Reading response “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon

Poem title: Suicide in the trenches

Siegfried Sassoon, in the poem “Suicide in the trenches” describes the death of a soldier who killed himself. He first describes the situation he is in(“In winter trenches, cowed and glum,  With crumps and lice and lack of rum,”) , then how he died(“He put a bullet through his brain.”) , before proceeding onto a message for the reader(“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you’ll never know The hell where youth and laughter go.”)

This message is simple enough: War caused at least one person to get to the point where they saw no reason to live anymore. No one should ever have to face that kind of existence, and yet, instead of trying to help these people,  the people are merely cheering them on. So of course, this poem is trying to convince people that not going to war would be best, or your life will soon having no meaning, and so be in hell.

This poem taught me that there are many different kinds of people out there. Some who don’t want to live, and so kill themselves. And those who watch on, knowing what happened, but not wanting to discuss it. And with this I realised: There are many different situations out there that people could end up in, but in general, people are always similar; there is always going to be that one person who doesn’t want to live on, but tries to find a reason. But if a war happens, well, what reason could there be? From this lesson I realised that I really don’t want to go to war, for the very fact that I am probably that one person.

The reason for this is that I can understand at least a bit of the mindset that ‘soldier boy’ has. That is, the ideas of “Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark.” And I guess that the war was just a final tipping point for the person. I mean, how are you supposed to keep yourself alive when you struggle to enjoy and find meaning in life; Particularly when a war is going on around you. The tipping point I am talking about is that the war caused him to lose all reason for continued existence. He was quite possibly already close to this point before the war, for instance that there where only about one or two reasons for life, and that war closed them off from him. Perhaps they where family and friends. Or maybe it was a belief that the future will be a good one. It could even be he actually enjoyed life normally, and had something to do in it he found enjoyable. Maybe even a few things that he finds fun to do. But in any case, a war like the second world war would never allow something like those things to continue on existing. No family; no future but an endless war; nothing that could be fun. What reason could there possibly be when that sort of mindset is used. That mindset which would convince others that everything is fine; even themselves; by grinning without reason; always being alone, and then looking at the morning like you might as well do something with it. That is most likely the mindset this kid has, and I can definitely understand it since I have it.

Really, I’m just lucky that I’m not in a war, and still have some reasons to exist. But that doesn’t change my mindset at all. For instance: I don’t really enjoy life at all, instead, most of the time I just pretend to. I mean sure, there’s happiness, but never for long. And excitement, that’s something I remember feeling thrice in living memory(I lied all the other times I said I was excited). Then there is loneliness. I have one friend, A great friend, sure, but still only one. Oh, and family? My views on my family is that they are all more amazing than me, by one really large degree. How could I not be lonely around them, when I view myself as the only loser amongst winners. And the morning; great time, really. I do enjoy the morning, more than any other time of day(besides when waking up, sleeping is better), as the air is cold, the sun is just shining, and there is only bird chatter. Unfortunately, I don’t really do much at all, so the morning means nothing else but a good atmosphere to me compared to the rest of the day.

Then what about things I enjoy? What reason do I have to live? Well, I love my family, and would do nearly anything for them. I don’t want to lose any friends, and being with them makes me happy. I also believe that a good future for myself is possible, although improbable. Then there are the things I enjoy: there are books(Love those, they let me feel emotions normally! Well, for a few minutes anyway), Food(Tasty, with a hint of satisfaction that my stomach is full), and walking(Who doesn’t like some exercise in their life!). So yeah, there are reasons for my life and continued existence.

Simply put: That kid and myself have similar thoughts about our reasons to live. He just had said reasons taken away from him by the war, which is why I’m lucky. I still have some reasons, and no one is taking them away from me.

This poem also got me thinking about the state the human species is always in. That is, there are always those few people who are getting quite close to death, because they keep on running out of reasons to live. And as the reason “Live because that is the purpose of existence”, well, that just doesn’t cut it. As there are going to be many people out there who think like this, doesn’t that mean that a large portion of humanity is under threat? And if a few of these people die, no one will talk about it, like the people in the poem “No one spoke of him again.” But what if the world goes into another war? How can these people live on when the war takes away a person’s reason to live? Doesn’t this mean that a large portion of humanity will die, leaving the world in a really bad state?

The poem “Suicide in the trenches”, by Siegfried Sassoon, describes the suicide of one person.  And what I did after that was analyze and explain some of the many thoughts and reasons for this poem, and what it means for the world. I went into some depth of a possible state of mind of the person who died, and linked it to myself. And then I talked about how this state of mind could affect the world. Then I stated some questions to make all you readers think a bit more into the situation this world is in. The conclusion we reached was that humanity is in a pretty bad state, as people continue to lose reasons to stay alive. But as long as we don’t enter into another world war, it shouldn’t be too bad. 

2.4 Wilfred Owen poem essay.

The poems “Dulce Et Decorum Est” and “Exposure”, which where written by Wilfred Owen, used different language techniques that helped the reader to understand what the poems meaning was. Every paragraph will have its own theme, which is because every quote and language technique is different and represents a different theme. However, the general theme will be that war is pointless, and that there are many different aspects as to why war is both terrible and pointless.

In the poem “Exposure”, by Wilfred Owen, there are many different sentences where personification is used. This will be analyzed about how personification was used by the use of quotes. Here are a few of them: “For hours the innocent mice rejoice:the house is theirs;”, “Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army.” The reason these were added was because it makes it feel like everything that surrounds the soldiers have their own lives; their own power. By doing this, it makes it seem like their surroundings are human, easily capable of being the enemies of the soldiers. Like when the mice are referred to being in control of the house, which is generally how humans are viewed. Yet it is used to describe mice being in control, saying the same as if these mice are above the soldiers.The weather in this case was one of the other enemies of the soldiers, which is referred to in the second quote, particularly when the incoming clouds are described as an army. Then there is the fact that every single other sentence described how the weather killed the soldiers, for instance “Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . . “. This quote is one of the ones that describe how the weather kills the soldiers, and so yes, the weather is another enemy of the soldiers. The poem also talks about the soldiers as ghosts being forced home “Slowly our ghosts drag home:”, they aren’t even referred to as human, which puts humans even lower on the scale of reality. This affects the readers understanding by changing who they view as the true people in the poem, as well as changing who the reader thinks to be the enemy of the soldiers.  This personally affected me in the way that I started to wonder about just what is the most dangerous thing in war. Is it the enemy soldiers, constantly shooting at you, and trying to kill you, or is it the weather and environment around you, that are the true enemy? This poem got me to wonder about that, causing me to come to the conclusion: No one can ignore the weather and environment around you, it is a powerful enemy.

In the poem “Exposure” by Wilfred Owen, there is some listing. Some of this is in the next quote. “But nothing happens.” This sentence is used many times throughout the poem, which drives home the point the sentence is trying to make. In this case, the sentence is trying to drive home how “nothing happens” in the war. It makes sure the reader knows how the soldiers are just sitting there. Sometimes they die from the enemy. Sometimes they die from the weather. And yet, “nothing happens” in the way that the soldiers themselves are doing the same thing everyday; nothing new ever happens. That is, they are sitting in their trenches; attacking the enemy soldiers; watching their friends die from both the bullets and the weather, and just wondering why they are there. This affected my personal understanding by changing the way I think about the war. It is similar to some people lives today. Everyone knows of those people who do the exact same things everyday, just living out there lives without even a hint of reason as to why they do so. It generally leads to depression, and then potentially even suicide as a way to escape the boredom and sadness they feel. The only difference in war is that there is a bit of bad weather and there are bullets constantly whizzing by causing them to die by other means. This ended up changing my view of war from one of protecting other people from the enemy who is invading your country to one of war being pointless, and only leading to death no matter what is done.

In the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, written by Wilfred Owen, repetition is used a few times. Here are some quotes where this is displayed: “All went lame; all blind” With this one sentence, the reader understands that the soldiers ability to move and process what is happening around them is practically gone. Without this, the reader wouldn’t of understood just how bad the situation the soldiers were in when the gas bombs dropped, and might of gotten confused at the point of saying “An ecstasy of fumbling,” as it could’ve also had a happy feeling to it. Another thing is by using repetition here, it creates a more powerful effect, making sure the reader knows that the soldiers bodys are failing. By doing this, the reader will know that the war has been tough against them, and that it has ruined their bodys. It affected my personal understanding of the poem by making sure I knew just how bad it was for them, and how terrible war can be for both the people who survive and for the people who die. The people who die, die an excruciating death. And the people who survive have to live with both physical and mental traumers for the rest of their life. This point also happens in the poem “Exposure”, when “Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp. The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp, Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,” which describes how both the people who died, and the people who survived, are in terrible conditions. They barely even know who they are burying, and all the while they bury them, they are slowly dying. This truly showcases how terrible war is, and how sad it is that these soldiers went to it and died; only to be barely recognisable by their fellow soldiers.

In the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, by Wilfred Owen, emotive language is used many times. This is an analyzation of some of the quotes showing emotive language: “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;” By using this in the poem, the author can help describe just how nasty the gas is. It affects the readers in the way of telling them that this soldier, fighting for you and your country, is looking about as good as a pile of sick. So it will create large amounts of the feeling horror in the reader. Without it, there is still plenty of emotive language to describe the situation, but each sentence builds up on another to describe an image of how bad the soldier is looking. Because of this building up of horror of how bad the situation is for the soldier, it will better affect the reader than if only one or two sentences where said(In which case there would be no build-up, and the reader will only feel a slight disgust). This personally affected me in the way that I now better understand just how horrible being on the receiving end of a gas attack is. It also got me to better understand that war is a really terrible thing; every part of the poem had something to do with the suffering or worry caused by war. This means that no matter who the reader is, if they read this poem, they will understand at least a little of how terrible war is. Wilfred Owen’s other war poems also had a similar idea. That is, they would explain a view or time he had personally experienced in war. Which led to every war poem he made explaining how horrible war is, and convincing many people that it is a terrible thing.

The poems that were talked about were “Exposure” and “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. 4 language techniques where discussed: Personification, listing, repetition and emotive language. Themes presented are: There are more than one enemy on the battlefield, you have to watch out for the environment too; In life, there will be points were everything feels meaningless, were “nothing happens”, war is no exception; War is horrible, it leaves everyone who survives grieving in pain, and everyone who died, had died a horrible, quite possibly pointless, death; War causes many to die, and it is rarely as simple as just being shot in the head, instead many will go through many different tortures, trying their hardest to survive, only to end up dying at the hands of a gas attack that no one noticed coming. From this, it is obvious there is plenty to learn from these poems. Each one will have affected the reader in powerful ways, so that it would be difficult not to realize something from it. For myself, every theme I just writ where some of the lessons I learnt that I could more easily describe. But in general, I learnt that war is a terrible and potentially pointless thing. Or at least, it isn’t worth the massive amount of sacrifices given to it.


“Exposure” by Wilfred Owen

How is exposure represented in the poem? Exposure is generally thought of extreme temperatures affecting a person. In the poem itself, it mentions many times just how bad the icy cold temperature is. Here are all I could find:

“Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us…”
What this quote has to do with exposure is when it talks about the wind that was going through their body’s again and again. And as you might of experienced before, when the wind gets cold and fast enough, it is like little spikes are being stuck in your body. They would of been experiencing this on a day to day basis, so it is understandable that he would talk about the wind like this. And the brains aching is just what happens when said winds are constantly hitting your head.
“Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,”
These mad gusts are just another name for the wind, and the wire is probably the barbed wire just lying across the battlefield. They can hear because, well, you know wind chimes? It’s like that.
“The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .”
This line tells us how dawn is beginning, and right from the beginning it is miserable. Misery of dawn can also mean that the weather in the morning is terrible, with clouds covering the sky. And then when it is growing, it could either be about the sun moving up into the sky, or the weather getting even worse.
“We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.”
This line is talking about how the knowledge they posses is simple. That is, the war is long, probably gotten from the endless feeling people get when they can’t remember the beginning of what they are doing, and they can’t see when the end will come. The next two pieces of information are about the weather, and how bad it is for your health. By doing it like this, it makes it obvious that he does count the war itself as a pretty bad thing for your health and otherwise, but then he says two points on the weather, making sure the reader knows where he thinks the worst enemy lays.
“Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,”
When he talks about the weather like this, he makes it sound like the weather is the enemy they are facing off against, and that the army this weather is made from are the clouds, each one grey.
“Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow”
The line before this one is talking about how deadly bullets are, zipping across the battlefield, killing off many of them, but it continues on with this, talking about how the weather is even more deadly that the bullets. In particular this time round, is the snow that is falling all around. I guess as this is the first time this being mentioned, that it probably started snowing around about the time of writing this part of the poem.
“With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,”

“Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces—”
“We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,”
“Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,”
“Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.” 
“The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp, Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,” 

Here are 3 of the language techniques used in the poem:

  1. Personification “For hours the innocent mice rejoice:the house is theirs;”, “Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army.” Personification is used many times, as well as in this line. The reason this was added was because it makes it feel like everything that surrounds the soldiers have their own lives; their own power. By doing this, it makes it seem like their surroundings are human, easily capable of being the enemies of the soldiers. But the soldiers themselves are barely human, “Slowly our ghosts drag home:” This puts them at about the same level of reality. This affects our understanding by changing who we view as the enemy of the soldiers, while reaching into a large point of them poem. That the weather in this case was the enemy of the soldiers.
  2. Listing “But nothing happens.” Listing is used many times throughout the poem, which drives home the point the sentence is trying to make. In this case, the sentence is trying to drive home how “nothing happens” in the war. It makes sure the reader knows how the soldiers are just sitting there. Sometimes they die from the enemy. Sometimes they die from the weather. And yet, “nothing happens.” As far as the author is concerned, even though all these other things are happening around them, nothing is happening to the soldiers themselves. At least, they are doing nothing. This impacts our understanding of the text