Covered Truth

In Oh What a Literary War, Paul Fussell explains how literature dominated the war and how its main use “could not be artistic or ironic-only consolatory” (182). But it seems that literature could not be depicted war exactly how it was happening. Based on Fussell, there are somethings in the war (smell or noise) that cannot be communicated through language and it cannot be understood (185). Besides, one of the main reasons also could be the expectation of readership and lack of full coverage of the war, i.e. it’s not easy to convey horrible voices or terrifying scenes. Who can really understand the concept of war without even being in a war? Who can value the suffering and pain of soldiers without being a soldier? So, they had to convey the pain and suffering to be understandable and they had no way but to change the truth or even censure that truth. Moreover, the content of it could be effective on the opinion of the readers and they had to censor most parts and use keyword not to hurt the readers or even affect their decision on joining the military. I think they wanted to meet the reader’s expectation which was definitely something beyond the horror situation of the war.

About the horrible context of war, Lloyd George says: “The thing is horrible,’ “and beyond human nature to bear, and I feel I can’t go on any longer with the bloody business” (189-190). Power is decisive in this part. Powerful nations have their own ideologies and seek to preserve it at any price. Of course they censure the truth to continue their dominancy. The result is depicting a manipulated picture of war to public opinion.

The Soldier from the collection of WWI poems is a sense of nationalistic attitude. He doesn’t talk about what he’s been through in war or describe the war scene. Rather, he talks about his country which make him to be in the war and fight for it. This nationalistic passion of him makes the speaker to stay calm and not afraid of war. Comparing to The Soldier, Break of Day in the Trenches depicts more horror and visual image of the war.


Some good observations here. One thread among the items you observe here is the disconnect between language and reality -- either that language (or at least the language we've invented so far) is inadequate for describing or explaining the war, or that ideologically-driven language deliberately obscures those realities for the sake of political manipulation. What do you make, then of the difference between Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" and Isaac Rosenberg's "Break of Day in the Trenches"? What are they doing differently with langauge, and why? And, how does their use of langauge engage with cultural memory?