War Poetry – analysing and thinking about the poem, improving essays

2 February 2010

Learning objective: to learn how to use quotation to develop your criticisms of the poems

Key quotes:

“German guns”

Eyes were wild


English bullet in his heart

Abject fear of death

Deserter’s grave

Panicked down the trench

Mother’s grief

The Deserter

“To add more sympathy at the end, the poet goes on to say about his mother thinking the deserter is a hero. This is highly ironic because she thinks he died because he was fighting, but in actual fact, the truth is very different. This yet again really does make us feel more sympathetic towards the deserter, who was just too scared and upset. But it also makes us feel sympathy for the mother who has now been told a lie.”

How could this be improved still further?

More quotes from your essays

I feel that this is a warm sympathy for the loss of life.

Something to keep her going through mourning.

Also the words used like ‘cold’ and ‘useless’ show the bad side of the soldiers and therefore they further receive our pity.

What is good about these quotes? What could be added? Improved?

More quotes

The way the poet uses the phrase ‘tired voice’ suggests that the mother has been grieving or talking a lot…Sassoon also uses the word ‘choke’; he uses it to emphasize that she is so emotional towards her son’s terrible fate.


Finally, and most interestingly, it is the endings of both poems which are extremely effective. They concentrate upon the images of the grief-stricken mothers. There is a sharp contrast between the soldiers, who were telling the mothers about the death, and the mothers themselves. It is worth investigating the complexities here: the soldiers are aware the dead soldiers were deserters and therefore cowards. They are more indifferent than the mothers who believe their sons died heroes.

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