How Thomas presents war in As the Teamâs Head-Brass Essay
Essay Topic: War
Paper type: Essay
Words: 828, Paragraphs: 9, Pages: 4
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In the poem, Thomas makes quite a few references and allusions to war. He uses the nature and weather described in the poems as metaphors for various aspects of the war. The blizzard that is mentioned in the poem could be interpreted as a metaphor for either death or war. “In France they killed him; it was back in march, the very night of the blizzard, too.” He chose blizzard due to the nature of them, violent, and hard to see through, possibly a reference to the “Fog of war”.
The elm tree can be interpreted as an allusion to the dead soldiers, which have been killed by the metaphorical blizzard, the fact that Thomas mentions that the friend was killed on the night of the blizzard reinforces this allusion, and he uses words that are normally associated with dead combatants, such as “fallen” to reinforce this idea. “By a woodpeckers round hole” this could be interpreted as a bullet wound adding to the interpretation that the elm tree represents a dead soldier, also the way he specifically mentions that it’s a woodpecker hole, instead of just a normal hole could be a reference to machine guns, which were said to sound like woodpeckers.
The way he has described the way the elm tree has fallen also brings images of dead soldiers, he describes it “strewed” which gives the image of the tree being messily felled and destroyed, almost like it’s a corpse in the field that’s just been left there, like the way bodies were just left to rot in No Man’s Land. He alliteratively likens the war and weather “about the weather, next about the war” which are common themes in his poems, normally using weather as a metaphor for things such as war, rather than directly stating it.
Another allusion to the war is what the plough is doing; it’s making trenches in the field, and these were everywhere in mainland Europe during the First World War, another trench allusion “screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed; once more” the flash could be a reference to the muzzle flash that was made by the occasional rifle that was shot over no man’s land. The way the “once more” was placed in its own line instead of the end of the sentence could be to reinforce the repetitiveness of it, which continues day in and day out.
This poem has many things that are related to his other poems. His use of nature is one. However, the poem can be interpreted alternatively as a commentary on the effects of the war on the English countryside, and in general the destruction of the English countryside, which is a recurring theme throughout most of his poems. The effects of the war can be seen in the poem. The lone ploughman who has been left to tend to the fields by himself because his friend has been killed in the war, and can also be a comment by Thomas on how the ploughman is becoming rarer and rarer as the mechanization of agriculture is becoming much more widespread as time passes, especially during a time of war where all able bodied people were wanted to fight in the trenches.
He uses black humour as a coping device “If I could spare an arm, I shouldn’t want to lose a leg, If I should lose my head, why, so, I should want nothing more” He doesn’t mind if he loses a limb because he still has to endure the pain of it all, but if he loses his head, which can be interpreted as either going insane (this was the first war in which psychological disorders caused by the war were widespread) or literally losing his head, he would not mind because he would not have to suffer the problems of the world any longer.
His specific use of a plough, instead of the countless other farming tools that he could have used in the poem could be a biblical reference “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares” – Isaiah 2:4 he references this bible passage because it shows the connection that weapons of war have with tools that are meant to be used to cultivate the means to sustain life.
In the poem there is a theme of continuity, the poem bookended with the lovers going into the forest, and ends with them coming back out. The whole theme of ploughs also contributes to this theme of continuity, as they are constantly just going round and round in the field. The way the poem is structured also plays with the theme of the plough, with most sentences ending mid line instead of at the end of the line, giving it a plough like shape. Another bit of continuity seen in the poem is the amount of syllables in a line, more or less every line in the poem has 10 syllables, and it also written in iambic pentameter.