A Comparison in the Presentation of the ‘Horrors of War’ in Birdsong and A Journey’s End

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A Comparison in the Presentation of the ‘Horrors of War’ in Birdsong and A Journey’s End

In Journey’s End there are a lot of references to the shear numbers of people killed on the battlefield. Quotes such as “One thousand eight hundred companies in France” use figures to stress just how epic the war really was, the reader has to be reminded of how vast the war was as most of the readers would not have experienced it for themselves. Journey’s End makes the mass death seem even more insignificant by introducing the fact that the German’s were just like the allied forces, “I remember once at Wipers we had a man shot down…Next day we blew each other to blazes”, no matter what happened the two sides
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There is however some suggestion of injury, “S-M shrinks back and throws his hands across his face, as though a human hand could ward off the hot flying pieces” which give the text a definite dark tone to the otherwise cheery mood. The likely explanation for a lack of graphic imagery is that the text was intended as a play and therefore severe injuries would be complicated to apply mid-performance.

Birdsong alternatively is a fairly graphic novel, Faulks was not afraid to describe in detail the shear horror and physical grotesque of war. As Birdsong is a novel the inclusion of such description is far more practical than in the play format of A Journey’s End. Faulks uses violent imagery to captivate the reader, well-described events can be easily imagined by the reader and therefore creates far more involvement with the characters and settings. “His nose dangled and Stephan could see his teeth through the missing cheek” is a good example of violent imagery that is very effective in drawing the reader in. The far greater amount of violence in Birdsong is likely to be because the text was published far after the war, Faulks was far more informed about the war and he did not have to worry about causing public upset.

An element that plays big parts in both texts is the loss of battlefield friends and the deaths of family
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