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Six Young Men by Ted Hughes

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by

James Fincher

on 13 April 2014

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Transcript of Six Young Men by Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
Hughes was born on the 17th August 1930 in West Riding of Yorkshire. His father (William) served in the first world war in the Lancashire Fusiliers, surviving the battle of Ypres. William escaped a near death experience when a bullet lodged into his paybook kept in his breast pocket. Ted also took part in national service between 1949-1951. At school he had been always encouraged to write and won an open exhibition in English at Cambridge.
Context
Six Young Men
by Vicky and James
Six Young Men by Ted Hughes
Summary of Six Young Men
The poem is describing a photograph of Six Young Men, friends and soldiers alike, who died together in the war. This poem explains how three of these soldiers died whilst the narrator is unaware of how the other three comrades died, showing the lack of identity possessed by the individual soldier. This is also outlined by how the soldiers are nameless. The first was shot in an attack, left stranded in wire, to die a long painful death. The second died gallantly trying to save the first and the third died recklessly and without reason in the trench by a snipers bullet. These six young men were never allowed to grow old due to the consequences of war.
Structure of Six Young Men
The poem is constructed of five stanzas, each with 9 lines and no specific rhyme scheme (or not that we can tell). Enjambment is used in every stanza to continue the narration of the poem, to make it seem more personal and more of a story. The use of hyphens, commas, semi-colons and colons creates suspense and separates words and lines which convey the idea of memories and reflection of these soldiers who shall not grow old. There is a distorted rhythm that comes from the emotion felt by the narrator who once knew these young men.
Form of Six Young Men
The form represents a feeling of remembrance and mourning for the unidentified soldiers. It shows how time has moved forward, how landscapes have recovered yet these men have been conscripted to death through the war.

"Four decades that have faded and ochre-tinged / This photograph have not wrinkled the faces or the hands."
Language analysis of Six Young Men
Repetition of 'Four decades' and 'Forty years' puts emphasis on how these men could have lived another forty years, they were killed before their time.
The emphasis and repetition put on the word 'Photograph' show reflection upon these men in the photograph.
'Forty years rotting into soil' and 'Into the hospital of his mangled last'- the decomposition of human bodies can be seen as gruesome and horrific and this exaggerates the inhumanity of the artificial deaths of war. It shows mans inhumanity to man.
'six celluloid smiles' is sibilance accentuating the difference between life and death.
In the first stanza, the narrator describes these men in all their glory and youth, to then end with an anti-climax telling us how they died not long after. This could be to show how unrelenting the death and destruction was.
Juxtaposition is featured throughout the poem through contrasting the photograph with the 'Six Young Men'.
'The celluloid of a photograph holds them well-' This conveys protection of the men which is ironic as the men in the photo are dead yet they still have a shield of protection over them.
'This photograph have not wrinkled the faces or the hands.' Time has progressed, the picture has changed colour-faded, however these men remain youthful, immaculate and happy in their ignorance.
'Nor prehistoric or, fabulous beast more dead;/No thought so vivid as their smoking-blood.' Romanticizes the unnecessary death of the young and innocent.
The casual repetition of 'This one' used thrice in stanza three singles out these young men dehumanising them by focusing solely on the circumstances of their deaths.
Themes and Ideas
The themes include; Futility, death and remembrance. Outlined by youth, mans inhumanity to man and the celluloid photograph. We believe this poem
to be anti-war.
Link to Subalterns
by Elizabeth Daryush

The reference to 'One' in both poems shows the loss of identity of the soldier.

'She said to one 'How light/must your freed heart be now' Suggesting a
double meaning of freedom
through death or release from
the war.
Link to Sergeant-Major Money
by Robert Graves

The link to the comradeship is shown in both poems, how they are united to their brothers in arms in life or death.

'It wasn't our battalion, but we lay along side it,'

'Six young men, familiar to their friends[...] Six months after this picture they were all dead.'
Link to 'When you see millions of the mouthless dead'
by Charles Sorely

Both poems dehumanise these soldiers and separates the reader.

'When you see millions of the
mouthless dead
'

'His mightier-than-a-man dead bulk and weight:'
Link to Anthem for Doomed Youth
by Wilfred Owen

Both dehumanise and take away the identity
of these young soldiers.

'What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?'

'Though their faces are four decades under the ground.' [...] 'Closer than their hope; all were killed.'

Link to The Hero
by Siegfried Sassoon

Both poems show the theme of reflection of a soldier/s lost to war.

"We mothers are so proud/Of our dead soldiers."

'One chews a grass, one lowers his eyes, bashful,/ One is ridiculous with cocky pride-'
Full transcript