E212: British Literature since 1760
Siegfried Sassoon Study Questions
1. How might this poem be a reflection on the contrast between experiencing something and talking about it? For example, how does the Bishop describe the change that has come over the men after their war experience? How do the men reply?
2. How is the poem a reflection on the concept of individual experience? Why do the men seem to speak as a chorus rather than as individuals?
3. Does the Bishop understand what the men say? What does his manner of processing their reply revel about his understanding?
4. How does the speaker deal with the difficulty of comprehending his own experience even as it happens, down in the trenches, and then back in the light?
5. How does the speaker convey his experience to readers who have not gone through it? To what extent does he "simply describe," and to what extent does he resort to traditional literary language and devices?
6. How does the poem pit an individual's sensibilities against a situation proper to mechanized mass warfare?
7. What figure does the General cut in this poem? How does the speaker, evidently an enlisted man, perceive him?
8. How would relations between officers and ordinary soldiers differ in modern warfare from the relations that held in pre-technological times? (Say, Caesar and his men, or Alexander the Great?)
"The Glory of Women"
9. What is the speaker's attitude towards the women--mothers, sisters, lovers, etc.--who he addresses? Does he accuse them of naivete or something worse?
10. What is the poem's situation? What traditional literary analogies does the speaker employ in describing it?
11. Is the poem suggesting a momentary victory of the spirit over gross material circumstance? How do the final two lines complicate this possibility?
"On Passing the New Menin Gate"
12. What is the basis for the speaker's condemnation of civilian attempts to memorialize those who die in war? How do the New Menin Gate's inscriptions lie?
13. If you have ever visited a war memorial--Pearl Harbor, Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., etc.--what did you see as the purpose of the place, of the words you read?
Edition: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th. ed., Vol. 2C only. New York: Norton, 1999. ISBN: 0393975703.