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Current grade - M5
Question - describe at least one language feature in a written text. explain how the language feature(s) linked to a wider world view.

In the poem ‘What were they like?’ by Denise Levertov, the poet wants us to understand that war causes not only catastrophic physical damage, but also profound loss of culture. A war as long and damaging as the Vietnam war has left a country which can barely remember their life and customs before. Levertov’s poem conveys this idea effectively through a variety of language features.

Although at first glance Levertov’s poetic structure poses as unusual, upon further inspection we begin to see her clever use of juxtaposition throughout it. The poem opens with a series of specific questions, such as; “did the people of Viet Nam have an epic poem?” or “use bone, ivory, jade or silver to make decorative ornaments?”. This first speaker can be interpreted in many ways, however it is likely the author’s purpose was to depict them as a historian or anthropologist - someone who wanted to be able to characterize the people of Vietnam and what was lost with them. However, the speaker of the second stanza seems unable to answer these questions with anything more than a supposition, using phrases such as “perhaps” and “it is not remembered”. These answers refuse closure, and highlight how the only people who could say for sure no longer exist. By juxtaposing historical inquiry with answers that resist certainty, Levertov cleverly communicates just how much about the Vietnamese during this period remains unknown. Any knowledge is suspect because it is at best incomplete. All such knowledge only underlines how much remains unknown, and the unknowable nature of what was lost.

Levertov uses numerous language features, however her haunting use of metaphors is particularly highlighted in the second half of the poem. By using metaphorical language in the sentence “perhaps they gathered once in delighted blossom, but after all their children were killed, there were no more buds’ Levertov is able to convey just how devastating a conflict as severe as the Vietnamese war can be. Referencing words such as ‘blossom’ and ‘buds’ we positively connotate with youth and purity helps us to comprehend the immense loss of innocent lives. It becomes clear that the author is aiming to illustrate how often in war the line between civilian and soldier becomes blurred. From this quote we can also understand the effect this war has had on the Vietnamese people even generations after its closure, as the younger generation which had promised Vietnam a bright future has been wiped out, leaving their culture unable to ‘blossom’.

Another clever use of language features in the poem ‘What Were They Like?’ is the author’s inclusion of alliteration. The quote “when bombs smashed the mirrors, there was only time to scream” has a series of sharp ‘t’ and hissing ‘s’ sounds. My interpretation of Levertov’s aim through this is to replicate the sensory enslaughtment that the Vietnamese people had to witness. The sharpness of the words being read out aloud also represents just how quickly the event played out, which is also depicted in the sentence itself. This use of alliteration combined with the context of the quote adds further depth to Levertov’s writing, and connects us to the event as we are given an insight into the utter horror people witness in war.

In conclusion, What Were They Like? Written by Denise Lovertov is a powerful poem that through language features effectively brings across a message of how war affects societies, and how one can never truly comprehend the hardships of war without having experienced it.

Kia ora - welcome to Studyit

Intro - think about signposting your argument a little better - you might name the language features here, and also consider breaking down “wider world view” - is this the same as an idea? It might be but you could make this a bit clearer. This is a stylistic thing - but you could consider starting the intro with a hook, which might be a broad statement, or a quote from someone that is related to the idea you are talking about, or a fact about the Vietnam war, etc.

Reading through this - your discussion of the features themselves are quite good. To improve, you need to be more specific about the “wider world view” - you need to consider more what that “view” is - and is the view being supported or challenged for example - and build this into what you have said about what is shown. You have written as though it is synonymous with theme/idea, but it is not necessarily. This is a slightly tricky question because of this nuance. You could also think about how a common worldview of the time the poem is written was reflected (what were common beliefs in society at the time and how are they seen here, or perhaps, how is this view still reflected/not reflected today). Is this poet an anti war poet? Was this a common stance at the time? Try to avoid statements like “this adds further depth” - as this is not relevant to the question, and is quite a vague statement.

Your style and structure is great - you need to work on breaking down and addressing the question with balance.