A Changing War Literature Essay

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Starting in the year 1916, the views on war as found in western literature drastically change due to World War I. This can be seen in the similarities between Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 short story, The Man Who Would be King, and other pre-1916 war literature. Some major running themes of this kind of literature are the idea of war as a journey, nationalism, and romanticism. This pre-1916 literature is extremely different from its post-1916 counterpart. Rather than romanticizing war, this new kind of literature emphasizes the bitterness and irony, propaganda, and disillusionment that manifested itself later on in the war. Due to these evident differences, it is clear that starting in the year 1916, the atrocities of World War I caused a …show more content…
McCrae also conjures the image of a warrior by referring to victory as “what his manhood sought,” because it is traditionally the men who are warriors or soldiers and go off to war.
Nationalism is also an important theme in pre-1916 war literature. In Kipling’s story, Dravot exclaims, “Next year, I shall be a Knight of the Queen!” Becoming a knight is obviously a strong motivation for embarking on this quest, indicating that Dravot has a very strong sense of nationalism. Rather than keeping their conquered lands to themselves, Dravot and Carnehan plan on claiming them in the name of England and handing them over to the Queen in exchange for knighthood. This patriotism and pride in one’s country plays a huge role in the pre-1916 reasoning of warfare.
Similarly, Rupert Brooke harkens back to nationalism in his poem, The Soldier. In reference to dying in battle, he says, “there’s some corner of a foreign field/ That is forever England.” Even when faced with the possibility of death, the soldier remains faithful to the country that sent him to war. Rather than his grave being simply his own corpse, he proclaims that it shall be English land, thereby giving not only his life, but also his death and dead body over in service to his country.
Authors of pre-1916 war literature, such as Kipling, heavily romanticize war when compared to those of post-1916 war literature. Once they are reunited, Dravot tells Carnehan, “I’ve…

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