World War I: Propaganda

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At the beginning of World War One the British army was very small and relied on volunteers to keep them involved in the War, and because more men were dying than there were new recruits signing up to fill their places, and men didn’t want to enlist because no one wanted to die, the government introduced conscription in 1918. This meant that it was made compulsory for any man between the ages of 18 and 41 who was unmarried to enlist into the army. By May men were still dieing fast on the front and conscription was changed so that any men between the ages of 18 and 41 had to enlist regardless of whether they were married or not.

Two years after conscription was introduced, so many men were being slaughtered the conscription started taking boys and old men. To try to make up for the number of men being lost, the age boundary was getting farther apart. Once again in January 1918 the ages changed again so that any man, married or otherwise, had to enlist if they fell into the new age boundary of 17 to 55. One may question at this time that even though it was recognized that so many men were dying, why then were the British sending more?

It seemed idiotic to keep sending in more and more men when it was obvious so many were dying for no clear reason. It wasn’t just one generation that the war was wiping out it was several. Grandparents, young boys and parents were included in this. That alone was three generations being erased just on the fronts? Excluding the generations being wiped out as a result of the fighting: children, babies etc. at the Home Front. Propaganda was being used in a desperate attempt to encourage volunteers to enlist in the army; the government, various poets and journalists went and produced some powerful sources.

The government produced different posters using pictures and half truthful writing to get people to sign up. Poets wrote poems and sonnets, which didn’t always describe the war, but they often compared it to something. One of Jesse Pope’s poems was headed “Who’s for the Game? ” comparing the war to a game, which was very inappropriate as war is not a game, but it was clever in the fact that most men are enthusiastic football fans and like to be part or a team. Another way men were ‘encouraged’ to join the army was the ‘white feather’ method.

Men who were fit and healthy and able to go to war but chose not to were regarded as cowards, and recognized by a white feather. If a woman were to see a young man with out a uniform, she would shower him with white feathers, therefore categorizing him as a coward. If a woman was seen with a man without a uniform she was thought of as a traitor. Because men are fond of women, having women avoid them because they are not in uniform was a huge hit to their ego, and they wanting girlfriends, so this made men want to join the army. This recruitment poster pictures a man sat in an armchair in his lounge. Read about game of nasty things questions

He has his young daughter sat on his lap, and his young son playing chess in the floor by his feet. The poster is an, ‘image of the future’ because it is picturing what a young man of that day could face when he is older with children. I believe it is like this because the young boy is playing chess, which is a peaceful game that requires a lot of concentration and probably wouldn’t have been played during the war. Also, the caption is written in the past tense; “what did you do… ” The way this phrase is written puts prominence on the past participle of the verb ‘to do’; did.

It makes it into a powerful question and it seems as though a finger is being pointed at the person receiving the question. It makes it critical. By looking at the poster, it is visually clear that the man in the poster had not done anything great because he is avoiding eye contact with his children when the question is generated. His facial expression is confusing. He looks deep in thought, which could mean that he is possibly thinking of a lie to tell his children, or thinking of a way to get out of answering. He also looks embarrassed that he has no ‘hero’ stories to tell his young children.

If a man at the time of the war when this poster was published was to read it, he would probably want to join the army because he would not want to be the father in the picture with only one embarrassing story to tell his offspring about how he did nothing to help to war effort in battle. All fathers want their children to look up to them. So they would believe that if they didn’t join the army, the poster would lead them on to believe they would not be a hero or a role model to their children, and people look up to heroes, so if a man was to join the army, he would be a hero and his children would want to look up to him.

To avoid later embarrassment of this sort, most men would enlist. No man likes to be belittled! This poster is different to most recruitment posters as it is all writing, although it varies in size. There are no pictures. The writing itself is mostly personal pronouns “your best-boy” as in the woman’s boyfriend or husband, “worthy of you” The use of personal pronouns in this way is very good because they make the poster more personal. Words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ are more powerful than words like ‘her’ because they grab your attention, and make the poster seem as though it is for you.

It aims is at young women with boyfriends and husbands. It makes a statement suggesting that if her partner is not in the army, he is not worthy of her. “Do you think he is worthy of you? ” making a woman think twice about her ‘man’. It also makes the woman reading the poster think that her ‘man’ may be being selfish by not signing up because the poster make the statement that the young man may not think “you (the woman) and your country are worth fighting for”, this would possibly make the woman think twice about seeing him unless he was to join up, and the male would probably want to please his partner.

It also makes the comparison between a women reading the poster whose partner is sat at home, to another whose partner is off fighting in the war. “Don’t pity the girl who is alone. Her young man is probably a soldier fighting for her and her country – and for you” ‘You’ on the poster is underlined and written in bold to emphasize the message that the statement is giving out. About how the readers partner ‘can’t be bothered’ to go and fight, and how another woman’s partner, who she probably wouldn’t know, is off fighting for her.

This would probably stir a jealous emotion and make the reader ask herself “why isn’t my man fighting for me? ” The poster also suggests that if a woman’s “young man neglects his duty to his King and his country; the time may come when he will neglect you”. This may worry the woman and to eliminate the risk of her partner neglecting her she would probably ask him to enlist in the army. Jesse Pope was a journalist is the First World War who believed it was a young man’s duty to serve in the war.

She wrote many powerful and famous recruitment poems, which describe the war as a great adventure which is a lot of ‘laughs’. She had a tendency to ‘sugar-coat’ the truth about war. The title of one of her poems is “Who’s for the game? ” implying that war is merely a game, nothing dangerous. The fact that she is calling war a game is interesting because when people thing of a game they think of something which is a harmless bit of fun, in which no one dies. You may expect minor injuries in a game but you rarely see death.

She did not get on with a soldier poet named Wilfred Owen during the war. He detested her because his poetry was written amongst the machine gunfire on the Western Front, where as he saw her as another example of the “typical of the unfeeling civilian who was supporting the war from the relative safety of the Home Front” basically he thought she didn’t know what she was talking about in her poetry because she didn’t have the first hand experience he did about what the war was really like, and she shouldn’t comment on what she hadn’t experienced.

One of Jesse Pope’s most famous recruitment poems was in fact “Who’s for the game”. In this poem she uses a colloquial style of writing throughout the poem. “Come along lads… ” is a good example of this. ‘Come along’ is the sort of thing you would say in an informal conversation, as is ‘lads’. She uses this effective style to write her poem because many men, who would make great fighters, were possibly not very well educated, and may not understand sophisticated language or ‘big’ words in phrases.

Throughout the poem she uses a comparison between the war and a football game. She uses football related words to get the attention of young men; “tackle”, “seat in the stand” It is an excellent comparison to use because it helped to get more men to sign up because many men enjoy a game of football and they like to feel as though they belong to a team, so being part of the ‘war’ team would appeal to them.

But on the other hand, it may not have been a very clever comparison to make because it may have encouraged men to enlist, but it also made young boys feel they had to do something to be part of this ‘team’ so many could sign up to play with the ‘big boys team’ because the fact that war is not a game and is actually a hideous fixation, the boys wouldn’t see that they were throwing their life away to be another number. Her wording in the poem seems to almost eliminate the risk of death in war and it hides the dangers. Who would much rather come back with a cutch, than lye low and be out of the fun” is a good example of her saying that if the men went to fight, they would have a lot of fun.

They might sustain an injury but they will have had a good time. It is another one of her ‘sugar-coated’ statements. The way she had written the poem also relates to a game in the way that when it is read out, it flows like a chant. A chant is the sort of think that would be linked to a game such as football and tends to be sung when the team is having fun. She also uses another comparison in the poem: men with courage to men without.

Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid? And who thinks he’d rather sit tight” The way she has done it makes the part she wants to be taken in enthusiastic (underlined), and the part she would rather men didn’t think about sound as though it drones on. She also asks “Who wants to turn to himself in the show? And who wants a seat in the stand? ” this means she is saying the men can either “play the game” and be part of something spectacular, and have a reason to “turn to himself”, or they can sit and watch, and be part of nothing.

People in a football game who play are remembered for something, where as the people who watch are forgotten and replaced by the next game. Rupert Brooke was a patriot and he was not afraid of death. He believed that it was better to die and not be fighting than to die having done nothing. “And the worst friend and enemy is but death” the worst enemy is because although he can’t fight he is at peace and the worst friend is that he is dead so he cannot fight for his country anymore.

He thought it was better to be killed in action rather that dieing an old man having done nothing to help his country and being remembered as a coward. He also talks about “Swimmers into cleanness leaping”. Here he is saying that you can swim, go far, and be clean, or you could be a “sleeper” and be dirty and not move on in your life just stay in a little fantasy world and do nothing. The title of his poem is ironic because war is far from peaceful. It could possibly have been called this because the main objective of going to war is to create peace.

In war there is a lot of death, and when people die they are thought to be at peace, because they have escaped the harsh realties of the human world such as the petty fighting and wars that humans create between themselves and that could be another reason for the surprising title. Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 and died in 1918 at the young age of 25. He taught in an elementary school in Shrewsbury before he went on to Dunsden in Oxfordshire to assist a vicar. This job nearly caused him to have a nervous break down. After this he went over to France to tutor families privately.

It was at this time war broke out in Germany. He enlisted in the Artists Rifles in 1915 and was commissioned in Manchester. He was sent to France a year later in 1916, and experience first hand what war was really like. His experience of the horrors and hardship in the trenches changed him from a selfish young boy, to a considerate man who cared more for his fellow soldiers than he did himself. He had written dire poetry before, but after his experiences in the trenches he started to write with focus and direction.

He returned to Britain suffering from shell shock and was posted in a hospital where Seigfried Sassoon was already a patient, and the two soon became acquainted. In less than two years, Owen’s poetry was some of the finest written about the war, with his two best pieces “Dulcet Et Decorum Est” (Latin for ” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth” He returned to France in August 1918, and went back to fight the final part of the battle, even though he didn’t have to, and sadly, Wilfred Owen was killed by machine gun fire just one week before peace was declared.

Owen is a much more reliable source that Jesse Pope because he had ‘first-hand’ experience of what the war was really like and he tended to express his views how he felt he should. Unlike her he didn’t seem to try and hide that the war was a terrible thing that he didn’t agree with, or that he hated the way that so many young lives were being thrown away. He served in the trenches and he shared his experiences with the rest of the people on the Home Front through his poetry. Jesse Pope wrote what she thought was happening, and if she had to lie to get more recruits, she did.

Unlike Owen she wasn’t as thoughtful, she didn’t think of other people’s lives the way he did. He had seen pain and suffering, she had only heard about it. If she had seen and heard what he had, perhaps her writing style would have been somewhat different. Owen was also a more reliable source than Brooke because although they were both fighting soldiers, Owen saw more of the War than Brooke because before Brooke actually got to fight he died from blood poisoning. This poem describes the soldiers is a shocking way.

It doesn’t hide any facts, and Owen uses a lot of similes to describe how they were handled and what state they were in. Like old beggars under sacks” ‘Old beggars’ tend to have crooked backs and look very dirty, and the ‘sacks’ are their backpacks, so the must look like they are struggling under their weight. One line that describes their health is, “Coughing like hags”. A hag often has an awfully bad cough, which sounds awful to heed. Even the image of a hag is numbing because they are thought to be dirty people and their cough is rattles and is nasty. He also uses metaphors to describe the men.

“Men marched asleep”. This shows that the men were used to a routing and were so tired they looked like they were asleep. Drunk with fatigue” This is powerful because if you are drunk, you are not able to walk properly and you have slow reactions, but Owen is saying they are drunk with fatigue, so the are so tired it is as thought they are drunk and hardly knew they existed because when you are drunk you forget things and do things you wouldn’t normally do, this is what it was like for the men. The way Owen described the gas attack is very good. “Gas! Gas! Quick boys! … ” The way he has written it makes you feel as though you are there, and as if it is being said to the people around you.

The use of punctuation with the exclamation mark after each work emphasizes on the fact that it is important and the narrator is projecting his voice in an urgent fashion. The line after that is, “… An ecstasy of fumbling” This must mean that they were very sloppy when putting on the gas masks. When you ‘fumble’ you are very clumsy and often drop the object you are holding, or trying to get. But these men were obviously in a hurry and couldn’t really afford to fumble. I can see they were in a hurry because of the word ‘ecstasy’. To be ecstatic is to often be very jittery, or nervous.

So these men had to get their gas masks on fast while trying not to be too clumsy. Owen was haunted by memories of the gas attacks as he states clearly in this quote, “In all my dreams before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” Here he is saying about an encounter he had during a gas attack, where he saw a fellow colleague ‘drown’ in the gas. This quote is very moving because of the dramatic adjectives he uses, ‘guttering’, ‘choking’, ‘drowning’. Three words which form the rule of three. When these particular words are put together, they form a horrific picture.

To see a man die in such a way creates a very unpleasant picture in the reader’s mind of a man, coughing horrendously and just disappearing under the gas. The message this poem is giving out is that war is a terrible thing. He is describing it as he saw it to others. The title is odd because it means, “It is right and good to die for your country” yet everything he describes in his poem, is showing how bad dieing in the war was. It is the sort of title, which you would have expected Jesse Pope to use as she did think it was right for men to die for their country.

Owen used the title at the start to catch people’s attention, and then at the end he turns it around, calling it a lie. “You would not tell with such high zest, to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie: Dulce et decorum est, Pro patria mori” He is also saying here that he doesn’t believe it right, that children should fight, just because they think it will gain them some glory, and it’s especially bad for children to have died in this horrific way. It seemed unfair that they should give up their lives for a war started by adults. Disabled is a very moving poem.

It is explaining about a man who fought in the war, and how he thought it would be a great adventure, and now he wished he hadn’t gone because he has come back with only 1 arm. It is particularly moving because of the comparisons it makes of him before and after. It is saddening the way Owen has written about this man who used to go out with the ‘lads’ and have a laugh in town, who used to flirt with the ladies and be a great football player. And who now has to sit in a hospital all day in “his ghastly suit of grey” “waiting for dark” when he can go to bed.

The war stripped this man of independence and even the clothes he wears are not his own, but an old suit probably donated to the hospital for men like himself. The poem states how he “will never feel again how slim girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands” because of the way he looks the girls now look at him like “some queer disease” and he is obviously hurt that girls pass him over for “whole” men who are fully limbed. He had fought as good a fight as any, so why should he be treated different. The man in the poem is obviously very sad and the poet asks, “why don’t they come (the nurses), and put him to bed? Why don’t they come”?

I don’t think he means bed when he says this though. I think he wants to know why they don’t kill him because he doesn’t feel as though he is any use to any one because he is not ‘whole’ and there is nothing he can do to change or hide it, and his previous life has been taken away from him, and he must get so frustrated that he can’t do all the fun and exciting things he used to do. When he is actually asleep though, he goes into another world and it helps him to forget about his horrific injuries. The main reason he joined the army was to please his girlfriend, who later left him, and because someone had said he would look good in uniform.

He wasn’t afraid of the war either, until he discovered the results. “And no fears, of fear came yet” The message in to men considering joining the army in these two poems written by Owen is that war is a bad thing with terrifying consequences. He doesn’t try to hide the facts. He uses them as a shock tactic. Particularly in disabled he makes the point that it is stupid to pretend you are old enough to join the army if you are not, and he writes how a young man threw his life away because he didn’t understand what was involved in war.

The message intended for the people back in England was that men were being seriously injured and too many men were dying. He was trying to shock the people so that they may prevent the war continuing or at least treat the war victims better and the crippled with a bit more respect. In conclusion, I think that people were misled by propaganda because most of the time, only half of a story was shown. The way in which the recruitment posters were produced was very clever because it made people think they were doing something wrong if they didn’t join the army.

Also I think the ‘white feather’ thing was unfair because it made men go against what they believed was right if they didn’t want to fight. I have come to this conclusion because if the truth hadn’t been hidden from the public, I don’t think men would have cared about being branded a ‘coward’ or looking bad to their children, I think they would be happy to be alive and that the war wouldn’t have been able to continue for as long as it had because no one would have signed up and I think a lot of people would find a way out of the conscription.

I think it was unfair how the men were forced to fight. I think they should have had a choice, and I don’t think propaganda should have been allowed. Men should have been able to make a choice after seeing facts and hearing things from others.

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