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Tennyson presents the true reality of war as being chaotic and disorientating. The poet uses sibilance throughout the poem in nouns like ‘shot, and ‘shell’. This whistling sound captures a sense of the noise on the battlefield as the horses whizz by, emphasises the intense atmosphere of battle as it captures a sense of the great speed they are moving at. Moreover, these sounds could also convey the bullets that were wizzing past the soldiers as they rode into the ‘jaws of death’. This suggests how frantic and intense the atmosphere was as there was constant gunfire and the chance of painful death all around the soldiers. Moreover, the first stanza is tightly structured, mirroring the cavalry’s tight formation; they are together and relying on each other as they head into war – the noun ‘league’, which refers to distance, might also be highlighting their unity of purpose and how they head into battle as one, yet this is contradicted later on: as the poem continues on, the structure becomes awkward: the stanzas are longer and the line lengths vary, suggesting the increasing action but also that the cavalry’s line is breaking, reflecting the chaos of the battle and how it breaks apart anything stable in its path. Additionally, stanza 6 is the shortest which suggests fewer men returned alive. Similarly, based on the context of the ‘charge of the light brigade’, the irregular line lengths could perhaps reflect on the confusion of miscommunication between authorities that led the brigade to their demise. This highlights the great loss of life that war causes. Tennyson is suggesting to his reader that the battlefield is disorientating, confusing and scary, bringing massive loss of life and suffering.
Likewise, Hughes presents the true reality of war as being chaotic and disorientating. The simile ‘he lugged a rifle numb as a smashed arm’, suggests the chaotic side to war. The use of the verb ‘lugged’ is aggressive and negative which suggests the difficult conditions of war and the reluctance of the soldier to carry out the task. Also, perhaps his anger towards war and the fact it has made him become an aggressive weapon that they use to kill others. Moreover, the verb ‘lugged’ suggests that the rifle is heavy and that the soldier is struggling to carry it. The use of the simile ‘as numb as a smashed arm’ suggests that the soldier is in extreme pain from sustaining injuries after a charge over no-mans land. Furthermore, this simile blurs the lines between the object and the person, implying that the man has become useless without his rifle as it as much a part of him as any other limb and his purpose is no longer clear to him. The use of the verb ‘smashed’ is implying destruction and could be indicative of his emotional pain; he no longer can feel anything because he is desensitised by war and its immoral violence. This presents the idea of chaos, confusion and the fragmented thoughts of the unidentified soldier in the poem, as well as the suffering endured by the soldiers.
Hughes implies that war is brutal and causes suffering. The simile ‘he lugged a rifle numb as a smashed arm’, also highlights the violent side of war. The use of the verb ‘smashed’ is implying violence and destruction. The verb suggests he is mentally and physically broken, unable to be put back together. War has torn him apart to the point of destruction. The further use of the adjective ‘numb’ could be read in two ways: on one hand, it could be referring to his physical pain, and on the other, it could be indicative of his emotional pain, and his struggle to continue fighting for his country, replicated in the verb ‘lugged’ as he struggles to continue pulling along what he considers to be part of himself, and so he himself is struggling to carry on due to the pure brutality of war and how it affects people. Yet, his willingness to survive the battle and make it out in one piece is, in a way, pitiful, proving how much suffering that the soldiers have to endure just to live through what they were forced into – the soldiers are helpless victims at the mercy of war.
Tennyson portrays war in a corresponding light, emphasising the suffering and death caused by conflict. The metaphor “into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell” and its aggressive description depicts war as a gruesome death. ‘Jaws’ gives the impression that the men are captures in death, trapped and unable to escape its tight vice, further emphasising that death in war is inevitable and ‘hell’ish. This idea of ‘hell’ is further conveyed in ‘through the valley of death’. This phrase forbodes the charge, sealing the brave, yet clueless, soldier’s fates. Likewise, it has religious terminology to emphasise the death and evil. This line is similar to the Bible quote ‘I walk through the valley of shadows and death’, which emits an evil ambience and makes the battleground seem like hell on earth, a place that exists simply for evil purposes. ‘Jaws’ personifies death to an extent, perhaps highlighting that it is usually humans who kill their own kind and therefore seal each other’s fates; yet ‘jaws’ is a more animalistic noun, further depicting soldiers that fight each other as mindless animals that kill each other is a desperate, yet futile attempt to stay alive. In addition to this, Hughes uses repetition of the ‘six hundred’ at the end of the poem, which is representative of the massive loss of life in battle.
Finally, in “Charge of the Light Brigade”, Tennyson presents the unrivalled patriotism of the soldiers. The key theme in The Charge of the Light Brigade is patriotism as these soldiers fight for their country even if their orders lead to their death. Even though “someone has blunder’d” whilst giving the soldiers their orders, they still followed them through to the end, creating a clear sense of patriotism and perhaps objectification as the soldiers aren’t permitted to decided for themselves, even if the decision is what their life relies on. Furthermore, the noun ‘someone’ highlights that whoever gave the order, obviously someone who has authority over the soldiers, is protected and not exposed to the horrific battle or even to the reader out of respect. The soldiers take all the blame and consequence for their country’s ‘blunders’, all for that sense of patriarchy and its charming, yet deceiving, propaganda. Following this idea, the rhythm gives the poem its energy, recreating the surge of the cavalry charge. The rhyme helps to keep up this forward momentum, almost creating a sense that even if the soldiers did dare to attempt going against their orders, they wouldn’t be able to as they are forced into the situation.
Contrastingly, Hughes presents the loss of patriotism throughout ‘Bayonet Charge’, rivalling ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’s’ surging sense of patriotism. “King, honour, human dignity, etcetera // all dropped like luxuries” connotes that the action of defending his country in honour, for both his country and his dignity, has in turn destroyed his respect for his country and himself. He is no longer persuaded by the intoxicating propaganda he has been brainwashed into believing all his life, and all he wishes for now it to make it out of this gruesome battle alive and in one piece, no longer concerned for his King’s glory. The use of ‘etcetera’ is quite flippant and further emphasies the soldiers boredom of the list and his reluctance to pay any attention to it. Likewise, “listening between his footfalls for the reason // of his still running” further conveys the idea that the war is futile as there is no reason of his running. He no longer has any purpose as the loss of his patriotism has left him as an empty shell of what he used to be, destroyed by war and the suffering it inflicts.
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