Contrast and Similarity in “The Death of a Soldier” and “Two Soldiers” Essay Sample
War changes not only the world, but the people who fight for their countries. Soldiers must sacrifice many things to go to war: family ties, time, morals, beliefs, and often, ultimately death. Two works, Wallace Stevens’ “The Death of a Soldier” and William Faulkner’s “Two Soldiers” succinctly examine both war and its effect on the soldiers who fight in it. While the two authors’ opinions of the endurance of war are similar, their subsequent beliefs as to the purpose of a soldiers’ death are distinctly different.
In Wallace Stevens’ “The Death of a Soldier”, the poet likens war, which cannot occur without death, to such perennial things as nature and seasons. As surely as death must come to everyone, as surely as times passes and autumn makes its annual appearance, so does war occur and so will it cause numerous deaths. As nature is indifferent to human sorrow in that the winds may stop blowing but clouds will still move, so is war; the death of soldier will not ultimately affect the end of fighting. As autumn is natural, death in war is unnatural. Stevens’ view of war, then, can be interpreted as an essential part of life in this world but the soldiers who die to defend this world ultimately go unheralded. Their deaths requires no pomp, no celebration or fame. The soldier is just one piece, often forgotten, of the effects of war.
In William Faulkner’s “Two Soldiers”, the author presents participation in war as a patriotic duty performed by those who exhibit an ultimate love for their country. Pete is compelled to fight for his country, while his father, who has already participated in the first World War and fought for his country, is more concerned with himself and farming his land. Pete’s father does not “see a bit of use” (85) in his son joining the army to fight in the second World War. Pete’s mother, too, is understanding of her son’s motivation but not the forces which deem it necessary, “You got to go, and so I want you to go. But I don’t understand it, and I won’t never, so don’t expect me to” (85). Faulkner is showing that a soldier’s family is often guided by their own selfishness and love for their offspring instead of being motivated by what is good for the country as a whole. War is to be expected, and it is the duty of a country’s citizens to fight in that war.
Both authors seem to agree that war is a necessity, akin to the passage of the seasons and the natural occurrences of a day. As Pete’s younger brother claims in “Two Soldiers”, the daylight “had started while I wasn’t watching” (87). And so time goes on, war or no. And Stevens also makes this same type of reference in the lines “The clouds go, nevertheless, In their direction”. The two works acknowledge the endurance of war and the existence of soldiers to fight it.
Faulkner seems inclined to endorse patriotism. In showing the two generations of soldiers, he emphasizes that while one (the father) is no long inclined to believe in the heroism of becoming a soldier, the other (Pete) is so filled with a sense of patriotism that he instills in his little brother these same ideals. Stevens, conversely, points out the lack of fanfare which will accompany the death of a soldier on the battlefield; his patriotism will make no difference.
Both authors maintain in their works that there exists a certain reciprocity between the heroism of a soldier and victory for his country. As the soldier will risk his life, so will his country be at risk without victory in war. As a necessary fact of life, war will take the lives of soldiers, whether the motivation is due to love of country or simply duty.