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How Does the Poet Convey the Horrors of the War in ‘Attack’?

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 627
  • Category: Poetry War

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The poet conveys the horrors by using personification, onomatopoeias and other interesting techniques. In Sassoon’s poem ‘Attack’ he includes: Lack of hope, loss of human identity, sacrifice of life, desperation of soldiers and the disorganization and discomfort of war.

The horror of war is portrayed in the way that the soldiers are deprived of their human identity and are just seen as a ‘thing’ and not individuals. In the middle of the poem Sassoon uses an ambiguous line that can be interpreted differently. The phrase is “Lines of grey”. This could be a man’s face and how it is talking about the mud getting embedded in the lines on his face; which are making them look grey. However, it could also be the long line of soldiers standing; they are not being recognized individually but more as a whole. They are described as grey because they are covered in mud and they are obviously sad and keeping their faces down so they can’t be seen. The next line that takes away the soldiers’ identity is “muttering faces”. This is taking away their integrity by saying that it is a large number of people; the soldiers aren’t being recognized. So as the soldiers are not being perceived properly it is magnifying the horror of not being ‘seen’ by the others around you, a sense that you are on your own.

The poet describes the ruthlessness of the war through the desperation of soldiers and the sacrifice of life. At the end of the poem Sassoon says “grappling fists” this is using a present participle, which is giving you a sense of immediacy; that this is happening now. To be grappling something you are trying to hold on in desperation, but this task is now unsuccessful because of the fact that they are using their fists. The poet also uses “to meet the bristling fire” this is more a sacrifice of life rather than desperation because the men have to ‘jostle’ and ‘climb’ over their trenches to get shot at. It is also personification because a gun or bullets cannot ‘bristle’. They cannot get angry or annoyed at the soldiers. The desperation and sacrifice of the soldiers are also emphasizing the horrors of war.

Sassoon is showing the horror of war by saying that there is no hope. At the end of ‘Attack’ hope is being personified into something that is similar to the soldiers themselves. Sassoon is saying that hope has “furtive eyes” which suggests that hope is trying hide and that it doesn’t want to be destroyed. Siegfried also says that hope “flounders in mud” which is saying that hope is helpless because it cannot move properly; hope is desperate. The very first part of the poem includes “dawn” which in a sense is the sign of hope, but in this case, dawn is something the soldiers all dread; there is no hope, even in dawn. Because there isn’t even hope in dawn and that hope is desperate it elaborates the brutality of the war.

Siegfried has displayed the inhumanity of war through disorganization and discomfort of the war and the soldiers. Sassoon says “Then, clumsily bowed with bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear” this is being very realistic as he is presenting the soldiers as real people. He is showing that they can be clumsy and that they have to carry too much stuff as well, which is definitely a discomfort to the soldiers. The poet also says: “Men jostle and climb” which is disorganized and unplanned. As a result of this the war is being presented as something that is unorganized and messy, which is a horror because so many soldiers can die because something wasn’t planned properly.

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