War is a black spot of people’s history. Some people had the experience of fighting against enemies and the recollection of past events makes them feel terrified. Two poems of different authors, “The Dead” by A.J.M Smith and “It Is Dangerous to Read Newspapers” by Margaret Atwood, represent us with two visions of war. These two poems have both differences and similarities. A.J.M Smith’s poem represents us with his father’s personal experience of war. Margaret Atwood experiences war events from newspapers, which is the main difference. The theme of guilt and responsibility before those, who had died in war events are the main ideas in both poems, but the way of war experience are different.
The feeling of guilt is the common theme in poems by Smith and Atwood. Margaret Atwood feels guilty about her living calm life, her stepping the ground where bombs had been detonated, “I am the cause” (Atwood 2000). She feels responsibility about the knowledge she possesses. Smith’s father also feels guilty, but his guilt is deeper and more painful, he “might as well be dead” (Smith 2006). Smith’s father is alive and his friends are dead. He insists that he also should have been dead as “anonymous statistics”, how the author names those who had died in the war.
The main difference in two poems is the way of war experience. Smith’s father experienced the war by himself and as a result, he is still alive physically, but not psychologically. The confirmation of these words may be seen in such phrase, “there is not any spark of fellowship in these dead eyes” (Smith 2006). Smith’s father sees how dead “come with no accusing look”, how they “walk in his sleep” (Smith 2006), all these phrases are aimed to show that Smith’s father sees nightmares and cannot bear it anymore, all these metaphors show his ill psychological condition. Margaret just read about the war, but still this knowledge also makes her feel pain.
The feeling of guilt
The repetitions play the main role in both poems. “Dead” and “red” are words which are seen through the both poems. These two words are the main representatives of any war. Red is the color of blood, which is the main attribute of any war. The higher emotive level is reached in the Smith’s poem by its structure. The most important words are stressed by putting them alone in line. Reading the poem is impossible without strengthening those words, without giving them emphases.
The repetition in structure “Now I am grownup and literate, and I sit” (Atwood 2000) makes the opportunity for the reader to follow the way of thinking, which Margaret Atwood experiences while reading the newspaper articles about war. “The dead” – “red”, “they come” (dead friends) – “his doom” (Smith 2006), these phrases through the poem seems to create a sort of word combinations, which explain father’s condition of mind.
In sum, war is a great disaster of all mankind. The end of the war may be only physical, it will always live in minds of those who has come through it and those, who experiences it through the information in mass media. The feeling of guilt is the only feeling, which remains at those who managed to survive. They think that it was their fault in friends’ death.
People re-experience the war events even after its end. People, who are alive, suffer from remorse, those who were lucky to be born after, feel guilt about the fact that they walk on the ground where their grandfathers and fathers had died. These people should not be sorry, they should proud that their grandfathers and fathers have made all possible to let people live under blue sky and bright sun without smoke of war. We should do all possible to confirm that their deaths were not in vain, that we value their contribution in peace on the Earth. Thank you, our heroes!
Smith, A.J.M. “The Dead”. Selected Writings. Dundurn Press Ltd., 2006.
Atwood, Margaret. “It Is Dangerous to Read Newspapers”. Selected Works. Little, Brown, 2000.