Analyse any poem of your choice.
Aim for categories 1 or 2 in our analysing connotation rubric.
Aim to use thematic analysis.
‘Fall in’ is a patriotic declaration, a celebration of war for its own sake. Delighting in the idea of battle, the poem adopts a playful tone that bounces between earnest spirituality to boyish teasing.
Opening with the repetition of rhetorical questions to the reader – termed here “sonny” – the poem suggests that they “lack” the qualities of a true soldier: fortitude and manliness. Indeed, the derogative noun “sonny” indicates a sense of childishness in the reader that contrasts the “rushed” enthusiasm of their comrades. Alongside this, the soldiers themselves are praised for their attractiveness to the opposite gender. The metaphorical “girl who cuts you dead” challenges the reader (especially with the pronoun) that their possible cowardice from battle will reduce them from what they could have been. Therefore, not only does the poem mock the perceived immaturity of the “sonny”, but it provides a derogative audience in the “girl”, too.
This growing feeling of guilt develops in the second stanza where the “sonny” is challenged to reflect on how his family would perceive his actions. The earnest expectation of his children “yet to be” is emphasised by the enjambment that portrays the distance between this event and the present. In addition, the use of the desperate verb “clamour” – positioned at the front of the line to emphasise the sense of eagerness in his unborn children – is intended to attack the reader further. All of this is contained within regular stanzas with measured rhyme schemes to suggest the naturalness of this request: the reader, though, is not left much space to reflect on whether this is bullying or just cajoling.
The poem finally develops into a sense of spiritual aspiration. The abstract notions of “Right” and “Wrong” are presented as proper nouns, therefore characterising them as more tangible concepts. Connecting with the earnest tone of his unborn children from earlier, the power of the aggressive term “smashed” again celebrates the aggression of fighting. For Begbie, he is not just fighting to beat an opponent – the complete annihilation (and therefore validation) of his “right[eousness]” is his true aim. The moral component is finally provided by the ultimate rhetorical question that matches “Britain’s Call” to “God’s”. This final image serves to personify “Britain” as a general giving orders, and that such orders are beyond recrimination (i.e. from God).
Although this intends to convince the everyday man to enlist, it is unlikely to be quite as convincing as the opening attack on the reader’s perceived masculinity. Declaring spiritual superiority was, even in 1914, not an entirely powerful argument, whereas the desire to impress a potential partner and peers is a universal fear that Begbie plays upon mercilessly. So, although Begbie might not inspire the reader entirely, he certainly goes further than just attempting to instigate a sense of inadequacy and “lack” in them.