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Discuss Ways in Which Thomas Presents Patriotism in ‘This Is No Case of Petty Right or Wrong’.

In: English and Literature

Submitted By genbrown
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‘This is no case of petty right or wrong
That politicians or philosophers
Can judge.’
Discuss ways in which Thomas presents patriotism in ‘This is no case of petty right or wrong’.
In your answer, explore the effects of language, imagery and verse form, and consider how this poem relates to other poems by Thomas that you have studied.
Written on 26th December 1915, Thomas had been serving in the army for six months; however he had not yet been overseas and had been based in hare Hall, Gidea Park in Essex as a map reading instructor. It is believed that the basis for writing this poem appears to be Thomas thinking back to the initial stages of the war, where he was contemplating to enlist or not, where he was undecided over his sense of duty towards his country over his responsibility for his family along with his desire to follow his literacy career. Along with this reminiscence of his original decision to enlist, Thomas may have also been thinking about his current position in the army, and deciding whether or not his service in England was substantial, or whether he should volunteer overseas.
The poem opens immediately with ‘petty’ – a bold affirmation that is emphasised by the idea that war is much more complicated than black and white that the ‘politicians and philosophers’ would encourage us to believe. It appears that Thomas criticises those who attempt to encourage nationalism and passion by almost creating hatred toward the German people. He states that the guilty parties are the ‘newspapers’ and they spout patriotism yet they do nothing to help to country themselves, therefore their laziness has made them ‘fat’.
He then goes on to tell the reader that he feels more ‘hatred’ towards these alleged patriots, who are seen to be using positive propaganda to almost remove the life from the nation, more than he feels hatred towards the Kaiser. Describing him as a ‘kind of god’, he believed that the Kaiser is almost a holy figure, and enters into way only to protect their way of life, therefore adding to the sense of patriotism and to fight for one’s country throughout this poem.
Thomas feels that he has been deafened by the noise of the war, and he therefore cannot make sense of any arguments for or against the war anymore; his confusion is compared to trees in a ‘storm’. This metaphor could represent the uproars of battle he is to face; and the ‘smoke’ being caused by the gun fire.
The ‘roar’ from the ‘witches cauldrons’ is added into all the endless noise within the first section of the poem. This image could have been taken from Macbeth by William Shakespeare, where the witches first appear in the midst of a thunderstorm. These witches are able to predict the future, and although they initially see Macbeth as promising, their realisation eventually brings about his downfall. Thomas’s ‘cauldrons’ in ‘This is no case of petty right or wrong’ predict a ‘clear and gay’ future, which is ‘beautiful’, yet he reminds the reader that for this idyllic image to be brought about, the Old England must die.
Along with the Macbeth reference, Thomas included another Shakespearean reference which is reminiscent of the patriotic speeches in Henry V- the poet states that he stands alone with ‘the best and meanest Englishmen’, in his quest to save his country as such a loss could never be mended. It is as if he believes he is connected with his country and he is comforted and has ‘trust’ in it. He claims that if such a love as his towards a country and his desire to protect it results in hatred towards the enemy, then so be it. He does not love all ‘Englishmen’, nor does he ‘hate not Germans’, yet his desire to protect his beloved England shines out above anything.
Written at the end of 1915, which was after Thomas enlisted, this poem is almost certainly a justification of his decision to enter the war. What he states is that it is to protect his beloved England which he feels the necessity to defeat the ‘foe’, is greater than any protestations of politicians and philosophers, journalists and historians.
This poem is also believed to be a criticism of other poets and writers who were publishing at the same time. At once stage, Thomas had been publically critical of Rupert Brooke and his work, accusing him of being arrogant and self-promoting. Even though both Thomas and Brooke had been members of the small band of Georgina poets, the Dymock Group, it supports the idea that to Thomas, the war was not about men, it was about preserving England’s future.
The tone of this poem, much like many other of Thomas’s work, is patriotic, with reference to his country, instead of the war, is in some ways, similar to Julian Grenfell’s ‘Into Battle’. Both of these poems pay tribute to the idea of protecting and fighting for one’s country. However, Grenfell writes this poem from a soldier’s perspective. Much to Thomas’s disagreement, Grenfell thought little of those who didn’t enlist and he believed that dying for your country was greater than refusing to fight. Thomas, on the other hand, believed that the heroic nature of going to war is of little importance in comparison to the continuation of the way of life which he held so dear. This is no case of petty right or wrong has a much more optimistic tone than As the Team’s Head Brass. There are much less fewer images of negativity toward the war; England is described as ‘beautiful and clear’ and worthy of rescue, whereas in As the Team’s Head Brass displays the consequences of war to be more negative and irreparable.…...

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