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Experience of World War One Portrayed by Siegfried Sassoon and Erich Remarque

Powerful Essays
Whilst patriotism and romanticism initially called men to war in 1914, by 1918 the idealism soon changed with the reality of trench warfare. Soldiers from across Europe, and indeed the world, first entered World War One with innocent enthusiasm. The expectations of the young men who joined, however, were shaped by the culture of age. It was the romantic mood of the time which essentially reinforced the hope that war would be won in honorable battle and ‘be over by Christmas’. These expectations were far from reality. The experience of war at the Western front was marked with the realities of modern warfare. Indeed, the old methods of fighting yielded to a static war of attrition, characterized by great battles, such as that of the Somme in 1916. However, it was the periods spent in rest that most dramatically affected the morale of individuals over time. The ceaseless artillery bombardment and futile offences created uncertainty and frustration among soldiers in the trenches. And it is their experience of disillusionment and war weariness, which is most poignantly reflected in the literary evidence of Siegfried Sassoon and Erich Remarque. Whilst such literary works are limited as historical evidence, collectively, they provide a telling review of the war experience in Britain, Germany, France and Australia between 1914 and 1918. Soldiers entered the war in 1914 under idealistic expectations. By mid-September, 500 000 men had volunteered in Britain, and by 1915 over one million had joined up. What precipitated these men to join was, essentially, the culture of age. It was war propaganda in Britain, Germany and Australia that most significantly shaped the romantic and idealistic mood of the time. More so than ever, the war ex... ... middle of paper ... ... illusions of 1914. In a culture of age, which portrayed war in a patriotic and romanticised image, the soldiers flocked expecting adventure and heroism at the front. Then, there came the period of harsh reality in the trenches. In the great battles of 1916 the soldiers experienced attrition in battle and harrowing living conditions at rest. It was, therefore, the combination of physical and psychological factors that most significantly affected individuals over time in the trenches. And then later, there came the final agony of 1918. The frustration and bitterness which met the soldiers over time is most profoundly reflected in the literature of war. Simultaneous to these developments were the war experiences of women at the home front. In any case, by November 11th 1918 the armistice had ended the war. However, the difficult task of making peace still lay ahead.
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