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The War in Perspective: A Comparative Literature Essay

Literature is a mirror. An author laboring to create his literary piece is laboring to create his self-image, a reflection of his intimate self, emotions expressed through still inscriptions, yet in a way, building blocks of living and moving pictures communicated from the mind of the author to the reader’s inner eye (commonly referred as one’s “understanding”) leading toward the finality of revelation of the author’s true nature, thus, a perfect and unbiased replica of himself.

An image not meant to be seen but nevertheless revealed behind his words. Through these words the author conveys his moods, character, intellect, status and intents. This process of self-imaging does not necessitate his awareness of the process, rather, the mind takes a spontaneous course allowing the Creation itself reveal its Creator, lest, prejudicing the process of the unveiling of his mask, making the piece a fraud, its purpose in vain and the outcome barren – a straightforward lie.

In our paper, we shall examine three different literary works composed by three different authors. We shall try to undermine the messages each author conveys, what they wanted us to believe in and from there make a mental picture of each author’s character based on the story, concept, style and perspective they employ to their works.

The three literary works in question are Sir Ian Hamilton’s “Third Despatch”, a correspondence transmitted from General Hamilton, Commanding General of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to the Secretary of State for War in London; Paul Fussell’s “The Great War and Modern Memory”, a recollection of the First World War from a modern-day author’s point of view; and Jay Winter’s “Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning”, narrating the emotional struggle endured by the families of departed soldiers and the collective symbolical expression of humanity’s hope and longing through literature and other works of art and commemorative monuments erected in their memory. Part I: Review of Literature Sir Ian Hamilton’s “Third Despatch” In June 1915, Sir Ian Hamilton, Commanding General of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force had successfully countered the Turk’s attacks and the enemies have found themselves cautious to launch another offensive in fear of loss. Although successful on their defensive stand, the force suffered a great deal of loss. On the other hand, the general, fearing that remaining on the defensive side may soon overtake them decided to take the offensive. On May of the same year, they decided to take on enemy forces at Krithia.

The maneuver failed and the loss was even greater than before. Additional troops were needed in order to sustain their attack. Hope of acquiring help from the Greeks is impossible. The Russian Troop was heavily crippled with confrontations against the Germans and was unable to move from the Black Sea against Constantinople. This led for General Hamilton to send a cable to London demanding two additional Army Corps divisions. The request was first sent on the 10th of May and the second on the 17th of the same month. The general decided that if they should be left to face the Turkish on their own more troops are required in addition to his troops deployed at Dardanelles.

By June, the Secretary of State for War in London has been convinced and “three regular divisions” were supplied with additional “infantry of two Territorial divisions”. More supply than what was originally requested. Hamilton estimated that the advance troops will reach Mudros by the 10th of July and the remaining troops to arrive a month after that. In his dispatch plans on some possibilities of how to “employ” the “fresh forces” were disclosed: a) Forced attack will be made by “men to be thrown on the southern sector of the Peninsula. ” b) “Disembarkation” of troops landing on the “Asiatic side of the Straits” then have them march their way into Chanak. c) “Sieze the neck” of Cape of Bulair.

d) Land in Suvla Bay and reinforce Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, to capture Hill 305 “with one strong push” “to grip the waist of the Peninsula” Before moving further, I deem it necessary to direct the reader’s attention to the choice of words General Hamilton used in his previous quotes. The word “employ” gives us an impression of a boss assigning an employee to a typical task, “Nothing personal. Just plain old work. ” Similarly the phrase “fresh forces” implies how he regards his new troops as freshly made things ready for consumption at his own choosing, in contrast to the old troops he had including the rotten corpses disposed off on dumping sites, not buried but dumped, the ones who are no longer as fresh as his new ones.

Such as the “men to be thrown on the southern sector of the Peninsula”, to be “disembarked” like baggages before marching to their destination while dodging bullets and mortar fires and hoping not to step on terrible things such as land mines or a body of a dead comrade. I must remind you that young men composing these troops are not trained soldiers but ordinary men. The only true soldiers in Hamilton’s troops were already sent to him on the first part of the war and most have already been consumed. These ordinary men will be Hamilton’s fighting beasts to “seize the neck” and “grip the waist” of their enemies with “one strong push”. Reading further, much was even revealed about General Hamilton.

One does not need a high degree of intellect to notice how many times the word “I” was used and in selfish manner. Analyzing this pattern reveals that Hamilton’s subconscious is talking through his ego, revealing one of his very important secret, his perception of the war. He treats the war as his own and every plan he makes, he treats as his own move to make. Like a man playing the game of chess, a player says “my turn”, “my move”, “I was taken” although it is the chess pieces he is actually moving. Chess pieces that have no mind, no emotions and are incapable of be being harmed. Losing men is considered a worthy sacrifice for the advancement of his plans and if he should lose more lives for the prospect of winning, he is willing to do so.

Other instances suggesting this same attitude states “the intervening period had to be filled in with as much fighting as possible” describing the “casualties were a little over 3,000; those of the enemy about 5,000” confirming the same assumption we are making. As our discussion is limited in terms of length, we are concluding our discourse on General Hamilton’s dispatch. At this point I have pointed out, from my limited point of view, a few of my personal insights on how I interpret the message conveyed behind this literature. I advised that readers ought to read the letter-report himself, analyze the ideas behind each words and formulate his own assumptions of General Sir Hamilton, Commanding General of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Paul Fussell: The Great War and Modern Memory Jay Winter: Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning

It was the war which started in the summer of 1914 that brought about the loss of nine million lives around the world. Fathers, sons, friends and lovers bade goodbye to their loved ones as they were boarded into military transports, never to be seen again. One of every six of these soldiers will never make it back to their families, and a picture of a family left home is almost as sure a picture of would-be widows and orphans. And while the dead have long gone to the company of the Great Father, the surviving mother, wife and children are slowly agonizing on the aftermath of the war they have never seen but nevertheless perish in the sorrow it brings, day after day, and after day.

Almost all families in the forefront have lost one family member to the war and the only means of consolation is a letter bearing the words, “We regret to inform you…” The world is in agony, weakened by grief, hopelessness and longing and although the last gunshots have long been fired the war is far from over. The war fought not with guns, bombs and gasses but the war within and hardest part has yet began. Jay Winter, in his book, The Great War and Modern Memory, describes these scenes in vivid details capturing the drama in real life as it happens before his eyes. Winter studies the cultural consequences of the world war and the unimaginable torture it brings to those who have lost their loved ones in a way more horrible than death itself. Winter’s main theme focuses on the collective experience shared by survivors of the war and the various processes devised by them in order to survive this tremendous ordeal of the mind.

Commemorations in form of literature, art, cinema and architecture served as symbolic line of communication from the world of the living to the departed, a means of consolation, an expression of love that defies the boundaries of the physical. Winter precisely expressed the anguish, the misery and the intricacy of the present situation, as if the reader himself feels the author’s emotions as he reads along. The choice of words employed clearly portrays his perceptions, the seemingly deliberate manner of limiting the scope of the book to specific contexts led to the formation of effectual ways of communicating images of great lucidity, not allowing the reader to stray away from the quality of the images presented to him. While this emotional war is being fought from within an enormous social reformation is rapidly taking place.

We have mentioned earlier about the collective experience shared by the survivors. Rather than languishing away on their own sorrow the survivors have found themselves comfort from fellow survivors who share the same experiences with them thereby eliminating social classes, the definition of high and low cultures, intellectual capacity, wealth and genre. The former three social classes have been unified, united by the prospect of breaking away from their grief and reclaiming their lost of hope survival. This event also played a birth of a new era, modernism, a symbolic move to breaking away from the past and move on to a new way of life. One main subject of modernism is arts and literature.

Great relief was found by expressing deep emotions through written word: poems, essays, prose, stories and novels quickly picked up the new literary trend. Architecture combined with art on monuments erected for the departed served as a symbolic reunion between the survivors and the departed, reducing the sorrow associated with the loss. Others found comfort through spiritualism, if not religion itself. Many turned to seances in hope of communicating with the dead and to finally bade their final goodbyes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was described “regularly communicated with his dead son through seances”, a slow yet effective process of raising out of self denial into a hopeful new life less the departed loved one. “All’s fair in love and war”, as they say.

But if one is lost in both causes, the heart sinks into the abyss of deep emotional turmoil until time finally takes it course and the process of healing starts to take over. Paul Fussel: The Great War and Modern Memory The classic war as seen from a modern man’s eyes might best describe Paul Fussel’s novel “The Great War and Modern Memory”. Written in 1975, the book have won worldwide commendations including the National Book Award for Arts and Letters, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa. His military experience on the Second World War fueled his passion to write the book in its effectual form capturing the morbid and inhuman treatment of war to subject human beings.

Fussel’s vivid description of sight and sounds has given life to the book, employing words that unpretentiously describes the real events taking place in war. Utilizing both his military experience and education, Fussel carried out a comprehensive research of the events and surrounding influences between 1914-1918 from first hand experiences of actual participants in the war. Books, correspondences, photographs, dispatch, documentations and historical records were consulted in order to gather a concrete and undeniable reconstruction of the events that took place. One of the thing one will notice about the book is the literary style employed by Fussel. The choice of words, especially euphemism, reflects his native British origin and scholastic background.

An account attempting to strip out unnecessary literary wordliness into a straightforward re-telling of the events in concise and graphic illustration of the repulsive stench and color of maggoty corpses, the emotional trauma of daily confrontation with death, the hallucinating heat of mid-day summer sun, the pain of frostbites leisurely consuming the flesh during winters. The book surely is a good exemplification of a work fruitfully created by combining great literary skill and firsthand experience topped with a degree of emotional relation. The product: a great literary success of unparalleled proportion. CONCLUSION It is indeed remarkable how simple works can describe a human being. How it can almost automatically bring out emotions and ideals hidden inside the man.

In our paper, we have gone through a descriptive analysis of three papers and how each author’s cultural roots, social status, professional background, moral and ethical ideals and many other factors affect the style and the general idea conveyed by their works. By carefully analyzing a literary piece, we can exhume the underlying purpose and character of the author: word patterns, implicit suggestions, association with events, objects or persons and abstract representation of things or people described to the implied true subject of the description. All these points not only to the topic being discussed but to the author himself, pieces of seemingly random yet significant pieces when meticulously arranged and pieced together form and completes a self-image of the work’s creator.


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