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Edmund Blunden and Nella Last’s War Literature

The experience of the First and the Second World War influenced the historical writings of Edmund Blunden and Nella Last respectively. Blunden viewed the First World War as a great endeavor by the generation that experienced the war. Blunden expressed his experiences as well as the contribution by others toward the war both in and off the battlefront in his writings.

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The writings by Blunden give the reader an insight on what occurred during the war and how it helped to inform the generation of 1914. In his memoir, Undertones of the War, Blunden emphasizes the feeling and support of those who were involved in the battlefield as well as those left behind at the home front. In his account, Blunden examines the projection to which the perceived link between the battlefront and the civilians was helpful and relevant.

On the other hand, Nella Last explores how the Second World War influenced individuals at the home front particularly women who formed the majority. Both Blunden and Last do not see the existence of separation between the home front and the battlefield.

The aspect of separation was cancelled by the connection that the home front created by providing supplies, hence creating a feeling that the entire society was out to attain the same goal, but from different engaging levels. In the course of World War II, the separation between those left at home and those at the battlefields was blurred nlike in the First World War, which experienced some sentiments of separation between the two. This thesis is supported by the sentiments expressed by Last and Blunden in their memoirs.

Blunden’s account of the War

Blunden served as a soldier in his early 20s as a member of the Royal Sussex. Blunden narrates his involvement at Somme as one that taught him how to focus on the war by abiding by the instructions from leaders as well as avoiding personal conflict, which could compel him to revolt. His memoir provides a powerful connection of the events to his writings, thus giving the reader a chance to imagine and connect to the feelings experienced at the battlefront.

His dedication to the war and mentality to conquer every challenge enabled him to survive the battle and cope with the emotional and physical pain of the after war. In his accounts, Blunden (207) links literature and history to explain the experience of the war coupled with showing how the two levels, viz. the home front and the battlefield, linked despite the perceived separation of the two. The separation was significant during the First World War.

Even though the contact was minimal between the soldiers and the civilians, the few platforms of communication and the civilians’ involvement were encouraging to the soldiers. The death of soldiers and even worse the absence of the corpses was a huge loss to the civilians as they were mourning of corpses that they did not know their whereabouts. This aspect did not bring separation; on the contrary, it connected the civilians to the battlefield.

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Soldiers were moved quickly to and from the battle zones, thus making it hard for the home front to engage its support directly. The home front included women, children, and old men who could not actively engage in the war. This group at the home front worked on the farms to provide food supplies to the soldiers. The developing technology ensured the supply of fax messages and letters to the battlefield and replies back to the civilians.

This aspect updated the soldiers on the welfare of their families and gave them the motivation to continue fighting since it was a common goal. Blunden presents his mentality and motivation of the war based on his compassion and loyalty to fellow soldiers as well as the effort by the home front by providing the sustaining supplies. His account on the First World War was echoed during the Second World War, which the home front had an elaborate role, especially by women who released their men to war.

Blunden indicates that the soldiers were at one time civilians and still they had the potential to become civilians. He views civilians as having potential to be soldiers as well. This aspect depicts the home front as an entity fighting the war from the backstage, but advancing towards attaining the same goal as the battle front soldiers.

Undertones of War is a good read, as it gives the reader an insight to what most men experienced and how the war created the spirit of comradeship. It also elevates the role of the home front as a useful entity, which was the source of the much-needed support during the war (Blunden 20).

Last’s perspective on the War

Nella Last’s experience during the Second World War was one, which could later be the turning point of her past life. Last’s diary speaks of how the Second World War affected individuals particularly women in the home front. She compares her personal experiences in her marriage life to slavery.

She narrates how she had to deal with her submissive role in marriage (Last 19). Last reflects on the life and experiences of the entire neighborhood and friends by showing how the events of the war resulted in unfair and desperate situations. However, Last’s perspective about the war was a little ambitious and she felt constrained to the household roles.

She felt that the role was retrogressive towards her contribution to the war and she was set to advance and get involved at a more direct way. Last was increasingly developing independence and freeing from her husband and the home bondage. Last became liberated from the homemaker activities and engaged in volunteer work at the Red Cross. This move created self-esteem for Last, but her husband preferred her to remain submissive as she used to be hitherto.

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Last was gaining momentum on her new way of life and she could manage to keep her house in order despite the rationing and declining availability of resources. She was finally coming out strong after dealing with her troubled marriage and having his two sons abroad in war.

At the same time, she was operating a thrift shop to acquire funds to support the various demands of the war. Many challenges were arising from food shortages to health problems due to malnutrition. Looking at the way that Last responded from the home front, readers gain insightful knowledge that the home front had a strong link and gave support to the military at the battlefield. According to Last, the impact of the war was huge and joining efforts to win the battle could save many lives in the process.

The notion about separation was insignificant and the home front came out strongly and focused to break the bondage from the house. Coming out from being weighed down by compelling traditions and working her way closer to the battlefield, Last indicates that the connection between the home front and the soldiers was growing strong.

At this time of war, the absence of soldiers was assumed to mean death. Last (72) could not stop thinking of her two sons so she kept her support through volunteering and providing food to the soldiers. Last’s support shows that the home front sphere was as devoted as the battlefield itself.

Despite the physical separation, this aspect of the home front support and battlefield commitment gave the two sides a common purpose and the urge to press further for the sake of everyone. Women played an important role by allowing their men to go out to war coupled with creating support from the home front. According to the Last’s diary, the war elevated the women’s role and liberated most of them from the captivity of their husband’s subordination.


Blunden’s account of the war in his masterpiece, Undertones of War, is a great read as it provides readers with a fascinating history of what happened during the way and what inspired those who survived the Great War. His compilation does not indicate the separation of the civilians and the soldiers; on the contrary, it insists that the willingness and support from the domestic sphere were of unparalleled importance to the soldiers.

This motivation kept him focused and finally he survived the vagaries of the war. Similarly, Nella Last’s diaries provide a woman’s home front experience during the Second World War. She comes out strong to speak of the fears that struck women during the Second World War. She expresses her thought in a more comfortable way than she could have thought.

She unlocks the potential and the impact that women had toward their contribution to the war. Her personal impact to the war represents that of the home front and the connection to the battlefield is illustrated by the support and contribution to the war. This aspect emphasizes that the notion of separation between the home front and the battlefield was misconstrued.

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Works Cited

Last, Nella. Nella Last’s War: The Second World War diaries of ‘Housewife 49. Eds. Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming, London: London Publishers, 2006. Print

Blunden, Edmund. Undertones of the War, Westminster: Penguin Modern Classics, 2000. Print.

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