Theme of the Light Brigade

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade” upon receiving news that nearly almost all of a party of 600 men had died in a futile charge during the Crimean war. Tennyson was inspired by the courage of the men that had died, and consequently wrote the poem. He really focuses on the fact that these men did their duty despite how obvious it was that they were going to die, and tries to convince the reader of one of his themes for the poem: that duty despite better judgement is extremely admirable. He also orders his readers to remember the Light Brigade for their courage, bringing to light a second theme: heroes of war must be remembered for their bravery. Tennyson makes use of a third person narrator for most of the poem, punctuated by short exclamations from officers. The poem has a very cinematic feel, as though a camera is panning around the battlefield, following the soldiers’ progress through “the valley of Death”.
The poem opens with a distance and a direction. The reader knows after the first two lines that someone is trying to cross one and a half miles, but who? What is the subject? Tennyson begins with a touch of mystery, and then takes a turn for the dark side. Suddenly the journey is through “the valley of Death,” which is highly likely a reference to a Psalm with a similar line. Finally in the fourth line Tennyson tells the reader who the subject of the poem is going to be. Six hundred horsemen are traveling a mile and a half through the valley of Death. By the time the horsemen are introduced, the reader is already intrigued. An unknown officer shouts, formally introducing the reader to the men. This is the Light Brigade of the British Army, a group of cavalry. These men ride into battle with swords...

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Tennyson uses the last stanza to push hard the idea he has been working toward all poem long: these guys have to be remembered. He asks, “When can their glory fade?” and he doesn’t want an answer. This rhetoric serves to illustrate his feelings about how long these men ought to be remembered: forever. Tennyson finishes off the poem by ordering the reader to remember the Light Brigade, his goal being that they be forever immortalized. They live on as legend in great part due to Tennyson’s work.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ultimate goal with his poem was to immortalize the Light Brigade, his theme being that fallen heroes of war need to be commemorated forever. An underlying theme is found in the soldiers’ obedience despite knowledge of their doom. Tennyson is also telling readers that duty comes before self interest even in cases of life and death.

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