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American poetry

In the chosen poems, Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman, and

Sigfried Sassoon each have a common viewpoint: war brings out

the worst in man, a feeling buried deep inside the heart. Even

with this clotting of the mind due to the twisting ways of war, a

flicker of remorse, a dream of someplace, something else still

exists within the rational thought. These poems express hope, the

hope that war will not be necessary. They show that man only kills

because he must, not because of some inbred passion for death.

These three authors express this viewpoint in their own ways in

their poems: "The Man He Killed", "Reconciliation", and "Dreamers".

In The Man He Killed, Hardy speaks about the absurdity of

war. He gives a narrative of how he kills a "foe", and that this

"foe" could be a friend if they met "by some old ancient inn",

instead of the battlefield. Hardy says "...quaint and curious war shoot a fellow down you'd treat if met where any bar

is..." In this Hardy speaks how war twists the mind, and also makes

you kill people you have no personal vendetta against.

In Reconciliation, Whitman shows the devastation of war. In

a war, you kill someone and even if you win, you lose. Whitman

describes a man mourning over the death of his foe. He rejoices

over the ultimate death of war "Beautiful that war and all its

deeds of carnage utterly lost." He also feels great

remorse over his so called enemy's death "For my enemy...a man

divine as myself is dead." He then shows his love for the enemy

"I...bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the

coffin." He shows war twisting the mind of a soldier who then

deeply regretted his actions.

In Dreamers, Sassoon shows the soldiers dreaming of heavenly

places, while at the same time they are at war. Yet these heavenly

places are things we take for granted everyday, such as "clean

beds", "picture shows", or "firelit homes". These men have learned

to appreciate them, and now are their everyday dreams, while they

are in "foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats, and in the ruined trenches,

lashed with rain". There isn't hate in this poem usually associated

with war, there is a common dream among all soldiers fearing their


In these poems we see a common thread, the distortion of the

mind, through war. In The Man He Killed, we see Hardy's view of war

twisting the mind and forcing soldiers to kill men they have no

personal vendetta against. In Reconciliation, we see Whitman's

view of soldiers' minds being twisted in order to achieve an

apparent win, but in reality both sides have lost. In Dreamers, we

see Sassoon's view of the common soldier dreaming of places where

they'd rather be, rather than fearing their life with every step

they take. In this we see the common theme of war twisting and

distorting the minds of those involved as well as a dream of these

soldiers forced to kill against their personal will but because

they must.

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