Compare and contrast the ways that the physical,mental and societal horrors ofwar are presented in Birdsong and Journey’s End.
In the book Journey’s End, there are quite a few references to the extraordinary numbers of individuals killed on the battlefield. Quotes such as “One thousand eight hundred companies in France” are used to give the reader an idea of the vast amount of casualties. In this, the idea of war is made real to the reader through the virtual body count. The reader is continuously reminded of how horrific this particular war was as most of the readers would not have experienced this set of circumstances for themselves.
Journey’s End makes the massive death toll seem even more significant by introducing the fact that the Germans were in fact not so different from the allied forces, “I remember once at Wipers we had a man shot down…Next day we blew each other to blazes”. It would seem that no matter what happened, these two sides would inevitably and eventually still slaughter one another.
Similarly in Birdsong, there is a great deal of description detailing the amount of casualties. This is comparable to Journey’s End, where it is explained that the losses from both sides of the war are extensive. This quantification of death allows the reader to identify with the difference between the once living and the no longer living. It is an important element of the text to identify with what is happening by recognizing the heaviness of death. An example of this is the death of Levi’s brother towards the end of the novel. Another example in comparison is the death of the men in Ypres in Journey’s End.
It is explained in Birdsong that Levi and the rest of the German soldiers are examples of how similar the two sides are. On the inverse, it is an interesting contrast of one side from another, both being products of their leadership. The difference between these two sides can then be distinguished by their leaders, as they must follow the commands that they are given.