Siegfried Sassoon

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Please give a brief summary of content of "Hero" by Siegfried Sassoon. "Hero" by Siegfried Sassoon 'Jack fell as he'd have wished,' the Mother said,And folded up the letter that she'd read. 'The Colonel writes so nicely.' Something brokeIn the tired voice that quavered to a choke.She half looked up. 'We mothers are so proudOf our dead soldiers.' Then her face was bowed.Quietly the Brother Officer went out.He'd told the poor old dear some gallant liesThat she would nourish all her days, no doubt.For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyesHad shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,Because he'd been so brave, her glorious boy.He thought how 'Jack', cold-footed, useless swine,Had panicked down the trench that night the mineWent up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care Except that lonely woman with white hair.

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This, like many of Sassoon's poems, concerns the reality of war and cuts through the myths of heroism and nobility like a hot knife going through butter. Let us consider how Sassoon achieves presenting war as a colossal waste of life but also how he shows that the lies of heroism are preserved, and, indeed, propagated.

Sassoon chooses to base his poem around one soldier having to deliver the news of a soldier's death to his mother. The mother begins the poem being overwhelmed by her loss but also by the pride that she expresses over what her son, Jack, did, and how he met his end bravely. However, in the second stanza, as the soldier leaves, he reflects that he had told the woman some "gallant lies" and how these "lies" had made the old woman's eyes shine with "gentle triumph" and brim "with joy." The last stanza recalls the exact manner of the death of this Jack. Instead of the glorious death he has shared with the old woman, the soldier reflects how Jack was, in reality, a "cold-footed, useless swine" who had met an incredibly inglorious end: being blown to bits as he panicked. However, the greater tragedy is expressed in the last two lines:

And no one seemed to care

Except that lonely woman with white hair.

The horrendous loss of life is thus highlighted, combined with the indifferent response to the many many individual tragedies.

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