“Bayonet Charge” Analysis Using SMILE: Poetry (English Literature)

BAYONET CHARGE ANALYSIS Hello welcome to another tutorial video. This
time we’re going to be looking at Bayonet Charge, which hopefully will close the conflict
cluster for us. So we start off then with structure and we’re looking first of all
at the similar length of the stanzas, and that gives us the idea that everything mentioned
in each different foci are as important as each other. So in the first one we have a very physical
feel, where you know how hot he is, how sweaty he is, his actual actions, what he’s hearing
around him, etc., the physical representation of his patriotism. Moving onto the second one then, it’s more
mental. There we here that he is bewildered and that he’s got these thoughts coming
through and he’s actually got these fears invading his mind as well as physical actions,
but the focus has shifted slightly. And then lastly we move onto some of the actions
where the most important focus is down the bottom here, where we’re looking at the
philosophical elements; the reasons why a person would do this or any soldier would
this or not do certain things in this situation and all these items are dismissed here in
exchange really for the desperate need to survive is what really gets him going. So you’ve got the three different levels
and they’re represented in the three stanzas and that’s why they’re all as equal as
each other. We’ve also got the hyphen or dash, whichever you prefer to call it, used
to show dramatic jump in focus, that’s used quite a lot. So here we hear about him running
and then it shifts to the physicality. Here we hear about him listening or being aware
of this and then how he just kind of quickly pacing through. Here we hear about his patriotism
and then we see like he just suddenly nearly stops, or really slows down and then it switches
again to his mind, so the dash there really allows us to switch focus dramatically, very
quickly, and keep the pace, because there’s a lot of pace here in the poem. It’s trying
to get across that this is all happening in a few seconds and that’s conveyed to us
through the fact that there’s very few full stops to allow us to keep going. The last point I want to make on this – even
though there are dozens more , or actually there’s several more – is starting with
‘suddenly’. Starting with ‘suddenly’ is very dramatic, it’s a very fast opening
that puts the reader in the scene straight away and the immediacy and danger that he
is under is given to us all in one word without needing to expand upon. And when we do expand
upon it we know his mentality from the off, which allows us then to change and focus on
the change in mentality. So starting that way really sets us up for what comes next. So we move on then to the meanings. We’ve
got the tense situation on the battlefield. He is being shot at, he’s running at a hedge
that’s ‘dazzled with rifle fire’, so he’s being shot at and all his men are being
shot at and a lot of them are being killed. There’s something to be said here for Ted
Hughes’ dad, who survived the certain battle and he was one of only like 15 or 17 survivors
– I know the numbers, I think I remember the number was less than 20 – of a certain
war, and Ted Hughes commented quite often on how it always lingered with him, so we
can imagine that he’s bringing his father’s stories, they’re actually coming through
here and his experiences and that makes it all the more powerful, all the more real,
even though Hughes isn’t experiencing this himself, we can imagine his father did and
those stories and tales were passed onto him. So the tense situation on the battlefield
there and then the impending death available on the battlefield. You know every moment
we’ve got it there with the hare, which has been injured and is about to die and its
mouth is wide open and silent and its eyes standing out, it’s just about to die. So
yes, the tense situation and why the tension’s actually there, the reminder of death and
the death of people around him. We see as well the instincts of him stopping.
You know obviously that’s the worst time for him to choose to stop, so we know that’s
actually done by instinct, and then he plunges past him when he’s got the reminder of death,
it just makes him pick up and get a move on again, so he just flies onto the instincts
there of human nature, the wanting to survive highlighted. We’ve got the futility of war in that this
is not really how he should be living his life and he’s got this rifle ‘numb as
a smashed arm’, which shows how unnatural it is to him and he has got this, you know,
he’s had to change himself, he’s got almost like an iron-like sensor in his heart, whereas
anyone normal or anyone who wasn’t trained to fight, etc. probably would have found this
even more difficult, you know, may have given up in some way and that touches upon the futility
of war because someone here has to die. Even if he survives, then – and we champion that
– we have to remember at the same time, whoever he is charging at with the bayonet
has to die for him to stay alive, or at least the majority of them have to die for him to
stay alive, so that’s highlighting the futility of war. And then we’ve got the real reasons to fight.
Here when he actually stops and thinks about what’s going on and the situation he’s
in, it gives us one focus but then down at the end here, ‘he plunged past with the
bayonet toward the green hedge. King, honour, human, dignity, etcetera Dropped like luxuries
in a yelling alarm’. So these are things that people would fight for, you know, the
idea that ‘well, you know, we need to uphold human dignity because the other side’s evil
and, you know, we have to do the right thing. Here you’ve got the idea of why it’s honourable
to fight for your country and obviously the King – it’s really champion to fight for
your King or your Queen or, you know, your country, etc., etc. so all these ideas that
some people hold, really at certain points what Ted Hughes could be saying is that there
comes a point when actually for some people it’s about life or death, wanting to live,
wanting to die, and that’s why they kill and fight in war. At this given moment obviously,
it’s not necessarily the reason why they get into the war in the first place but in
this situation it’s very relevant that those aren’t his real reasons to fight. And the
use of the word ‘etcetera’ after that, just kind of dismisses them, just kind of
like ‘oh yeah, a long list, blah, blah, blah’ and that’s what this etcetera does
there, but obviously does it a lot better. So we move on then to the images. It’s very
interesting to see him here at the beginning stumbling, because when we actually get the
idea of him running there, well that he’s carrying a gun, etc., it’s not this heroic
gallop across a field, it’s this awkward, bumpy stumbling, which again just really lowers
and it’s actually supported by the fact that he’s really sweaty and his clothes
are raw-seamed, etc., it really lowers any of the glory in here. This is very messy,
this is very uncomfortable, this is almost like – I wouldn’t say inhuman, but it’s
not really what humans were designed to do. So we’re looking there at something that
gives a very strong image of him being in a less than optimal situation. The image of him also listening between the
footfalls, that’s really good because it gives us a clear way of seeing his thought
process or how much this means to him here or how much he actually stops, because in
stopping and listening to his own feet; or at least alluding to doing that or making
it seem like that, we get to take in his situation as he takes in this situation, which makes
the reader empathise more. Lovely image of the hare. So the hare shoots
out of this furrow, you know that’s covered in shots, and it’s presumably been shot
and it’s just about to die and it’s crawling through and it ‘crawled to the threshing
circle and then its mouth wide Open silent, its eyes standing out’ and it’s dropping
dead or just dropped dead, and that gives us the image that we need of death, which
actually shoots him into action and plunges him back into action. And we’ve got the image of patriotism, because
we’ve got the idea here – even though it’s dismissed in the final stanza – we’ve
still got the idea being represented to us of the patriotic tear, it could look like
he’s crying and we could take it he’s crying because he’s so scared, he’s crying
because he’s so worried, but it could be taken as well that, you know, ‘I’m desperate
to kill for my King and my country and my honour’, etc., etc., and it’s further
emphasised by the molten iron from the centre of his chest, linking to his heart and the
lengths he will go to and how strong he will be for all those causes, etc., if they are
what he is fighting for, if we look at it that way at least for that section. Looking then at the language. We’ve got
a great use of techniques. So we’ve got ‘he lugged a rifle as numb as a smashed
arm’. We’ve got the simile there. That’s really important because it gives us the de-humanisation
of his body. Part of the extension of his body now is this killing machine, and although
we can kill with our bare hands, obviously we’re not going to kill as efficiently as
a rifle, and so it’s just something that he drags around with him. If we had a smashed
arm then again we wouldn’t be optimum in our performance or in our actions and having
the gun with him is a hindrance on his humanity, not necessarily on his moving because he’s
trained to move with that, but on his humanity and the fact that he’s going to kill people
is definitely a reduction of his humanity. Other techniques then. We’ve got lovely
alliteration at the end. ‘His terror’s touchy dynamite’, the thing that will set
him off is really, really emphasised. We’ve also got a list of three: King, honour, human
dignity’, which emphasises all the things and dismisses them all at the same time and
we’ve also got ‘rolled like a flame’, which gives the idea of the speed. And there’s
loads of other things that you can pick out there for the techniques. One that I liked in particular was ‘the
shot-slashed’. I really liked that because it refers here to the rabbit, but the kind
of the cutting movement that goes along with it, or the cutting emphasis that actually
comes along with it, is also like a cutting into his humanity, because he’s in a situation
where he could die, he’s looking at a hare that’s just died and the life has been slashed
out of it and he’s in a situation where his humanity is being slashed out of him because
of what he actually has to do. Furthermore I think it links to the people that would
be around, because he would be looking around or he’d be running past and he’d be finding
an immense amount of numbers, a very large amount of numbers of people who are also completely
riddled with bullets and dead, although this is what he chooses to focus on…or this is
what his mind invites him to focus on at the given time. The use of the word ‘plunged’ is also
very strong because it shows the desperation and shows how necessary his next move is and
that he plunges, like he’d dive into a pool; you just completely throw and immerse yourself
into something; and I think it’s really important that we pick out all the aural descriptions
here, the things that actually appeal to our ears. So when we start at the beginning we’ve
got the rifle fire, we’ve got the sound of that and the ‘bullets smack the belly
out of the air’, so a way of reading this really would mean that the air is really being
squeezed, or just kind of frantically pressed with all these bullets, so that’s one way
of looking at it. So it’s again things that we’re hearing and then later on we’ve
got him listening to his footsteps, with the idea of him listening to his footsteps and
then the ‘yelling alarm’ and the ‘blue crackling in the air’, so there’s lots
of description to actually get the sound across to us. And we’ve got the lovely contrast
where we’ve got the silence of the hare as it’s dying or just died and that’s
important because that’s what he sees and maybe that’s one of the things that actually
gives him the contrast. For all the shock and suffering and horror he’s in, the power
of the silence, just seeing something’s life end in front of you, obviously through
its silence as well, really makes him want to live another day and take charge and make
sure that he does actually get to do stuff. So the effect on the reader then? Well we’re
looking at trench warfare so we’re thinking about how de-humanising this was, what a great
loss of life was actually involved in it and obviously the sacrifice of those who were
in it. It makes us thing about also what gives us courage, you know, what would make us do
certain things at certain times, like seeing the hare dead here made this man actually
get running and going and we think about the detachment that comes across to us at inopportune
times. Sometimes when people are having a go at us we can just detach, or when we’re
watching something violent we can just detach. So here in this situation, although it doesn’t
seem like the person has chosen to detach, in the middle here he detaches as well, so
it just gets us thinking about why people detach from certain situations and part of
that is to do with, you know, so we can deal with it better. Part of it’s to do with,
well we’re not really caring, and then part of it’s to do with the fact that sometimes
it’s the best way we can manage to not only deal with something, but live with it. So
detaching at the moment is a better way of living with something, as well as just getting
through it at that moment. So yeah, a really, really excellent, really
vivid deep poem that’s worth reading many times over and I hope that was useful.

4 thoughts on ““Bayonet Charge” Analysis Using SMILE: Poetry (English Literature)

  1. I'm forever blowing bubbles pretty bubbles in the air they fly so high nearley reach the sky and like my dreams they fade and die fortunes always hiding I've looked everywhere I'm forever blowing bubbles pretty bubbles in the air UNITED UNITED UNITED

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