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The Rear-Guard by Siegfried Sassoon

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1 The Rear-Guard by Siegfried Sassoon

2 Overview The Rear-Guard was written in 1917 while Sassoon was convalescing. It would have been about the same time he met Wilfred Owen.

3 Overview Longer and a little more difficult than the previous two poems, The Rear-Guard is a fictional account of a soldier’s experience in the ‘rear-guard’ (any soldier – the impersonal pronoun ‘he’ is used). Rear-guard troops are traditionally responsible for protecting the vulnerable positions behind the front-line.

4 Overview Through the soldier’s experience, the true horror of war is witnessed. In this respect it is not dissimilar to Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. It is a poem keen to give the reader a sense of the reality – the almost clumsy changes in meter and rhyme, various uses of alliteration, assonance and sibilance create brief but dissonant bursts like gunfire. It is a very different poem to the simple anti-establishmentarianism of They or The Hero.

5 Overview It is a busy and confused poem – lots seems to happen. As with many of Sassoon’s poems, speech is used – how does speech differ here compared with They or The Hero?

6 Subject & Theme Form and Structure Make a list under each heading.
What is the poem’s form and structure?

7 Language In pairs, pick three key quotes. Explain very carefully why you have chosen them.

8 Context Pick out at least one thing that satisfies AO4 – contextual detail.

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