i sing of olaf glad and big l.
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“I Sing Of Olaf Glad And Big”. By E.E Cummings. Meaning. The poem is about a man who is a strong pacifist and refuses to go to war to fight. A colonel takes him away and tries to convince him to go to war, but he refuses to comply. He is tortured yet still refuses to go to war.

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Presentation Transcript
  • The poem is about a man who is a strong pacifist and refuses to go to war to fight.
  • A colonel takes him away and tries to convince him to go to war, but he refuses to comply. He is tortured yet still refuses to go to war.
  • He does not resist the torture, but takes it, merely accepting what they are putting him through and not doing anything to prevent it. He doesn’t fight back physically, but fights back by staying true to his beliefs, and not giving in to them.
  • Eventually they gave up on him and left him to die as he wouldn’t agree to go to war whatever they put him through, he still refused, and stuck by his beliefs.
  • The narrator of the poem finishes by praising him, saying how he is brave and pure. It is indicated that he is braver than those who did go to war to fight for their country, as not only did he endure physical pain, but he went through the emotional trauma of being referred to as a coward and being made to believe that he is letting his country down. He did not die what was seen as a heroes death. He was not after honour, he was merely staying true to what he saw to be right.
  • The name given to the man who refuses to fight is “Olaf” which is actually a racist term.
  • When he uses the phrase “well beloved colonel” he is being sarcastic. He in fact hates the colonel.
  • He uses sarcasm again in the poem when he says “kindred intellects evoke allegiance per blunt instruments”. He is describing how stupid the other soldiers are, they are made to sound almost caveman like as they possess “blunt instruments”
  • He uses the word “corpse” to convey how he is dead to them, and its as if he has no emotion.
  • There is strong language in this poem, for example, “ I will not kiss your f.ck!ng flag”. This shocks the reader, and conveys just how strong and opinionated his views are.
  • There is reference to “Christ” in the poem, and the narrator says hw he wishes to see Christ when he dies, but also to see Olaf. This puts Olaf as having a God like status, and portrays him as a hero.
  • In the last line Olaf is described as being “blond”. This is not reference to the hair colour, but instead is a racist term meaning pure.
  • The fact that he is referred to as “Olaf” suggests that they have associated him with this racist term as they want to disown him as they are embarrassed by what they view to be cowardice. Its as if the narrator of the poem uses the term in a sarcastic way, as he makes it clear he admires Olaf for his bravery. He may have used the term in order to show how ridiculous it is that the majority would term a man who showed so much bravery to be a coward.
form and structure
Form and Structure
  • Brackets are used after the colonel is mentioned; “(trig west pointer most succinctly bred)”. This is giving us an idea of the social status of the colonel, and implies that he is a rich man. It also however likens him to an animal, the term “bred” is usually used when making reference to animals, not people.
  • There is a rhyming pattern to the poem which makes it flow more, making it more likely to be remembered and easier to read.
  • The poem is split into differently lengthed sections. It appears as if they are divided into different parts depending on the main topic of the particular section. For example, the part about the president is set out in a section of four lines, yet when the topic changes to that of what the narrator hopes to see when he dies, a new section has been formed, separate to the part about what the president did to Olaf.
  • The final line of the poem contains a colon, which makes the reader of the poem pause. Its almost as if it slows the poem down as it finishes, and makes you think more about the meaning of the final line. It makes you think about whether you agree with the narrator or not about his view of Olaf’s bravery.
  • The poem is quite unlike most other World War One literature as it uses swear words. Very few other poems use them, which makes it very striking when you read it, and more memorable.
  • The poem is similar to other war literature as it makes a religious reference. Another poem which does this is “They” by Siegfried Sassoon, which says how “the ways of God are strange.”
  • The poem “I Sing Of Olaf” praises a man who did not go to war for being brave for refusing to fight. Most other World War One literature however seems to be disapproving of men who don’t want to fight, and look down upon them. For example, the poem “The hero” by Siegfried Sassoon calls “Jack” a “cold footed swine” as he tried to run away from the trenches, and he got shot dead for deserting the army.
  • The poem “The Hero” by Sassoon is however similar in the fact that it uses sarcasm. The title “The Hero” is sarcastic, as the poem is actually about how the man was a coward, and how the officer had to tell “gallant lies” to his mother so that she wouldn’t feel so upset that her son died, if she thought he died a “hero”.