The Disillusionment from Romantic Warfare in the Trenches of World War I

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World War I is often regarded as the Great War. It was fought from 1914 until 1918 and it is considered to be the bloodiest war humankind has led so far. In merely four years a whole generation of young men was wiped out: approximately 16, 5 million lives were lost, even more were wounded, and the rest that had managed to survive was traumatized for life. One of the reasons why there were so many human casualties was the fact that World War I turned out to be the first trench warfare in history. The sense of permanent stalemate brought about great disillusionment from the romantic idea of warfare and the concept of the soldier was no more one/that of an honourable warrior but that of a victim. The ghastly experiences on the front deeply traumatized young soldiers, many of whom already had some poetic endeavours, and as a result they began writing trench poetry. The best trench poets, like Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, and Siegfried Sassoon produced their best works only when they abandoned the conventional “Georgian” style of Rupert Brooke and instead wrote realistically about the war and the situation on the front (Clausson). Wilfred Owen, perhaps the most famous trench poet, criticizes the romantic ideal of sacrifice in his “gas poem” (Bloom) “Dulce et Decorum Est”, thus trying to destroy “the glamorized decency of war” (Bloom 15). In the first stanza young men are depicted as “old beggars” (Owen), who are in a trance-like state, lame, blind, drunk, and deaf, too tired to be afraid of the sound of rifle fire, of “outstripped Five-Nines” (Owen) behind them. They march towards some place where they could rest. Then, the gas attack shakes them up: “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!” (Owen). Unfortunately, one man was did not manage to put h... ... middle of paper ... ...ch line had not moved considerably for a long time and any attempt to breakthrough failed miserably. The warfare before World War I was that of chivalry and heroic ideals, in which soldiers gave their lives for noble causes and, by doing so, went down in history as honourable heroes. The high recruitment rate at the beginning of the Great War shows that in 1914 a whole generation of young men wanted to fight because they believed in the just cause of it. However, the soldiers quickly discard and outgrow this simplistic view and become aware that “the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it” (Sassoon). The tragedy of World War I lies in the fact that so many people lost their lives, either as soldiers or as collateral damage, simply because of rival imperialism, which once more shows that humanity’s greatest enemy is man himself.

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