Click 'read more' for a brief analysis of Siegfried Sassoon's 'Does it Matter?', which is often studied by students as part of a unit on war of as Close Study of Text. It makes a great related text for anyone studying Wilfred Owen, and it is excellent for English-minded people who are trying to wrap their minds around the physical and psychological effects of WWI on soldiers. If you are the latter, I thoroughly recommend you read Wilfred Owen's poetry, too. Please keep in mind that there is more to this poem - make sure you analyse it in detail yourself if you have an assignment due.
The poem ‘Does it Matter?’ emphasises the lasting physical and psychological effects of war on soldiers in order to challenge society’s propaganda-fuelled view that war was glorious. The title and the repetition of this rhetorical question emphasises the pointlessness of war while leading the responder to question their own attitudes about war. The combination of rhetorical questioning and direct address in the line “does it matter?- losing your legs?” further supports this purpose by shocking the reader and forcing them to confront the horrific outcomes of war. The reader is forced to turn their attention away from the glory of war to the very real consequences of war – in particular, physical disability. The effects of disability are explored throughout the poem through the use of irony in the repetition of “people will always be kind,” which creates a sense of helplessness that contrasts dramatically/powerfully with the glorious image of the strong soldier presented by the propaganda of the time.
Physical disability is further emphasised through the representation of the soldier’s blindness, which is initially introduced by the rhetorical question “Does it matter? – losing your sight?”. This question is followed by the ironic statement “There’s such splendid work for the blind,” which confronts the reader by mimicking and ridiculing society’s ignorance of the psychological effects of becoming disabled. This creates a tone of outrage and evokes an empathetic response from the reader. It also leads the reader to question their own attitudes towards disabled veterans and towards the war itself. The juxtaposition between “blind” and “light” in the poem further emphasises the effects of disability. Thought the idea of “turning your face to the light” is symbolic of hope – as this reflects the life warmth of the sun – this is juxtaposed with the suggested darkness of “the pit.” As such, the reader gains the impression that even though this man is alive and therefore has some hope of living a good life, he is also limited by his disability and his memories of the war: “you sit on the terrace remembering… dreams in the pit…” This reveals that no matter how far he may be from war, he is constantly haunted by the experience. The audience is confronted here with the lasting psychological effects of war, which contributes to Sassoon’s overall purpose, which is to challenge society’s perceptions of the glorious nature of war. Instead, the reader is forced to engage with the soldier’s ongoing struggle, and his need to escape his memories: “you can drink and forget.”
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