What would form an analysis of "Not My Best Side" by U.A Fanthorpe, "Suicide in the Trenches" by Siegfried Sassoon and "Flying the Flag in Bosnia" by Derek Power?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One point of analysis in the three poems is how each constructs the "outsider/ insider" dynamic.  In this dynamic, there is a clear distinction between those who possess power and voice and those who are denied it.  Such a reality is an integral part of the three poems.  In Fanthorpe's "Not My Best Side," the speaker, who is the subject of a painting and thus representative of an "insider," actually speaks the words of an outsider.  The poetic voice opens the poem with the words of someone whose real voice has been silenced: "Not my best side, I'm afraid./ The artist didn't give me a chance to/ Pose properly..." The "outsider" feel to the poem is confirmed with the delving into the protagonist's thoughts in the opening of the second stanza:  "It's hard for a girl to be sure if/ She wants to be rescued."  This line represents how voice and power are denied by both social convention and the rendering of the artist. The subject of the painting does not experience power and autonomy.  Rather, she experiences a sense of being forlorn and distant from that which is around her.  At the end of the poem, the outsider reality is evidenced in how the speaker does not experience a condition of power, something that can be related to a universal condition of fragmentation:

So why be difficult?
Don't you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don't
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don't you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You're in my way.

The reality of the outsider/ insider dynamic is a strong point of analysis and understanding in Fanthorpe's work.

This analysis can continue in Power's "Flying the Flag in Bosnia."  Similar to the subject in Fanthorpe's poem, the mother in Power's poem lacks power and a sense of control and identity in the world around her.  The reality of war has separated her from her child, and, as a result, she lacks a sense of voice and power:  As the mother is "slumped by the cross" and with a face that is "hidden by her hands," it is clear that she is the outsider.  She is the voice that the war has forgotten, similar to Fanthorpe's subject who was silenced by the artist and the world that wishes to see her in a particular light.  The mother in Power's poem is left to mourn.  She is powerless in her mourning.  Socially, her voice is further silenced through the stoic patriotism that she is to assume because her son was lost in war.  The ending of the poem reveals a social silencing of voice under this guise of patriotism:

Creases still crisp from the iron,
Is unfurled by the wind
Like a flag,
In a country which already has
Too many. 

Power's poem reveals that the mothers and those who lose loved ones in war are the outsiders.  They lie beyond accounting and their voices are discarded as simply sad casualties of war.

The silencing of voice is what creates the reality of the outsider.  In analyzing both poems, there is a clear arbiter of power, individuals who have it, and those who do not, the outsiders.  Fanthorpe's artist and social setting and Power's national ethos which embraces war are representations of the insider, while the subject of the poem and the grieving mother are the outsiders.  Siegfried Sassoon's "Suicide in the Trenches" amplifies this condition.  For Sassoon, the outsider are the individuals who do not have to experience "the hell where youth and laughter go" and are able to pass judgment with ease about the condition of war. This would include those who wage it and those who "cheer when soldier lads march by," and yet "sneak home."  For Sassoon, the painful experience of the outsider is confirmed with the young soldier, unaware of what they have undertaken and completely overwhelmed by the reality that envelops them.  Sassoon illuminates this condition of the outsider as one who "Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, /And whistled early with the lark."  Their innocence and purity are shattered through the conditions of war.  It is in this light where Sassoon draws out the soldier as the outsider and the world that fails to acknowledge their condition as the insiders who are able to have their voice validated at the cost of those who must pay a very hefty price as a result of deliberate silence.  Analyzing Sassoon's poem in this light reveals its intensity, but also enables a fuller study to take place with Power's and Fanthorpe's works.

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