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An Poem Analysis Of “Hearing That His Friend Was Coming Back From The War” By Wang Chien

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In this poem, the poet describes a contemporary war which was more intense than those in the old days and the hopelessness for soldiers to come back from the war. When the speaker got the news that his friend, who saw service in that war, was coming back, he was then in an emotional conflict between the eagerness to see his friend returning from the war and the worry about if his friend was still alive or not because he understood the cruelty of the war.

A possible theme of this poem is the senselessness of the war and the hopelessness for soldiers to escape from that intense war. The purpose of the poem is to convey the speaker’s contradictory emotions on the fate of his friend on the battlefield.

This poem consists of one stanza of eighteen lines. There is a non-structural pattern in the arrangement of the lines. The poet first describes a war which is crueler than the previous (in the first four lines), followed by descriptions of the attributes of his friend (from the fifth line to the eighth line), and then his reactions to news that his friend was coming back from the war (from the ninth line to the end).

In the first four lines, only a third person plural pronoun �they’ is found within this few lines. This feature suggests that, perhaps, the speaker was not involved in the war. He acted as an outsider to describe the war. Word choices including 'fight', 'soldiers', 'die' and 'battlefield', have a reference to war. Then, from the fifth line to the eighth line, it begins to have the use of first person singular pronouns. A use of 'I' and 'you', which refer to the speaker and his friend respectively, is found in the fifth line. It shows the involvement of the speaker and his friend in the events beginning from the fifth line. Besides, more modifiers are used there to describe the speaker's friend. Examples are 'weak', 'indolent', 'hopelessly', 'young'. They all show the inexperience and weakness of his friend on the battlefield. From the ninth line on, there are more uses of the third person plural pronoun 'you' and 'your' which shows that most of the statements are related to the speaker's friend. In these lines, the poet described how weak the speaker’s friend was, then how worried and afraid he therefore was when considering if his friend was alive or not.

In this poem, some modal words are used in the presentation of the impossible escape from the war and the likelihood that his friend was still alive. Either high modal words or no modal word are/is found in the statements about the soldiers and the situation of the war. For examples, no modal word is used in “But in this war the soldiers are never changed;” and high modal word 'must' is used in “They must go on fighting till they die on the battlefield.” to give high certainty to soldiers losing their life on the battlefield. Noticing the long sentence “That a young man should ever come home again seemed about as likely as that the sky should fall.”, both a simile and high modal word вЂ?should’ are used here to exaggerate the returning of his friend as an impossible event and also to add emphasis on the little chance of survival. The speaker understood the impossibility for soldiers to come back from the war even though there was a news that his friend coming back from the war. That is why, when he talked about how he longed to see his friend, low modal words 'could' and 'might' are used in the sentence “I could shrink the surface of the world, so that suddenly I might find you standing at my side!” Although there is a strong sense of desire in this sentence, the use of low modal words signifies the uncertainty in the speaker's mind of whether he could see his friend again.

A prominent feature in this poem is the association of the characters to animation and inanimation. First, a large number of pronouns, such as the nominative and accusative pronouns вЂ?I’ and вЂ?you’ as well as the genitive pronoun вЂ?your’, are found throughout the lines. The pronoun 'I', which refers to the speaker, is mostly associated with material and mental verbs. Examples are “I thoughtвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ, “I foundвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ, “I go outвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ and “I got the newsвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ. The pronoun вЂ?your’, which refers to his friend, is mostly associated with inanimate items instead. Examples are вЂ?your home’, вЂ?your horse’s stall’ and вЂ?your new clothes’. This feature signifies that the speaker is a live person as he is described by words of action and thinking. The association of his friend with a lack of actions, however, means that he might had already died in the war. Second, the use of parallelism “I found your brother mending your horse's stall.” and “I found your mother sewing your new clothes.” also emphasizes the association of his friend to a lack of dynamics. It further signifies that his friend might have been dead in the war. Moreover, the speaker described his friend as “so weak and indolent”



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