Compare ‘The Hyaenas’ with ‘War’. What shock tactics are used to get across a message about war and why did the poet use them? Both poems, ‘The Hyaenas’ and ‘War’ use shock tactics to get the message across about war. Kipling and Wallace have used some similar shock tactics in both of these poems, the most obvious being the different topics and focuses of them. Secondly, the imagery in the two poems has a shocking effect on the reader. Both poems also use the word ‘it’ referring to the dead soldiers. The tense in which the poems are written also effect the reader, but in different ways.
The behaviour of the hyaenas in ‘The Hyaenas’, is shocking as the reader is not expecting bodies of recently buried soldiers to be dug up for food. Similarly, in ‘War’, the surgeon’s behaviour comes across as a shock to the reader as he seems to be quite disrespectful towards the dying soldier showing how war can affect people. In the ‘Hyaenas’, Kipling describes how these scavengers would dig up and eat newly buried soldiers. This topic alone is a very strong shock tactic as it seems almost unreal. As readers, we are not usually used to such things happening and are therefore horrified at the reality of the poem.
In ‘War’, Wallace illustrates the horrible effects of war by describing a surgeon’s attempt to heal a severely wounded and dying soldier. This effects the reader as it portrays the cruel reality of war and sadness it creates for the soldiers’ families. The imagery in both of the poems has a very strong effect on the reader, although it is arguable that ‘War’ has more imagery. In ‘The Hyaenas’, the dead soldiers are described as not being able to lift a hand to defend themselves from being eaten. This gives a sad and pathetic image, making the reader feel sorry for the helpless bodies being treated as food.
The imagery used to illustrate how the hyaenas pull the soldiers out of the grave is effective as it shows how these dogs see the bodies – not as people, but as food. “Take good hold in the army shirt” demonstrates that they drag the bodies with no consideration or respect for them. This can be horrifying to the reader as this is certainly how we would treat a dead soldier. In ‘War’, three simple nouns start the lines of each verse. The simplicity of these lines helps the reader focus on the surroundings in the scene of this poem, which prepares them for the shocking incident to come.
“Mangled work of a gun” exemplifies that the gun’s work is the casualty on the table. The word mangled gives the impression that the body is in an awful and distorted state and portrays the seriousness of the casualty’s injuries. The quote “The flickering light of a soul” demonstrates that the candle in the “bottle that’s stuck by the pole” represents the life of the soldier. The candle is nearly out and as is the life of the soldier. This imagery is effective as it suggests that the soldier’s time is running out like the candle, and it can’t be stopped.
Both poems use the word ‘it’ referring to the dead soldiers. In ‘The Hyaenas’, the dogs regard the soldiers as ‘it’ as they are unaware of what they are doing. To them, the bodies are just an easy source of food, nothing more nothing less. This can make the reader angry that the soldiers are being referred to in this way, as it is considered disrespectful. Kipling has used this shock tactic, not to show how awful the hyaenas are, but to show that it is our fault that this is happening and exactly what war does.
Similarly, in ‘War’, the word ‘it’ is used by the surgeon referring to the nameless body. Wallace has used this word to emphasise the fact that the surgeon goes through these similar stages every day and is therefore used seeing people die regularly. It may seem to the reader that the surgeon does not have any respect for the soldier by naming him ‘it’ but in fact, the reasoning for Wallace to choose this tactic is significant. Calling the soldier ‘it’ instead of ‘him’ illustrates the fact that the surgeon’s attitude towards his patients has been changed by the war.
It implies that once the soldier is dead, he is no longer important or worth worrying over as it happens all the time. However, the author of the poem does not want the reader to hate the surgeon, but he wants the reader to see what war does to people other than the soldiers and how it changes them. ‘The Hyaenas’ is written in the simple present tense. This gives the effect that the incidents have a regular occurrence. This shocks the reader as they know that what is happening shouldn’t be happening and there is nothing being done to stop it.
Kipling has used this effect to illustrate how often this horrifying event occurs, emphasising the sadness of the poem. This is the similar case with ‘War’. The poem is written also in the present tense and this adds realism to the events as the reader feels as if they are there when everything is happening. Wallace has chosen to do this because it encourages the reader to believe in what they are reading is actually happening at the time they are reading it. Finally the behaviour of the main characters in these two poems are examples of shock tactics the authors have both chosen to affect their audience.
In ‘The Hyaenas’, the dogs treat the soldiers as food and this is shown through the description given by Kipling. The quote “To take account of the dead” indicates that the hyaenas’ soul interest is numerical, not personal. This shocks the reader as this is not the way in which humans would treat dead bodies and their behaviour is totally disrespectful towards them. A strong message is brought across to the reader throughout the poem, indicating that the hyaenas are not to blame, but it is us humans who have caused this dismay.
This is shown through the hyaenas’ behaviour; “Who being soulless are free from shame” explains that the hyaenas have no soul and cannot feel like humans do. This line’s purpose is to avoid the reader from laying the blame on the hyaenas, who are acting how animals act naturally. The quote “Nor do they defile the dead man’s name” shows that this behaviour is not an insult to the dead as the dogs know no better, and that only man can insult. In ‘War’ the surgeon has no relationship with the patient and does not seem to treat him as a person.
This may shock the reader into thinking how callous the surgeon is and how uncaring he is towards his patients. However, I think that the surgeon has been portrayed in this way to show the damaging effects the war has on people. If the surgeon familiarised with every patient he would suffer from loss when a patient dies, and perhaps this ‘inhumane’ behaviour is to take his mind off of the reality of war. When he says “Orderly, clean this knife! ” the reader is shocked to see how the surgeon reacts after the death of his patient. It seems that the death has no effect on him at all and shows no emotion.
This behaviour also implies that he has become used to seeing soldiers die. Wallace has chosen for the surgeon to behave in this way, again to show how war affects not only the soldiers, but others too and what a cruel affect it has on them. In conclusion, the shock tactics used by Kipling and Wallace in these two poems help convey the effect war has on people and how we as humans are to blame for it. These messages are expressed through, the topic of the poems, the behaviour of the characters, the imagery used, the tense in which they are written and the choice of words.