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Impact of First World War on English Literature: Analytical Essay

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War is one of the major social problems facing the world today. War has plagued humanity since time immemorial. Many countries have to go through this experience at some point in their lives. It can cause great emotional trauma and grief to those left behind by the dead. Experiences and emotions related to war have always inspired poetry, prose, and literary music. War literature often provokes strong reactions. War literature is powerful. War literature can provoke emotions that some would like those emotions should not enter. This became clear after World War I when some people felt that certain war materials would affect the government's ability to persuade civilians to take up arms. It can also reduce the tendency to fight. It can also be seen as a negative reflection on those who fought and sacrificed. World War shook the foundations of the Western world, causing social upheaval that left an immediate and lasting impression on every aspect of society and culture. And experienced a wave of social and artistic change as an immediate result of the war. Literature is one of the cultural areas most affected by the war. World War literature often reflects and critiques the horrors of war and provides a dramatic transition to societal changes and pre-war and post-war operations. Literature is one of the cultural areas most affected by the war. World War literature often reflects and critiques the horrors of war and provides a dramatic transition to the changes taking place in society and to pre-and post-war operations. During the war many social, political, and economic changes took place and any writer of that time felt the need to speak out against the flaws in their society, sometimes even risking their lives in the trenches. The new style of warfare gave the soldiers an unprecedented amount of time to reflect on the wars they had fought; Not only in the literal sense, but the battles of mind and soul that they endured were no less than the hellish conditions they endured. Literature has become a common way for soldiers to get to the reality of war, whether to disagree with it or to understand it.

Keywords: - War, Literature, Culture, Society, Warfare, Patriotic, Soldier, Death, Love.


A war poet is a poet who takes part in wars and writes about their experiences or poems about war. These war poets also are called trench poets. The word war poetry mainly refers to poems written under the direct influence of the First World War. He is also called a romantic opponent. We used to have war poets, but after World War I, these types of poets and poems come in the form of 'war poems'. Poetry is the best way to express one's feelings and expressions during a war. Another major reason for writing war poems is to show a true picture of war. It also helps to spend time and creates a sense of honor through war poetry. It used gruesome and showy images that deviated from the contemporary poetic tradition. It uses the true language of the people involved in the war and realistic documentation of war with all brutality. War poetry captures a theme that has been passed down from generation to generation, regardless of the age from which it originated. It seeks to create new languages, which later generations use as a framework for understanding war history.

Beginning with the Anglo-Saxon period, English war poems were written by a large number of civilians who had no real experience. So what he wrote was either his thoughts or an idea of how the war happened. With the extraordinary flourishing between 1914 and 1918, war poetry established itself as a genre. And although thousands of soldiers were poets, only a few of them are remembered today. World War I began in July 1914, and lasted until Christmas of that year; but in reality, it lasted till 1918. As a result, young people from all over the world were called up to join the army and perform their duties and services for the motherland. Thousands of young men enlisted in the army to play their part in the war, with only one thought in mind, that is, to take part in the war is an honorable act and to die for the country is to be brave. These young men enlisted in the army had no idea how long it would last, or how much destruction it would cause. When the war broke out in 1914, Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke, Lawrence Beanian, and many others began to inspire their countrymen with their patriotic poetry. Here, we are going to compare some of the poets of World War I and their poetry, and, did they all have the same war ideology, or did they have some differences of opinion, and if so, how much? As long as the war is going on, men have written poems about it. The story of World War I has been glorified over the last hundred years by the work of great men like Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Walt Whitman, Isaac Rosenberg, and Joyce Kilmer. Now that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, we look forward to the emergence of a new generation of war poets.

Selected War Poets and Their Poetry:-

Wilfred Owen:-

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) is known as one of Britain's greatest war poets. Writing from the perspective of his intense personal experience at the forefront, his poems, which include ‘Songs for Destined Youth’ and ‘Dals at Decorum East’, bring to life the physical and mental traumas of war. Owen's goal was, to tell the truth about what he called The Peat of War. He was born in 1893 into a middle-class family near Oswestry, Shropshire, Owen was the eldest of three. His father, Tom Owen, was a railway clerk, and his mother, Susan, was from a devoutly religious family. In 1915, Owen enlisted in the army and in December 1916 joined the 2nd Manchester Regiment at Somme and was sent to France. Within a fortnight of his arrival, he was commanding a platoon on the battlefront. During heavy gunfire, in constant danger of gas attacks, he wandered miles and miles through trenches in the water. The brutal reality of the war had a profound effect on him, as he told his mother in letters. His poems 'The Sentry' and 'Exposure' record specific tests of this period. In April, after the shell flew into the air, Owen took refuge for several days in a hole near the body of a fellow officer and was soon diagnosed with shell shock. In June 1917, he was transferred to Craiglockheart War Hospital near Edinburgh, where he spent four months under the care of the famous doctor Captain Arthur Brock. Here Owen wrote many poems and became the editor of Hydra, a hospital magazine. He also met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, who gave him significant support and encouragement in the literary friendship that transformed Owen's life. Futility:-

“Futility” is a poem by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier in World War I. Written in 1918, it adorns an anonymous soldier lying dead in the snow in France, in recognition of the inevitability of death. There is a given tone, which underlines the speaker’s action of mourning the “futility” of life in the face of death. Move the dead soldier into the sunlight. His warm touch would wake him up in the morning, reminding him of the fields filled with seeds. Until this icy morning, he always woke her up on the battlefield of France. If anything can awaken him now, the kind old sun will know about it. Think about how the sun allows the seed to grow as it awakens and how it allows human life to grow from the earth, which was once a barren, cold planet. Dead bodies — still precious, full of nerves, and warm Is it hard to move now? Will he die because of the origin of life on Earth? Why would useless sunlight bother to wake up the Earth? Owen's 'futility' resembles an unknown soldier lying dead in the snow in France. The speaker begins with a hopeful tone, the sun wants to 'awaken' the dead body, but it is confusing to know that death always triumphs over life. Through this change of tone, the poem uses the dead soldier as a catalyst for larger, deeper mourning: the 'futility' of the act of creation in the face of the inevitability of death. The poet's confident description of the sun's power to nourish life in the first verse differs from the second verse expressing doubts about life’s purpose. The speaker's first response to seeing a dead soldier is 'move him to the sun,' because the sun has awakened him 'always' for a lifetime. Even if the soldier dies, the speaker is sure that the old sun will find a way to resurrect him. Even though the sun can 'wake up' the seeds and keep the surface of the distant star 'warm', it cannot resurrect a fallen soldier.

The speaker is puzzled as to how something as precious and beautiful as life can be lost before death, and raises an eloquent question to underline its impact: Anxious, still warm, and too hard to shake? 'The dead body, though surrounded by warm sunshine, will never come back to life. The speaker then asks,' Is that why the soil was raised? “('Earth' refers to the earth from which man originally came — a common notion in creation myths around the world, including the Bible), expressing disbelief that life exists because it always defeats death.

—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break Earth’s sleep at all?

In the last two lines of the poem, the speaker sadly wonders why 'meaning' or meaningless, 'sun rays' help to create life on earth, when that life eventually dies. The speaker's vision expands to include all life beyond the dead soldier. Rather than just mourning for a particular person (whose name the poem doesn't even bother with), the poem is dedicated to mourning the power of death over life - an idea that has been extended in the context of war. Although there is a hint of hope in it, the tone of the poem is ultimately mournful, dubious, and depressing. When located in a historical context, these tonal points make sense. Wilfred Owen was a British soldier in World War I and was therefore surrounded by death. No matter how many sunny days came during the war, death probably dominated his mind, this attitude manifests itself in 'futility'.

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Edward Thomas:-

Philip Edward Thomas was born in London in 1878, the eldest of Welsh parents. Born with talent, the young Thomas created essays on rural topics that were featured in the weekly paper. He was educated at Lincoln College, Oxford. While in Oxford, he met his wife, Helen Noble, and their son, Morphine, who was born before he graduated. After graduating, he became a literary critic as well as a poet, editor, and writer. Thomas and his wife had two more children, daughters Bronwen and Myfanvi. Although he was long depressed, he worked incredibly well and was the first to recognize new poets like Ezra Pound and Robert Frost. In 1914, he first met Robert Frost, who encouraged him to try to write poetry. In 1915, Thomas the Artist joined the Rifles during World War I. Thomas 'unit advanced on Flanders but was killed in an explosion of Thomas' shell on April 9, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Aras. During his lifetime, he was nicknamed Edward Eastway, and six of his poems were published under that name. Apart from those six, none of his other poems was published before his death. He was buried in Agni Military Cemetery in France.


Rain, written by Edward Thomas, describes the speaker’s relationship to death as he contemplates the future in the trenches of World War I. The poem begins with the speaker saying that the rain is constantly falling on the roof of his 'separate hut'. His condition is not good. The speaker is alone, in a ditch, somewhere on the battlefield of the First World War. While there, he thinks of his death and the nature of his death. He goes on to describe how bad the rain is. He has been able to wash it “clean” for a long time. By doing so, he has revealed himself to be a love on which he can depend. In the last lines, the speaker seems to turn from any 'perfect' because it cannot be trusted. Although death is a constant.

Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:

But here I pray that none whom once I loved

Is dying tonight or lying still awake

Solitary, listening to the rain,

Either in pain or thus in sympathy

In the above line has said about the speaker goes on to describe the nature of rain and how it affects oneself. He begins by referring to the “dead” on the way to the rain. Wherever they are, they are “blessed” as long as they are touched by the rain. It comes as a purifying force, helping to wash away the stains of war and the great tragedy of death. From where the speaker is sitting, in his hut, he “prays [that] those whom he once “loved” are no longer alive. He knows the loneliness of his situation and does not want it on anyone. The speaker hopes his friends and family are safe, “not dying tonight or still awake alone.” This section ends by recognizing that some people in this section may be “sympathetic”, thinking about those they love in private. Either way, it’s not a wish for his loved ones.


The differences in the writing of those who have no experience of war or who were soldiers can be easily noticed. The earlier war was presented as a brave, honorable, knightly, noble event. In his poems, he presents death as a sacrifice that immortalizes the soldier. But the poetry and attitudes of the soldiers who fought in the First World War were completely different, seeing their lives always in danger, bloodshed, wounds, seeing their soldier friends die, and the trauma of living in the narrow, dark. And the suffocating trenches and, most importantly, away from home, with the possibility of being buried somewhere abroad, deprived of all funeral rites, were for them a new, sad, and dark, but real reality of war. So they worked hard to write down their experiences and reveal the hidden truths about war. Eventually, the so-called notion of war being brave and noble was destroyed. And so ‘war poetry’ became ‘anti-war poetry’. War poems capture the darkest moments in human history and are also the brightest. From ancient texts to modern free verse, war poetry explores various experiences, celebrating victory, honoring the fallen, mourning for loss, complaining of oppression, and rebelling against those who turn a blind eye. War poems include familiar, surprising, and disturbing. These poems are remembered for their lyric mystery, insights, power to inspire, and role in historical events.

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