Suicide in the Trenches Research Proposal

Pages: 4 (1421 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon addresses the problems young men encountered during the First World War. Ironically, society hailed the broken spirits of these boys as heroes, while ignoring the deeper-lying problems that they brought home with them, if indeed they returned at all. In the poem, Sassoon uses the shock of suicide to describe the extent of the horrors suffered during the war. According to most authors, therefore, the poem can be interpreted quite literally, particularly if Sassoon's life experience at the time is taken into account.

Siegfried Sassoon himself was a soldier during the First World War (Minguez). The suffering he encountered, along with his view that the officials in power in his country were doing all in their power to perpetuate the war while oblivious to this suffering, inspired the poet to write satirically on these issues. "Suicide in the Trenches" is one such poem.

The work begins quite simply, with the image of a soldier boy. The poet uses diction to imply his young age: "empty joy" in the second line for example indicates that the boy is not yet mature enough to experience anything as meaningful or truly fulfilling. The fact that he "sleeps soundly" and "whistled early" also indicates a simple and optimistic nature. There is little in the first stanza to prepare for the shock in the second. The words "empty" and "lonesome" are the only indicators that conditions are not quite as desirable as they might be.

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The second stanza is a very sudden plunge into negativity, which maximizes the shock effect. The "empty joy" is now replaced by a young soldier in "winter trenches." He is no longer joyful, even in an empty way -- he is afraid ("cowed") and depressed ("glum") by the terrible conditions in the trenches.

Research Proposal on Suicide in the Trenches Assignment

According to Lois G. Gordon (57), these conditions were so prevalent that it became a type of "home" for the soldiers. This connects well with the idea of their youth; they are desolate, alone, and in the company of others as desolate and lonely as themselves. It is little wonder that, having to make a home in such conditions, so far removed from homes that were loving and clean, would cause depression. In only a few words, stanza 2 manages to convey the full extent of the horror the young protagonist of the poem suffered. These lines provide an appropriate introduction to the shock that is to follow.

The last lines of this stanza serve as the devastating climax of the poem. The lines each carry an extreme shock value; first because of the soldier's suicide, and second because of the reaction of the people. The solder once had a loving home, friends, and a life. The fact that nobody spoke of him after his death appears to indicate a lack of meaning. It is a senselessly violent reaction to a senseless world. In turn, the society that would have hailed him as a hero had he returned from the war, turns a blind eye and ignore him.

The final stanza then provides the poet's own reaction to both these horrors. He has very little respect for the reaction of the society he described. The "smug-faced" crowds clearly know nothing about the terrible suffering caused by the war. They know a comfortable life, but one that is no less senseless than those of the soldiers who suffer. The stanza appears to indicate two dichotomous types of senselessness: the comfort of society at home and the suffering of soldiers. Indeed, the comfort of the "smug-faced" crowds compare with the "empty joy" of the soldier in his initial manifestation.

There are two other significant dichotomies in the last stanza of Sassoon's poem. The crowds are not as ignorant of the suffering as they appear, which makes their hypocrisy worse, because it is a knowing hypocrisy. Knowing that they are witnessing a procession of suffering rather than triumph in the marching soldiers (or "lads," indicating their youth), the crowds are secretly shameful and "sneak" home. They understand, at least at an intellectual level, the terrible suffering, which is designated as no less than a "hell" in the last line. The hell is juxtaposed with "youth and laughter." The indication is that war ages… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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