Perception Of The Masculine Identity

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The most interesting aspect of this promoted masculine identity is that it convinced the men to enlist for war in huge numbers but the question that remains is why? To answer this one could look at how these masculine duties were perceived by the men themselves. One of the ways that the men interpreted this was by trying not emulate feminine characteristics. This implied a rejection for the portrayal of qualities that were conventionally attributed to women, for example gentleness, sensitivity and so on. Therefor to reinforce their masculine identities stringer emphasis was given on conventional masculine qualities such as assertiveness, bodily strength and so on.

This perceived notion of masculinity amongst the men of the country could also be seen as a result of the glorified portrayal of the war. This glorified portrayal suggested that the men who went to war for defending their countries against the enemies embodied the values of courage and honour. The war at that time acted as the perfect arena for the verification of these qualities from their perspective. This also lead to the constant insecurity about masculinity identities among the men who did not enlist for war. Hence maybe to serve as a proof of their masculine identities men may have enlisted for the war in large numbers. One can see this idea presented in the verses of Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘Peace’:

“Now, God be thanked who has matched us with his hour,

And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping!”

In the second line the viewpoint that comes forth is that perhaps before the young men received their calling to participate in the war they led a futile existence with it being equated to sleeping.

“Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,

And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,”

Here Brooke makes a distinction between men and half-men by implying that the first are the ones who awaken and realise their duty to protect and preserve their country’s honour and the latter are those who do not go to war. The addressing of the men who do not go to war is with a tone of shame.

A poem called ‘He went for a Soldier’ by Ruth Comfort Mitchell suggests that there were men who might have enlisted for the war without a clear aim as such.

“Not very clear in the kind young heart of him

What the fuss was about,

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But the flowers and the flags seemed part of him --

The music drowned his doubt.

It's a fine, brave sight they were a-coming there

To the gay, bold tune they kept a-drumming there,

While the boasting fifes shrilled jauntily --

Billy, the Soldier Boy!”

Promotion of Masculine identities

A lot of the initial poems written about the war talked of sacrificing one’s life for the sake of upholding the honour of one’s own country as the highest form of sacrifice. The picture of the male member being the protector of the traditional family was painted to propagate this ideal. This was also promoted with the help of the posters which used the images of crimes being committed against women to urge the men to rise up to their gender duties. The idea of sacrificing oneself for Mother England was thought to be a noble action which would gain them respect back in the home front.

The promotion of these ideas were done on so many levels that one could say that the British population internalised them after a while.

“If I should die, think only this of me

That there’s some corner of a foreign field.

That is for ever England.”

These lines from the poem ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke clearly reflects the above mentioned idea."

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