Analysis of ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae

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It was during the First World War that Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Lieutenant wrote the poem” In Flanders Field”. It is basically a war poem written on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.


This poem acts as a remembrance, a call for those living not to forget the dead who are buried in a foreign land. It demands that the people living remember why the fallen died so that they did not die in vain. This is one of the most famous poems of the First World War.

In Flanders Fields Analysis

It is in the very first stanza of the poem that the setting and tone have been represented by presenting the contrasts of poppies growing among crosses and birds’ songs drowned out by gunfire. Poppy plays a significant role in this poem. The shift from the ground to the sky in the last half of this stanza broaden the poem’s visual range and adds sound to the sights that have been presented.

At the same time, however, the perspective is also on the ground, “amid the guns.” This creates an unsettling effect, like a Cubist painting; with the reader being able to take in several points of view simultaneously. This change in perspective is noticeable enough in open places like a war.

It is in the very next stanza that the reference is not very clear in fact quite vague: the twisted syntax and the vagueness of what it means to have “our” places “marked” pushes the speakers’ identity away from the reader. The second stanza, though, leaves no question about who is speaking.

Not only do the Dead speak the poem—the word is capitalized to make them a specific group, not just a general category, but also the speakers are identified as recently slain soldiers

The last six lines of “In Flanders Fields “appears to the readers as something different. We come across a sense of sadness in the first two stanzas whereas the third stanza appears to be defiant. It is like the first two stanza deals with something physical and third deals with a physical element. The first two stanza mainly deals with the fact of the end of the poet’s lives, and the last one deals with those lives being carried on symbolically. The poem first installs the fear of pity and the crisis of death during the war and then it counters the feeling by providing the readers a chance to fight against that feeling by holding the “torch”.

In Flanders Fields Themes

Death

McCrae in many of his poem wrote about death in his poems even if the main theme was not warred.it is a fascination with the subject of death that he portrayed death so realistically in his poems. The use of imagery and personification in his poems made sure that the theme of death is very much relevant in the poem. This theme is particularly relevant in a war poem where we come across the death of soldiers and other people for the sake of attaining something.


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The poem not only gives the readers a normal and plain information of death or war in the poem. The poet throughout the poetry intertwines these nature images with related images from the sphere of human interaction. It is important to note that the poem uses the images of the poppies, which are growing between the crosses to produce an effect of death’s stillness.

Revenge

The poem can be termed as a piece of propaganda and propaganda, in this case, it is the poem, which is used to stir up a form of empathy for the speaker and the greatest anger towards his enemy.

This poem no doubt encourages a reader to take up actions against their foe. It is in the first nine lines that death is introduced as a kind of peace but it is important to note that it denies that peace to the dead soldiers if the war is not fought with the enemy. It is through the vague mention of guns in the first two stanzas that the sense of conflict is introduced to the readers.

In Flanders Fields Style and Tone

It is the genius of the poet that we come across the highly specialized form of poetry known as the rondeau. We know the rondeau as a French form and it is described as a member of what is known as the “Rondeau family”. This “Rondeau family” mostly comprises of the triolet, the rondel, and the rondelet.

What the readers come across in the poem is that it follows the typical pattern of rondeau as we see only two specific sounds, which alternate at the end of the lines. All the lines in the poem except the words “blow” and “sky” have rhymes and it is through them the poem’s initial phase is repeated.

The lines of the poem are mostly flooded with the use of enjambed hence the lines of the poem do not end with pauses for punctuation, instead it carries over into the next following lines. It is by using this form the meaning is smoothly continued in the poem and the readers come across a sense of continuity while reading the poem.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. The poem was effectively used to recruit soldiers for the sudden popularity it gathered. The references made to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the fact that it became one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in a war and have given their lives for the sake of attaining something significant. The poem acts as a form of permanent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth Nations and especially in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best-known literary works. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Memorial Day.

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