analysis of paul fussells book great war and modern memory

Analysis of Paul Fussell’s book Great War and Modern Memory
The Great War and Modern History by Paul Fussell reflects his ambition that goes further than literary denigration. The book itself aimed on giving the reader a sense of awareness of what the modern warfare has significantly become and its relative impact to the soldiers. Consequently, the book was written in dedication to Technical Sergeant Edward Keith Hudson, which was killed beside him in France on March 15, 1945.

The book, literally, have unchronological proceedings from one theme to another theme and, though quoting from an astounding amount of poems, letters, and novels (oftentimes coming from contemporary wars, particularly in WWII wherein it typically contains a solitary author that characterize the most complete illustration of Fussell’s notion for each chapter; the major four are Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden. As compared with the “Patriotic Gore”, each of these claimed authors has received a sense of true gratitude.

The Great War and Modern Memory seemed to be ungrateful, even to talk about such of Fussell’s vast ambitions, which intermittently “hurt” the book, and led the author to come up with a definite conclusion that seem unsustainable; he described the First World War as a separating stripe that doesn’t at all times appeared to be so. For instance, the author writes a whole chapter regarding the subsequent impulse brought to the soldiers to demonize the adversary, and to continuously ascertain the United States and its related binaries. Also, the book ended on a peculiar, unacceptable note, stirring too distant from the actuality with regards to the Battlefield.

The cover page of the book (25th Edition) featured a soldier who expressed a unique emotion on his face. The emotion can be interpreted as a feeling of long abandonment and hopelessness, affecting him both mentally and physically. These messages of hopelessness can be seen on the way the soldier stands and of the expression of his eyes. The soldier carried a look of somewhat being disillusioned but still reflected a capacity and readiness to fight, if only to avoid death and to survive (see figure 1). On this perspective, the soldier represented the thought that an individual, faced with adversities, can actually strain to be able to survive the horror brought about by the Great War specifically on the Western Front during 1914 up to 1918.  These can be seen on Fuller’s account as he pass by a picture in a War Museum and saw a boy’s expression on the canvass that unmistakably represented the “Twentieth Century”. If someone would eventually look aware of being destined to such insignificant death, this boy represented such (Fuller 342).

The first sentence of the preface exhibited the author’s main theme, the 1914 up to 1918 British experiences on the Western Warfront and several literary methods upon which it has been remembered on a mythological sense, or on conventionalized ideas. The author focused his writings on the situations and places where the tradition of literary figure and real life were eminently transect, and by conducting such the author tried to understand the reciprocal and simultaneous processes upon which life has been able to feed information or materials to literature while literature returns the errand by conferring figures on life (Fuller ix).

Fuller also stressed the rhetorical, political, economic, and artistic factors that was greatly influenced by the iconography and dynamics of the proceedings of the Great War itself.

Figure 1. Cover page of the Book

Fussell’s book, the Great War and Modern History, has to be read critically since it graciously challenges the readers to question and subsequently reconsider the true platform upon which life rests. The author was able to convey his message by citing several numbers of vibrant portraits of brave soldiers who specifically represented the book’s theme. Thus the literature the author has created was directly related to the very individual who experienced it. The author also examined the Great War as an estrange bridge having two unique or distinct time frame: the innocent, naïve, romantic and hopeful era of the pre World War 1 in Europe, and subsequently the post War era, wherein the literary work of the author took much of the ironic, darker, and doubtful pitch.

Fussell’s creative literary work on the book had placed the readers to go through the frame of mind or mindset of a British soldier in the Western Front War in 1914. Consequently, this is what the book “ The Great War and Modern Memory” signified: relinquishing the time and facilitate to the reader the milieu of this hastily altering time, and how it eventually took the war to oblige every individual to query the very authenticity of their eminent existence.

The informative culture of the past was not only a mere memory of mankind but a “buried life” upon which when critically and carefully studied can lead to the determination and recognition of scenarios where the present cultural form was based upon (Fuller 335).

Furthermore, Fussell adopted a discerning loom that intentionally abandoned critical areas. His main focus was on the occurrence of the battle or combat (Fig, 2):  the rotten misery of the trenches, an occurrence that necessitated a relevant alteration of precedent literary methods and concerns. The barrier between bloody reality and patriotic expectation usually dealt the general consciousness, a distress that is continuously being felt. The literary consequences were subdued and deferred by the fact that the chief talents of the genre have either failed to endure or had escaped first-hand battle. Only the less significant figure of the war were able to lived and record the undertakings they had eventually undergone. Moreover, it took the American novelists of the post World War 1 era, such as Heller, Mailer, and Pynchon, to accomplish a practice that was established in the fatal absurdities of the Passchendaele and Somme. A hopeful notion, pursued with intense feeling, but nonetheless the technique is quite mottled.

Figure 2. Soldiers of the Great War

Fussell also considered the series of Sassoon’s George Sherston and critically did so in conditions of the so-called “us-them” term of a certain battlefield or combat circumstances, and its intellectual filtrate: David Jones’s “myth” wherein the conventional patterns upon which the mind tends to oblige on all occurrence under insufferable stress; Robert Graves “theater” which was known for its cognizant contribution in “strange costume theater”; and that of Wilfred Owen’s the “homoerotic tradition.”. Furthermore, Fussell’s tracing of influences on the literary references or sources frequently seemed a harsh and schoolboyish actualization of the certain materials at hand; his secured readings were most of the time made heavy weathered of somewhat persuasive themes. Still, the theme is vastly significant, and Fussell was considered one of the best when exploring the emotional memoirs of almost half-survivors, which was unanimous, opened up several exigent appearance of inquest.

Also, Fussell suggested by merely being perceptive on how eventually men have questioned the humankind, this would perhaps also be how the society could be remembered. The book literarily has been made lovingly and carefully, though it may seem to be very complex at first glance on a common reader.

But when cautiously read and well thought-out, its apparently detach and unequal ideas do become in unison and on the latter part, everything eventually can be related back to the picture that represented the front cover of the book: the soldier that was eventually mislaid in contemplation of hopelessness, pitiful desertion, and who looked very conscious of being condemned to a worthless death (Fuller 342).

War is considered smudged not only as accounted first hand by the survivors, but also served

as an emotional and moral dilemma of the survivors. At some point in time, the author’s analysis seemed to be munificent and high- minded for its theme. But despite of this, the author’s

remarkable accounts and unparallel deference for the testimony of the people who survived the war, and those of the dead clearly outweighed all shortcomings.

The Great War and Modern Memory can be considered more complex, but affluent of vibrant, and of telling particulars about the literature and the men of this instance. The language was concentrated, and strappingly denoted that the book itself can actually be encompassing and transformative.

Obviously the book encourages hope and resiliency when faced with absolute adversaries. The factor of meaningless death depicts the plight of the young boy dressed in a military combat. Though faced with such undertakings, the soldier resembled to a fighting stance that meant to fight and face the adversaries despite eminent death follows,

The Great War and Modern Memory will not stop to motivate any readers or students of the mythical war experiences, and all levels were considered. As a reader turned the rest of the page, one will very fully aware of how this book deserved the merit it has been taken to consideration in a lavish manner.

Work Cited

Fussel, Paul. The Great War and Modern History. Oxford Paperbacks, 2000.

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