How does one analyze Winifred Mary Letts' poems, especially "The Call to Arms in Our Street"?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As we are limited to space, below is a discussion of Winifred Mary Letts' poem, "The Call to Arms in Our Street." When analyzing her work, it helps to understand what time period she is referring to. After that, you can then take a further look at things like her imagery and diction to see just exactly what she is saying about the time period. Letts was an adult at the start of World War I and worked in army camps in Manchester, UK. The poem "The Call to Arms in Our Street" is a perfect depiction of the men leaving home to go to war and all of the irony that accompanies it.

She uses many diction choices, such as the words "sobs," "heart," and "leave" to perfectly depict the grief the women feel who are left behind by the men who have been called into action, as we see in her first stanza:

There's a woman sobs her heart out,
With her head against the door,
For the man that's called to leave her. (1-3)

She even captures future grief by describing a woman "who stands watching / For the last look of her son" (17-18). Since it is the mother's "last look," we know Letts is foreshadowing the fact that the son does not return home from the war.

Beyond capturing the feelings of grief the war induced, she also captured the irony surrounding the war. For instance, she uses the lines, "So it's beat, drums, beat; / But who'll find them food to eat?," to capture the irony of the fact that all the men have been sent out to fight off evil and defend their country and, yet, the men leave their homes completely defenseless (13-14). While they're off fighting a world war, their families are left to fend for themselves and go hungry.

A further ironic truth she captures is that up until World War I, humanity had a pressing belief that war was glorious, that it was glorious to fight and glorious to defend one's ideals and country, even if a person died fighting. This belief stemmed from the Ancient Greeks and Romans and even continued on throughout the ages. However, the intense violence of World War I changed this perspective. When far fewer men returned home than went out, humanity finally began to question the virtue of war. Letts uses many images to portray the old view of war, including capturing the sound of the military bands as the men are marched off to war, as we see in the repeated lines, "But it's beat, drums, beat, .... And it's blow, trumpets, blow." She even further captures the old perspective of war in the final stanza in which she describes a young girl giddy and laughing as she watches the men pass because "she thinks a war is grand" (26). However, Letts contrasts the perspective that "war is grand" against the grief war causes in the earlier stanzas, showing us the irony of war. In other words, she is showing us it is ironic that so many have believed that "war is grand" when war leaves behind so much grief and suffering.

neptunee | Student

*following. ** Having.

Very sorry for the typoes, wrote this question 5 AM in the morning, whilst trying to find analysis for these poems. Thanks again for your help.