ENG 629: 20th Century British Literature Blog Post 1

 

Thursday night’s class brought to light many aspects of WWI that I was not aware of. For this blog post I would like focus on Jessie Pope’s poem “The Call” and some ideas about war posters we discussed in class. While browsing through the collection of WWI posters on Google, the above poster stood out to me in relation to “The Call.” The urgency of this poster, specifically the phrase “GO AND HELP,” reminded me of the urgency in Pope’s poem calling young men to fight in the war. However, after a closer look, I noticed there is a condescending nature to this poster much like “The Call.” As most of us agreed in class, “The Call” came across condescending because of the use of “my laddie” and the accusatory tone that a young man could not be manly if he did not enlist in the war. This poster is condescending because it is accusing the reader of “standing [and] looking at” this poster and not getting involved in the war. Going further with that, the poster is making the accusation that the reader isn’t doing anything useful if he (because the audience is male) isn’t fighting in the war.

I also saw connections between the poster below and “The Call”…

This language of this poster also caught my eye. Similar to Pope’s poem, this poster uses “come lad” as the address to the reader. Though, I would say, this poster appears less condescending than “The Call,” I think this poster gives a good visual to the poem. There is a soldier in the “khaki suit” coaxing a young man across the Straight of Dover to France to fight. There is a sense of urgency similar to the poem because the soldier looks like he is pulling the young man across to war. The young man standing over England appears to be slightly hesitant with his hand on his hip and his slight lean in the opposite direction–which reminds me of the line “And who’d rather wait a bit” in the poem. This might be a bit of a stretch and kind of silly, but I could picture the soldier saying some of the lines from “The Call” to persuade the young man to enlist–maybe that is just because of the “come lad” address written on the poster.

I would also like to note that both these posters, as with many WWI posters, make war seem very nonchalant and easy. Both posters make the war seem very close and not a big deal to go and help out (although the war was actually close, it was still a big deal to go to war). In addition, I would say that the second poster, more so than the first, makes war appear less dangerous than it actually is. The soldier that is reaching out in the second poster has a smile on his face and looks very clean cut (not like he has been fighting in trenches and struggling to survive). This poster seems to be attempting to convince young men that war is not a gruesome event.

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2 thoughts on “ENG 629: 20th Century British Literature Blog Post 1

  1. Meghan, Your post brings into conversation these two very innocuous seeming posters and shows how, when colliding them with Pope’s poem, they are really quite dangerous to the innocent viewer. This adds a good critical intervention into the rhetoric of the war poster and its effects when combined with the propagandistic poetry. It would be interesting to further research the audience reception of some of the posters. Which ones worked best and which ones offended, etc…

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