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How does your response to Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate” make you reassess your reaction to war memorials in your own country?

Siegfried Sassoon’s poem “On Passing the New Menin Gate” raises a crucial perspective on the deadly reality of war. He highlights how war memorials romanticise the idea of war and do little to memorialise the individuals who fought and died. On my first reading, I was taken back by this poem, it stood out to me amongst the other poems and texts purely for the reason that it subtly hints at the inevitability of human conflict. Lines nine and ten contrasts the First World War as “the world’s worst wound” from the personified Gateway’s pride in displaying the names of the dead. The memorial represents a failure to reflect on the harsh reality and truth of war. In particular it represents the active choice to celebrate the sacrifices of individuals after they have been made, rather than prevent them altogether.  

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