a climactic battle. This shows that as society has advanced and attained new and faster ways of attaining more accurate information that society as a whole is more understanding of the consequences of war as we get closer to the present, however the attitude of the soldiers themselves has not changed dramatically from King Henry’s time.
A book based on the real life events of soldiers during Alamein in World War 2, The book is made up of 8 stories of 8 people in Alamein, from both the Axis and Allied. The stories are based on fictional accounts and are told in chronological order with some storied overlapping.
... that have become familiar with the history of World War II, this book will provide at least some information that was ... happened in the years preceding World War II. The writings Finney chose for his book were largely concentrated on evaluating countries ... Origins of World War II - Book Review Essay submitted by scott World War II was much more than battles, statistics, politics, and opinions ...
We see warfare and its effects through the eyes of 8 different soldiers most are grunts and frontline men however we get two insights into the thoughts of General Montgomery and Erwin Rommel, two men instrumental in the battle this book is based upon.
In this context is quite important especially the political influences. All throughout the book all the soldiers, officers and generals are affected by political situations, propaganda makes soldiers hate their enemies and so they fight harder, the soldiers view this war as a battle for survival not for any great cause. The generals are under continuing political pressure to achieve results however politicians hold back valuable resources which stops generals from making progress. For them war has become a long slogging match and a series of battle of attrition instead of the war portrayed to the general public as heroic charges and one day battles.
Alamein is similar to texts such as Birdsong by Sebastian faulks and the film Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg as it is instead of a direct biography of a single soldier or a completely fictional account, It is a representation of a large percentage of the soldiers, however it differs in that instead of telling one story and therefore representing only one side, it tells eight stories representing eight different view points. This tells us that society has a more or less uniform view of how war is and its effects, there are no arguments as to its consequences. It does differ from the suggestions of King Henry V in that while King Henry’s Soldiers are fanatically loyal t their King and country in Alamein the soldiers rely more on their comrades for support, however General Montgomery takes a different stand then Henry and opts to instead stoop to their level and mingle with the soldiers, this endears him to the soldiers as Henry’s soldiers never could. This shows the societies views on how those in command must act in times of war has changed. In Alamein a stalwart Monarch general would have failed to rally the troops as effectively as the familiar and approachable Understanding General.
Saving Private Ryan (Visual)
This film is a representation of how detached the general population was to the frontline. It details the efforts of a squad a men to save one soldier, Private Ryan, and bring him home to his family after his three brothers died and he became an only child.
... spent attending to rifle cleaning, reading, personal hygiene, and general boredom; given freedom of movement was severely restricted by the ... hate, and ambition as the driving force for international violence. Soldiers would become entrapped in their own tools of precaution and ... and the integration of improved aircraft into the area of war (Smithsonian Institution, 2012). In the end; Germany would be ...
We once again see the battle through the eyes of the foot soldiers during world war two, specifically one squad named Charlie company, 2nd Ranger Battalion. We mainly see from the view point of John H. Miller the commanding officer, however we do get brief glimpses of the lives and situations of the other squad throughout the film.
Context is very important in this film because the politicians ‘back home’ who’s only suffering is rationing can’t understand the realities of war. These same politicians order the saving of one soldier and sacrifice a dozen men for it. During the time the film was set in America had just entered the war and many American generals and politicians were new to the idea of war, they had learned nothing from WWI. The soldiers in the film view the war as needless and as something to draw good men away from what is important (family, work).
Saving Private Ryan is very similar to Alamein and Birdsong as these texts are based on fictional events and all the characters in each have the problem of being misunderstood by the general population due to failings in propaganda and political activities. These texts all portray the view points of not one individual but groups of individuals. It differs from texts such as Henry V because instead of portraying large battles and glorious victories it presents the gruesome realities of war as well as how soldiers and the rest of society deals with it.
Henry V (Play)
This play centres around King Henry The V the new monarch of England and his conquest of France. It portrays the King as the ‘Mirror Of All Christian Kings’ who can make no errors and has no faults.
We attain many views on Warfare and its in this play, mostly from King Henry himself but also from Chorus (the narrator) and three soldiers called Pistol, Bardolf and Nim. King Henry’s view on war change depending on who is talking to him, he can be what is described as Machiavellian, a very good actor. He speaks of war as a way of obtaining land, as tribute to his forefathers, as a way to attain glory, as revenge for insult and injury. He has or at least acts out all these views. Chorus views war as something climatic and awe inspiring that decides the fate of whole monarchies and an opportunity for gaining glory and honour. The three soldiers view it only as a way to attain loot and wealth through ransom and pillaging.
... medieval church took control of how society should view issues. The church was making society view mental illness in terms of witchcraft ... hesitantly. A cartoon shows how people of today’s society views individuals with a mental illness (Sakai). Instead of pushing ... and demons. Later in history, society started to ignore those ...
The context is quite important in this text as during this time period monarchs were seen as gods chosen leaders and most of society saw it that way too. As a result of this near fanatic view if the monarch saw fit to go to war then the populace would follow. Societies view on warfare was very limited to stories and these were usually exaggerated for the story teller’s benefit (as we see in Chorus’s case).
Therefore Society as a whole was not fully aware of warfare and its effects.
Henry V possesses some very large contrasts with more modern texts concerning war. Here in this play war is portrayed as something that means gaining something, while in modern war texts war always involves losing something. For example, King Henry made war with France to gain land and wealth, however in Alamein, war was joined to stop loss of land by facilitating loss of life. In saving Private Ryan, three brothers and a dozen good men were lost to save one man. In this way older texts show society not measuring war in losses but in gains, while modern war texts portray societies tallying losses not gains.
The story of Birdsong centres around the character of Stephen Wraysford and his life preceding, during and after world war 1.
We see war through the eyes of Stephen Wraysford, the narrator and main character of the text. We see his views on the massive loss of human life, on the folly of war and of the mental state of the people in war. He represents a large portion of society in his thinking.
Context is not very important in this text, Stephen could have been dropped into World war 2, or the gulf war, his views would remain the same as he is not effected by political or social factors. This helps us by providing us with an unhampered view of warfare in world war 1.
Birdsong holds similarities with Alamein and Saving Private Ryan in portraying a portion of society as an individual and following your path through war. Where it differs is that it focuses more on the psychological effects of war and how Society views and understands this psychological effect. This shows how society has shifted its views from simply the commanders too encompass also the frontline troops, even if their understanding is limited this shows that they are taking an interest which is a large jump from Henry V where all that matters is the monarch.
... correct to say that in the middle ages society simply had a different view of childhood. Aries definition of childhood as a ... it were biological everyone would have the same experiences. However, changes have been made and it is now made clear by ... “Examine different sociological views on changes in the experience of childhood in the last 50 years ...
How Society effects Representations of Warfare in Literature
In literature warfare is presented in many forms, incidentally these forms all depend on Society, not only at the time but also in the text itself. In order to see how Society effects how warfare we must answer three key questions. In the text, Whose eyes are we viewing from, To what extent the context (Political factors, social factors, time zone, world events) in the text effect Societies views on warfare and how similarities and differences in how warfare effects society in the texts and what they tell us about how societies ideals and views have changed over time. The texts I have used to answer these questions are “The Western Front Diaries” By Jonathan King, “Alamein” by Iain Gale, “Henry V” by William Shakespeare, “Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg and “Birdsong” by Steven Faulks.
In the texts, whose eyes are we viewing from and why?
It is shown by these texts that the majority of war literature is viewed from a soldiers point of view. This is to show how detached war is from normal society, both in the text and in reality. By placing the reader in the hands of the soldier narrator it forces society in reality to face what they never knew. The reader then will also experience how detached normal society is from the soldier by things such as the soldiers diaries and letters back home. In “The Western Front Diaries” there is a soldier who writes home to his father, quote, “… The war is going well on my end, there has been a little shelling but otherwise it’s quiet, I heard the boys in 4th(?) had to charge a German machine gun nest. Cannot wait to return home to the farm, say hello to Mother and (Jonas?) For me.” ,end quote, In reality this soldier, A Private Maxwell had had his left arm blown off by a shell prior to writing the letter, He could not bear to write what had happened down lest he horrify his family, this large gap in understanding between even family members separated by war is largely due to the lack of connection between normal society and the society at war, between the general population and the soldiers at war. In “Saving Private Ryan” a squad of a dozen men are sent by commanders to save a Private Ryan and return him to his family and though successful, all die in the attempt. This came about when a general heard that one family lost three sons within days of each other and would be receiving all three death notices on the same day. The general takes pity upon this family and orders the safe return of their only remaining son. We watch the entire journey to save this one man from the view point of these dozen men, and watch as they die one by one in the attempt until even the main character, John H. Miller, dies uttering the last words “James… earn this. Earn it.” This film while no less heroic and a good representation of all the soldiers at war demonstrates the large gap in understanding between normal society and the society at war. A dozen men sacrificed for one, as one soldier puts it, “What makes him so special?”. Therefore this shows that we see warfare in literature through the eyes of those closest to it namely the soldiers because it helps society develop an understanding of what warfare entails.
... changed by a social revolution (hippie movement) that resented war so instead of returning as heroes for fighting for their country, the soldiers ... social pain, that they never really blended in with their society at home anymore and never really regained what they had ... who were had to avoid. Also, the guerilla warfare made it hard for soldiers to identify the enemy since attacks may come ...
To what extent does the context in the text effect societies view on warfare?
Context does not really have a large effect in how society views warfare in war literature. In my texts I find that regardless of context the characters, their interactions and how society views them would not change very dramatically where ever you put them. And example which supports this comes from “Alamein” where one soldier has just lost his best friend to an Italian rifleman, quote, “…He felt numb for a moment, like everything was very still, even the sand in his pants no longer bothered him, without realising it much he found he had already left the trench, and found an Italian with a mortar. He was filled with a sudden realisation that this Italian may well have just knocked over Mourise, it was a curious feeling, like being filled with hot rocks very quickly. He jumped into the Italian trench and bayoneted the Runner in the back, he stabbed him a couple of times for god measure, then when he was sure he was dead, he stabbed him again…”, end quote, This extract shows that regardless of societies vies, of propaganda or political upheaval he would have killed that Italian and the Society at war would congratulate him for it. Another example is from “Henry V” in the scene where the boys guarding the baggage train are slaughtered by the French, Henry and the other soldiers are distraught, Henry himself going as far as to declare, quote, “I have not been angry since I came to France/ until this instant.” I believe that no matter what context this had been, if he was king or not, whether it was blades or guns that killed them that society at war would indeed have been angry and believe they had good reason to fight. This shows that, while context is important to stop confusion as to wars and time periods, war itself is independent of periods and societies view on war changes only when very large changes in context such as government upheavals occur.
How similarities and differences in how warfare affects society in the texts and what they tell us about how society’s ideals and views have changed over time?
Many of my texts contain very close similarities with each other and also some large differences. A good pair to compare are “Alamein” and “The Western Front Diaries” this is because they both deal with the lives of multiple people, giving insight into not individuals but whole societies. While “Alamein” is set 40 years ahead of “The Western Front Diaries” they both contain recounts by soldiers that are remarkably similar, here are two extracts, ,quote Alamein, “…The horizon opened up with what was called the biggest barrage in the war, Monty was rumoured to have over a thousand guns up there, He almost felt pity for the Germans on the receiving end of those…”,end quote Alamein. Now an extract from “the Western Front Diaries”, “…I’ve never been more scared in my life. The damn shells wouldn’t stop falling I kept expecting to close my eyes and open them again fifty feet in the air! The worst part is that I know there will be another barrage tonight, and the next night, a couple of lads have already claimed sick and moved out of the trenches, you know, I wouldn’t put it past them that they really were sick, sick of all this shelling…” This shows the tactics hadn’t changed, still artillery barrages, it also shows that society has failed to register and learn from the first world war and keeps making the same mistakes through world war 2. In world war one, they mistook complete physical breakdown for simple shellshock, that’s what those men were ‘sick’ with, and they did it again in World War 2. A pair of texts that have good contrast are “Henry V” and “Birdsong” . In Henry V everything is decided upon by Henry, He seems to know exactly what he wants and is seen as the ‘mirror of all Christian kings’ and so when he goes to war all follow him fanatically, in this quote from Chorus, “Now all the Youth of England are on fire/ And Silken dalliance in the wardrobe lay.” This image of a whole country uniting behind one man was seen as normal by society in the text. However in “Birdsong” Stephen, the narrator and main character can be described as a veteran and a hero of many battles, yet he is a confused man, and cannot trust himself to lead others, also others see this and are reluctant to follow him. This image of two supposed leaders, one a king and confident, the other a soldier and unsure displays how society has changed from Henry V’s time to Stephens time. In a Society at war during WWI society saw war as movements of armies and victories of mass not of individuals. However in “King Henry V” society would readily believe that the fate of a whole war could sway upon the whim of an individual. This shows society has advanced from wanting heroes, to wanting a swift end. In short, by comparing texts focusing on different periods of warfare we can gather just how Society was thinking at the point and how it had changed from the previous point, from thinking heroes could win wars to knowing only armies and resources could win wars but also learning that even long periods of time may not change how society views warfare as in the case between “Alamein” and “The Western Front Diaries” society failed to register change in the 40 years between these great battles.
In Conclusion, War Literature can help us establish that while war can effect society, society and it’s wants and needs cannot truly effect the course of war or its consequences. We see this because we have seen war in texts through the eyes of those closest to it, the soldiers portrayed in the texts show society what war really is and how at that time how detached or misunderstanding general society was of the society at war. We know that society and context cannot change the facts of war, we know this because it is show that human anger at losing a loved one to another will create killing and therefore war regardless of the context or the views of society. And we know Society can change because of war when we view the similarities and differences between texts of different periods of warfare, by comparing society at two different points of war we can see that war can effect change, either by making society realise that individuals cannot effect true change, but we also see that society can fail to change also as seen by the periods between world war 1 and world war 2. Therefore, I conclude that Society cannot truly effect warfare or war literature, However Warfare and War Literature can effect change in Society.