(1) Consider the significance of the way the officer enters the guard room. What do you feel the author is telling you about him?
(2) The officer is in the ‘blind darkness’ – if the use of blind were metaphorical what would it be suggesting about the officer? Do you think it is intended to be metaphorical? Justify your view.
(3) Colloquial language is a feature of this poem. It is the language of everyday speech. The poem has the feel ofsomeone talking to the reader; he is telling a story of an incident on the front line. Bear in mind that the poet’s persona is not the poet himself. There are many examples of how the language helps us to identify the character that has been assigned to the persona. He is someone who speaks the argot. For instance, To ‘go west’ was a common euphemism, used by soldiers, in the everyday language of the time; it means ‘to die’.
(a) What is the officer’s attitude when he says ‘And all because his brother had gone west’?
Here is another example of colloquial language: the soldier in the guard room ‘Moaned, shouted, sobbed, and choked,’:
(b) What is the officer’s attitude to the soldier, here?
(c) How does the way this line is written show it?
(d) Can you find any other examples of the colloquial? What are the effects of this colloquial language? Why has it been used? Why is it appropriate?
(4) What difference does it make to discover that Sassoon lost his brother in 1915?
(5) ‘while he was kneeling / half naked on the floor’ is in a different tone to ‘Moaned, shouted, sobbed, and choked’, which precedes it. What is the author telling us about how he sees the situation differently from the officer? How does the enjambment (going over the line) help to convey this difference?
(6) Look at where enjambment has been used in other parts of the poem and consider why.
(7) An end-stopped line is one where there is strong punctuation at the end of a line (full stop, question mark, exclamation mark). What is the effect of each of the end-stopped lines? Deal with each one separately.
(8) A caesura is a break in the line. Why do you think Sassoon has used it in line 9, just before the officer’s final comment?
(9) What is the overall mood of the poem? Consider irony in your response.
(10) Satire is used to expose ridiculous behaviour and attitudes of real individuals, groups or sections of society. Therefore, Sassoon is not actually ‘satirising’ this officer. In that case, what/who might he be satirising?
(11) Why do you think Sassoon wrote this poem?