What is the purpose of war literature?

I believe that there are multiple purposes of war literature.  First off I believe that war literature helps let people back home understand what exactly they are going through while in war.  I also believe soldiers write literature on war to help get their feelings out.  I personally believe that someone is better off writing out their feelings then keeping them all bottled up inside of them.  The longer you have these strong feelings pent up inside of you the worse you will feel.  I believe another purpose of war literature is for soldiers to get their feelings out for other people in similar situations to read about so that they know that they are not alone, that there are other people out there in similar situations.  I full heartedly believe that war literature should be more prominently studied by classes then it currently is.  I feel as though war literature has helped me better understand the kind of circumstances that soldiers have been through and how exactly they feel.  However, I know there is no way what so ever that someone would be able to completely 100% understand what a soldier has been through.


Sonnets from China By: W. H. Auden

“Here war is harmless like a monument:

A telephone is talking to a man;

Flags on a map declare that troops were sent;

A boy brings milk in bowls.  There is a plan


For living men in terror of their lives,

Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,

Who can be lost and are, who miss their wives

And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.


Yet ideas can be true, although men die:

For we have seen a myriad faces

Ecstatic from one lie,


And maps can really point to places

Where life is evil now.

Nanking, Dachau.”

The poem Sonnets from China is written differently than most poems.  Each stanza talks about different groups of people that are affected by the war.  The first stanza is talking about how the higher ups in the military are siting at the headquarters making decisions about the war.  These men are being completely unaffected by it and are making decisions based on intel that could potentially send their men all to death.  The men in the headquarters are all being pampered by servants hence the statement “a boy brings milk in bowls”.  The second stanza is talking about the men that are going to war and are being affected by it.  These men are suffering as they miss their wives and can die at anytime.  The third stanza talks about the country that follows their leader even though their leader is feeding them lies.  For example Germany’s people who followed Hitler.  The fourth and final stanza is talking about two major areas where  mass murders occurred.  These two areas were Nanking and Dachau.  Nanking was a site of mass murder by Japanese troops in Nanking.  Dachau was a concentration camp where thousands of innocent people were killed.  This shows you how people that believe and follow the lies of their leaders can then perform such immense and inhuman actions to these innocent people.

It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers By: Margaret Atwood p. 326

“While I was building neat

castles in the sandbox,

the hasty pits were

filling with bulldozed corpses”

The poem It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers by Margaret Atwood is not the conventional war poem that we are used to reading.  This poem talks about a civilian who is not part of the war and how they live such normal lives while in other parts of the world innocent people are being killed and their homes are being destroyed.  I found it interesting how the author talked about how the child was building a sandcastle but that same sand could be used as a burial sight for corpses.  Later on in the poem the author states that “Each time I hit a key on my electric typewriter, speaking of peaceful trees another village explodes.”  This just goes to show that someone in one place is working and living a simple life without a worry in the world while other people are being killed in other parts of the world.  I find it interesting how  people who are not part of he war and are not affected by it don’t think twice about what is going on and don’t even worry about it.  They wouldn’t care a single bit about the war but in if they were in the people shoes that were being attacked then they would think much differently about it.

First Snow in Alsace By: Richard Wilbur p.283

“You think: beyond the town a mile

Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes

Of soldiers dead a little while.”

The poem First Snow in Alsace by Richard Wilbur takes snow which is usually something very beautiful and tranquil and turns it into something that is in a way depressing.  Wilbur talks about how the snow fell onto the eyes of the dead soldiers which to me in a way is haunting.  I think it is already scary enough to see a dead body but to see a body that is lightly dusted with snow to me would make it look worse, especially if the body kind of blended in with the field and the snow causes it to be more outlined and prominent.  Wilbur in another part of the poem stated how the snow landed on “what shell bursts scattered and deranged, Entangled railings, crevassed lawn” this is another instance where he takes something beautiful and turns it into something that is very depressing.  It also shows you just how destructive the war is on areas like innocent peoples homes and lawns.  Just because of a war between multiple people someone who is innocent is affected and has all of their belongings destroyed.

The hand that signed the paper By Dylan Thomas p.289

“The hand that signed the paper felled a city;

Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,

Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;

These five kings did a king to death.”

The poem The hand that signed the paper by Dylan Thomas talks about how one person can destroy an entire country.  The poem talks about how a single person signs documents that allowed cities in his country to be destroyed and killed thousands of soldiers.  The poem states “doubled the globe of dead and halved a country” this shows you just how destructive a single person can be just by singing a few simple documents.  These documents caused many to die and caused a country to split into two.  It fascinates me how a single document or sets of documents can cause so much destruction to the signer’s own people and to the people of other countries.  The poem wasn’t clear on whether there was a single document or multiple documents signed and whether or not the destruction that was talked about in the poem was to their own people or to other countries they were fighting against, however the immense damage that was caused by the documents were more than clear.