Siegfried Sassoon

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Describe the significance of the title of the poem “Does It Matter" by Siegfried Sassoon.

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The significance of this poem's title hinges on its historical context: Siegfried Sassoon was one of a number of early twentieth-century writers whose work rose out of their experiences fighting in World War I. In much of Europe, this war created a sense of profound disillusionment with the modern world, both because of the role that modern nationalism had played in sparking the fighting and because modern weaponry had led to an unprecedented and horrific loss of life. On the broadest level, then, Sassoon's question echoes the pervading mood of the postwar era. The "it" in the poem's title is non-specific; although Sassoon goes on to mention several things it could refer to (lost limbs, blindness, etc.), we can also read it as a stand-in for the entire post-WWI world, where nothing seems to matter.

Digging deeper, however, it is clear that Sassoon thinks the war and its effects do matter. The repeated juxtaposition of the somewhat flippant question "does it matter?" with brutal images of war's violence (e.g. "losing your legs") is intentionally jarring; we instinctively feel that something so awful does matter, and we stop short (1). Sassoon further heightens our discomfort by writing in a sing-song (mostly anapestic) meter and employing words that feel trivial, empty, or overly cheerful in context; read against "losing your sight," for instance, the description of the available work as "splendid" comes across as sarcastic (6, 7). The poem's title, then, is bitter and ironic; Sassoon suggests that the things he describes do matter, as much as people would like to explain them away or minimize them as noble, patriotic sacrifices.

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