Free Essay

Realities of War in Birdsong

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Fennster32
Words 1179
Pages 5
Explore how Faulks presents the different ways in which the characters cope with the realities of war in his novel Birdsong

Sebastian Faulks uses the impact of the war to shape and add depth to his characters. The ways in which they cope with war, and the reasons for them to cope in this way, give detailed insights into the characters themselves.

Faulks manipulates the character of Stephen Wraysford to begin the war as an extremely cold Officer, particularly towards Jack Firebrace, sending him for a court martial instantly, after a minor offence. Faulkes makes use of short, curt sentences in Wraysfords initial dialogue like “I doubt it.”This suggests harsh qualities, reinforcing the opinion that Stephen is a cold, removed character. Faulkes shows that Wraysford’s character softens towards his men, particularly the tunnellers, feeling empathy with their strange, but no less difficult path. This is shown in the contrast between the early parts of the novel where Stephen is almost exclusively referred to as “he” or “Stephen” and the later chapters where Stephen is referred to in a group with the tunnellers or other soldiers, making use of the pronoun “they” or “we” more often.
Faulks presents Stephen as losing some of the isolated exterior by the end of the war that was the defining feature of his character at the beginning, This is shown in Stephen’s attachment to Jack Firebrace, presented by Faulks in the end tunnel scene. The strength of this partnership is shown in Stephen’s persistent attempts to keep Jack alive, when he could have saved himself far more easily had he been alone.
Captain Weir copes with the war through the use of heavy drinking. This is first shown when Jack Firebrace is escorted to Wraysford and Weir’s quarters by Sergeant Adams for his court martial. The character notices the “almost empty bottle of whiskey”, inferring that Weir drinks heavily. Weir finds solace in his drinking addiction. Faulks implies Weir finds some degree of relaxation or attachment to music. Firebrace hears from “dugout behind him, the soft melody of piano music”. The word “soft” has connotations of soothing, softness and calming, showing Weir uses music to help him cope. Weir as tries not to think about his life in England, after being discontent with it in his time there. When Stephen asks, Weir tries to distract himself from it with the logic that he’s “got to think of staying alive”. Weir’s coping mechanism is not wholly affective, as he has a fairly nervous disposition during his time in the War. His hands shake, which could be down to one of two reasons, either a direct effect of shell-shock and shattered nerves, or a side-effect of the alcoholism he develops. However, Weir’s coping methods work to some extent, as despite his nerves and misgivings, he still ventures down into the tunnels and trenches every day, without truly breaking. Weir also seems to find comfort in the fact he now has comrades and men to call friends, unlike when he is at home, Faulks makes this clear when Weir tells Stephen about joining the engineers. “I like the role, I like the comradeship”.
. Faith in chance and something uninfluenced by anything else, is represented in the way Weir holds Faith in Wraysford, and the cards. Weir is shown to need something like chance to believe in, when Wraysford says “Weir doesn’t believe in anything. He needs something to sustain him”. This also backs up Faulks point that religious faith is not enough to sustain a man in wartime, as Weir “does not believe in anything”.

Michael Weir and Stephen Wraysford cope with the realities of war by finding a form of comradeship in each other, eventually enjoying the time they spend together and using it to keep themselves going. At first, Weir sees Stephen as a potential colleague and friend, shown by his answer to his commanding officer, Gray, when asked if he holds Stephen in good opinion: “I think so.” Faulkes suggests that despite Weir saying he “thinks” so, the short sentence without a pause between the question and the reply shows he was already self-assured of his answer in Stephen’s favour. Stephen reciprocates these feelings of friendship, when he thinks of Jeanne later in the novel. “What he wanted to say to Jeanne was that she, apart from Michael Weir, was the best friend he had”. Weir is obviously saddened by Stephen’s apparent death, as he writes “He was an inspiration. He was my shield…He was my closest friend”. This shows the power of friendship and comradeship in such a harsh setting. Of all, this is the most successful of coping mechanisms.
Jack Firebrace copes with the war by amusing and inspiring the men around him. Jack has a repertoire of jokes and tales that he tells to keep the men in good spirits, even if these fancies do not inspire the same feelings in Jack himself. “Jack himself laughed little” implies Jack is not as easily distracted by the tales. However, he still tells them often and well, “The men loved jokes, though they had heard each one before”. Jack persists in raising his men’s spirits. This reflects Jack’s generous, comradely nature. The sound of laughter that his jokes bring drown out the war in Jack’s head, and helps distract him from the harshness of war. The coping mechanism of doing something to put the war out of mind, is also shown when Stephen takes Weir to visit a prostitute.
Finally, Faulks also uses the concept of Faith to show how men at war can cope. However, Faith in a religious sense is shown to be a failed coping mechanism, as Stephen Wraysford, Jack Firebrace, and most notable the Army Priest Horrocks, lose their faith because of things they have seen or experienced during the war. The most poignant of which, is Horrocks. This is used to emphasise the event when Horrocks witnesses the events of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where the British alone suffered 58’000 casualties including 20’000 deaths. As Horrocks is a priest, his life would be heavily influenced by his Faith and belief in God. This makes his loss of Faith even more poignant and emphasises the brutal reality of the war. “Horrocks pulled the silver cross from his chest and hurled it from him”, it shows how horrific the events must have been, to cause a man so influenced by faith to finally lose it, all in one, short day. This image resonates heavily with the reader, and shows that Horrocks is so shocked and horrified at the chaos and scale of death that he sees, that he denies his Faith, on the grounds that if there was a God, he would not let something this horrific happen.
Overall, the novel Birdsong shows that no matter how successful men’s coping mechanisms are at first, they eventually fail, when faced with the true horror, and real brutality of war.

Word Count: 1500
‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks, Published by Vintage, 1993…...

Similar Documents

Free Essay

Idealism and Reality During World War I

...One of the major themes portrayed in literature following World War I was the realization that a difference existed between ideas and reality. The public had preconceived ideas about the superiority of their country and that battle would bring honor to oneself. The communication systems in place at the time could be prone to error or intervention from outside influences. In addition, staff officers lacked sufficient battle experience or enemy intelligence to plan battles that their troops were capable of meeting the promised outcome. These situations are the foundation for the perception that the public held about the concept of war that differed from what the young men on the front actually faced. Prior to World War I, the Napoleonic Wars took place almost 100 years prior from 1792 to 1815. Only stories existed about the horrors of battle with those who fought long dead. Without an oral history of what the troops experienced on the battled field the public perceived service and death in combat as the ultimate sacrifice to support ones county. This also dovetailed into the perception that society was only going to get better with the improvement in science and technology (Meyers). In Rupert Brooke’s “Peace” he wrote “And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping” and “Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move” (Brooke). These phrases in his poem established that young men at home were ignorant of what was going on around them and ignoring their duty to......

Words: 1398 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay


...Reality The power of communication has been altered by the forms new technology has brought about in our society. Never before has information technology been so readily available changing the way we all do business, relate with one another, and socialize by limiting our basic need for human interactions. Who could have predicted our lives today would be so enveloped by technology that many times we have closer relationships with our phones and computers than with the people in our own homes? Gone are the days of playing board games till the early morning hours with friends or getting cozy with a book for a night of fascinating reading. Today everything is here and now! As the new saying for this generation goes "I want it yesterday" there is no longer a sense of patience just a blur of hurry, hurry as fast as you can. Words get lost in translation as they have no inflection as when spoken or written in a real letter. Days and nights are lost staring at a monitor or screen of some kind. How do we choose what's right anymore? Now I am not saying that effort has entirely been removed by this new technology, for sure it has made some things easier to accomplish. I remember so vividly a family vacation from my childhood where we visited Disney World. If you have ever been you will understand where I am going with this. Space Mountain was my favorite ride, of course for the obvious reasons everyone loves it, but my wonderment actually came from the exit escalator. You see......

Words: 1252 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Joseph L. Galloway and the Realities of War Corresponding

...Joseph L. Galloway and the Realities of War Corresponding Abstract War corresponding is an essential part of journalism in today’s society. War correspondents risk their lives to report the events of war. It is a very challenging job, and not everyone is cut out for it. One significant war correspondent of the 20th century is Joseph L. Galloway. He spent most of his working career dealing with war, with his most notable achievements being reporting from the front lines of the battle at Landing Zone X-ray in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War, being a best selling author, and receiving the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his courage at the aforementioned battle. Joseph L. Galloway and the Realities of War Corresponding War correspondents have been around as long as the journalism career and as long as there have been wars to report. The first war correspondent is said to be Willem van de Velde. In 1653, he took a small boat across the sea to observe a naval battle between the English and the Dutch (War correspondent). War corresponding has come a long way since those days. With every war comes more and more correspondents to cover the news, battles, and outcomes. “War correspondents help the public understand the consequences of government policy, military strategy, and battlefield tactics (Steele, B)”. Without them, the rest of the world would be left in the dark and be unaware of the events of major wars. War correspondents play a crucial yet dangerous...

Words: 1257 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Escaping Reality

...Arsyl Mae Palmejar 1 ENG101 October 17, 2011 Escaping Reality The story “To Set Our House in Order” by Margaret Laurence is set during the Great Depression before the World War II. In that era, people suffered from poverty. The story tackles about the life of the narrator Vanessa who has moved in to the Grandmother’s MacLeod’s house. Vanessa’s mother is pregnant and her father is a doctor. Vanessa is not happy living with her Grandmother because she controls her family in terms of the way they move, speak and make decisions. Grandmother MacLeod’s bossiness causes conflict among the members of the family. She wants to keep the house in the same manner as in the past. The author uses different kinds of symbolism to show to the reader the lives of the characters, especially the way Grandmother MacLeod affects everyone around her. Margaret Laurence uses symbols such as the ivory pendant, the Grandmother’s house and birds to represents different kinds of characters in the story and how each one wants to escape the life of Grandmother MacLeod. Grandmother MacLeod owns an ivory pendant. She wears it to present herself as an elegant and lovely lady. As a symbol, the ivory pendant gives the reader an idea of how she acts as a lady and how she feels living in a messy and poor house. During that time, the MacLeod family is suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. However, the Grandmother MacLeod is still acting as if she is rich like a queen. A proof of......

Words: 971 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

The Harsh Reality About Reality Tv

...The Harsh Reality about Reality Television Tasha Sutton ENG 122 English Composition II Instructor, Tina Santino March 28, 2013 The Harsh Reality about Reality Television What happen to the good old days when television programs had sweet, wholesome, honorable messages depicted to their viewer. Remember the sitcom, Family Matters, with Steve Erkel and the Winslow family. Brings a smile to your face, does it not? Television programs such as Family Matters, Saved by the Bell and Charles in Charge were great shows for every age. These shows, showed the viewer’s actors having a problem and how they solved it in a decent way that worked out for everyone. The audience knows that the characters are not real, but that does not change the message that they direct towards their viewers. Reality television is what is new and hip. The point of reality television is to make their viewers feel what they are seeing is indicative of everyday life. What most people do not realize is reality television is no different than a scripted, television show. Reality television caters to the negative emotions that make viewers want to see more television. Reality television programs are anything but wholesome. Reality television appeals more to our negative emotions and values, and has changed our viewing habits by decreasing family time and increasing television viewing times. These drastic changes that have occurred due to reality television has only changed......

Words: 1672 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay


...What Really is Reality? Reality can be defined as many different things, “The state of things as they are or appear to be rather than as one might wish them to be, the quality or state of being actual or true, totality of all things possessing actuality, existence or essence”(thefreedictionary),“ A real event/entity or state of affairs, something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily” (Merriam-Webster), “The world or the state of things as they actually exist as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them”(Google) These definitons all have a common factor of the idea of something being true or real, but how can you tell if it is or is not? Everyone has a different perspective or view on life, some persepctives are clear and some are not. There are many theories on perspectives and reality, but ultimately the choice of what to believe is yours. There are many modern movies that challenge the idea of reality, one in specific is titled Inception. The basic plot of science fiction film Inception tells the story of Dom Cobb and his business partner Arthur who perform illegal corporate espionage by entering the subconscious mind of their targets by using a “dream within a dream” strategy including many “dream levels” to obtain valuable information on their subjects. This strategy of entering minds can also change a person’s reality and perspecitve by enabeling Cobb to plant an idea into the person’s mind changing the outcome of what may or may...

Words: 930 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Contemplating Realities and Paradoxes in the Global War on Terror

...Contemplating Realities and Paradoxes in the Global War on Terror John B. Alexander, Ph.D. Introduction The approach of this monograph is to examine paradoxes encountered in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The intent is to spark debate on disputatious issues. Clearly, many of the existing situations appear intractable given the emotional investment that has been made by the public, and exacerbated by political manipulation of elected officials. Also unavoidable are the fiscal constraints that are becoming increasingly binding. Examined in Section One are problematic premises related to the four fundamental approaches to countering terrorism; increased security, eliminating the terrorists, attacking the support infrastructure, and altering conditions that breed discontent. Despite trite, albeit politically popular, commentary proposing those methods, execution of those concepts is extremely difficult, often controversial, and sometimes counterproductive. Section Two of this monograph addresses several other policy decisions that generate problems that are difficult to resolve, but directly impact the forces involved. Among those topics are; roles of contractors, individual loyalties versus national interests, alliances of convenience, foreign response to our policy on preemption of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the consequences of our stated objective of spreading democracy, the impact of U.S. presence in the Gulf region, and quandary associated with......

Words: 28095 - Pages: 113

Premium Essay

Augmented Reality

...ASSIGNMENT SBIT4002 GROUP 1 WORD COUNT: 1,428 AUGMENTED REALITY TOPIC: A REPORT COMPILED BY OLUKAYODE OLAWALE ARIYO STUDENT ID: 113442-84 AUGUST 2011 Contents INTRODUCTION 2 DEFINITION OF AUGMENTED REALITY 2 HISTORY OF AUGMENTED REALITY 2 APPLICATION OF AUGMENTED REALITY 3 GAMING AND ENTERTAINMENT 3 EDUCATION 3 MUSEUMS 3 SECURITY AND DEFENCE 3 MEDICINE 4 BUSINESS 4 TECHNOLOGY BEHIND AUGMENTED REALITY 5 HARDWARE 5 HEAD-MOUNTED DISPLAYS 5 TRACKERS 5 HAPTICS 5 SOFTWARE: 5 ADVANTAGES OF AUGMENTED REALITY 6 DISADVANTAGES OF AUGMENTED REALITY 6 ETHICAL ISSUES 6 BIBLIOGRAPHY 8 INTRODUCTION There was an interesting news at, on 25th June, 2010 it was titled “The promise of augmented reality: Gaga in a living room”, the news reported a company who developed and demonstrated an augmented reality system which generate a virtual image in 3D mapped onto a wall paper, with the use of a device with camera, (Hudson, 2011). Although augmented reality have been in existence in a similar form called Virtual reality, but it has taken a step forward, (Maad, 2008). As a consequence of the relevance of digital and media technology, there is an increase request for the development of new application which is capable of harnessing the power of augmented reality, in meeting the needs of various industries. DEFINITION OF AUGMENTED REALITY Augmented Reality can be described as the process of overlaying computer......

Words: 1904 - Pages: 8

Free Essay


...Sample essay Year 10 Philosophy What is the best way to relate to reality; control it or give up one’s desire to control it? I am going to argue that it is not necessary to give up one’s desire to control reality, but one must be realistic about how much of it one can actually control. I will focus especially on the lessons we can learn about this from the movie The Truman Show. At the outset, we need to distinguish between reality and imagination. Our brains have the remarkable ability not only to hold pictures of what has happened, but also to create pictures of what we think will happen, or could happen. This is our imagination. Without imagination, we would not be able to think sensibly about the future. Our imagination allows us to project ourselves into the future. But on the other hand, even though our imagination gives us a mental construction of the reality around us, it is not that actual reality itself. Let’s face it, there are thousands of things happening in the world around us that we do not know about and cannot imagine. Truman in The Truman Show has no idea what sort of machinations Christof is engineering to shape his life. All the people around Truman are acting. His so-called wife is an actress who is being paid to act as his wife. Truman, at first, cannot imagine this is true. He cannot imagine that Marlon is not ‘really’ his best friend, or that what Marlon says to him is actually being set up through an earpiece, with the words first being......

Words: 1146 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay


...Reality 1. Compare and contrast The Matrix with the readings from Plato and Descartes. What are some similarities and differences? All three; “The Matrix”, “The Allegory of the Cave” the more eloquent “Meditation 1 of the Things of Which We May Doubt” all seem to center on the same metaphysical question of; what is real? The Matrix is much like a modern version of The Allegory of the Cave in which both the perception based reality is explored with their costs and limitations involved. It seems to me that Rene’ Descartes “Meditations on first philosophy 1641 is simply better articulated, perhaps making the same point of doubt. Whenever reading Descartes's writings “I think therefore I am” (p36 Dew & Foreman) as a rather stable foundation is always on my mind. I am not sure if this is an affinity for the strong foundation or my personal aversion to allegories but I find it quite amazing that Descartes’s century’s old writings are so relevant and understandable. Contextual similar with each other it seems the differences are mainly with presentation only. The most apparent contrast to me is that while addressing the same sort of questions that The Matrix and The allegory of the cave share the connection between the characters Neo and Plato’s prisoner while Descartes story is on a more personal level with his concern with doubt of his senses causing reservations for any and all topics of belief. I think Descartes way of dealing with skepticism is a good perspective to......

Words: 740 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Reality Is Transient

...Influence is unavoidable; our reality is not of our own making Like a game, reality is dependent on a set of mutual laws and expectations rule-makers agree upon and there are penalties for those who go against the expectations of the majority such as the loss of a “life” or “game over”. Some have a lot invested in the game- wealth, time, effort, goals. Others see it for what it is; a projection of our imagination with a subjective sense of meaning. This game of life is far more complex than any board game like Chess or Monopoly because it represents a reality that offers greater levels of intricacy than which merely mimics or replicates an aspect or semblance of life itself. Reality is transient. Reality is determined through the consensus of the majority and therefore is subject to change when the consensus changes, as happened over five hundred years ago when people began to realise that the then dominant view of the universe as geocentric as flawed. However, such change in the paradigm is inevitably accompanied by conflict as society divides between those who wish to protect the status quo, such as the Catholic Church which attempted to suppress the discoveries of scientists like Galileo, whilst others, like Shakespeare, welcomed new thoughts as shown in the naming of his theatre as ‘The Globe’ built in 1599. Shakespeare was a humanist who explored the exciting new possibilities presented by the rise of science in his society, and in his play As You Like It,......

Words: 882 - Pages: 4

Free Essay


...States, according to the National Audubon Society. I also discovered that the camouflage industry was a proprietary enterprise which had only two major players and that each of them generated over $25,000,000.00 in sales. Due to my findings, I will pursue this avenue of growth for our store and in so doing I will add an entire line of apparel with four basic SKU’s to begin with and then complement it with “add on” items that will create an opportunity for an easy “add on” suggestive sale. I am choosing outdoor apparel and books as the two areas that I will add to our merchandise mix. I know that these products will be feasible because we have existing space and profitability is unlimited because we will create our own design called “Birdsong” and we can Trademark the name and copyright the pattern so that it will be owned and controlled by our store. We have the opportunity to sell around the globe through our already existing web site, and will have margins with no base of comparison because we are the only store selling this pattern, is a very strong endorsement for the capital required to support this venture. I will work with our local community college art department to design a pattern that I want, copyright it as a proprietary product, and then secure manufacturing with that pattern exclusively to our store. By adding books to the department, it will be educational, informative, and will help generate additional sales as the targeted market is already in the......

Words: 3772 - Pages: 16

Free Essay

Whose Reality

...Reality template Since I was a child I had a dream to one day rule the skies flying at speeds only a handful of people got to experience. To be as agile as a hawk and have the might of a lion, I strived to be immersed in the "national culture that glamorises soldiers" this was my reality, or was it? With little concept of war and death, had I merely been brainwashed by a society driven by hate in order to become the next gen in "homicidal technology"? Whilst we think we can determine our own reality, this may prove to be impossible in the modern world. Wherever we go we are surrounded by technology that allows us to be instantly connected to information from around the world. Where “currency” in the words of Thomas Jefferson is “free flowing information” but how free flowing is it actually? We are continuously kept in the dark by the forces of the media who sift and filter information as they please in order to make our “world a better place”. It ultimately leaves us in complete ignorance of the horrible costs and consequences of war. In order to avoid being lured into a false reality by the spins sold to us by the media, we as a society should aim to seek out alternative independent journalism ... And the ability to question the truth of existing media sources. Most of Western society today has been constantly deceived with illusions of personal freedom, we are so complacent that we just assume that everything that is conveyed to us by the media is true. Hence......

Words: 1290 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

What Do You Think of the View That the Most Meaningful Relationships in Birdsong Are Those Between Men?

...Q 16) What do you think of the view that the most meaningful relationships in Birdsong are those between men? One may argue that the view that the most meaningful relationships in Birdsong are those between men is true to some extent. In the novel Faulks presents a number of meaningful relationships between men that are key to helping the characters maintain a purpose throughout the war within the novel. Stephen forms a relationship with Weir that wouldn’t have been of the same nature had they not been involved in a combat situation, but the element of war helps them to understand one another, creating a meaningful relationship between the men. Stephen and Weir place an element of trust in one another ‘I want you to do the runes, tell me my fortune.’ Weir relies on Stephen in this instance to convince him that he will survive and make it through the war. Evidently Stephen fixes the cards but without the use of the fortune telling Weir would surely lack confidence and almost certainly expect death. The strength of the relationship, however, is such that both characters can rely on each other through the hardships of war. The relationship between Jack Firebrace and Stephen underground also supports the view that the most meaningful relationships in Birdsong are those between men. Jack’s character is first introduced ‘lying forty five feet underground’. This presents an ominous, dangerous mood. Faulks also implements a sense of foreshadowing here as Jack’s introduction......

Words: 641 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Home Front in Birdsong

...Explore the significance of the Home Front in ‘Birdsong’ One way in which the Home Front in ‘Birdsong’ is significant it through Weir’s visit home to his parents. Due to the affects that war bought upon men, this makes Weir struggle to re-connect with his parents again. The awkward distant conversations with his father using formal language like he is talking to a guest, ‘I’ll get the maid to make up a bed if you’re stopping’ presents the awkwardness and exemplifies the struggle men had to face when they came back home, showing that it wasn’t as easy as expected. Furthermore the use of ‘if’ makes Weir’s father sound even distant like it is a burden for him to stop and that it is an inconvenience for him to be back home. This makes the reader feel incredibly uncomfortable as we have read the men in action and have connected with separate characters in an emotional way. So to see the men being treated unjustly for what they are doing makes the reader feel just as uncomfortable as the conversations between Weir and his father. However this is not an unusual thing, as many of the soldiers were neither celebrated nor got the recognition they deserved from fighting at war. The awkwardness is furthermore highlighted when Weir himself ‘could think of nothing to say’ to his father. The lack of colloquialism used between these two characters, connotes the experience and horrors men faced at war and how they have been sculpted into his mind. Whereas his father is very dismissive and......

Words: 835 - Pages: 4