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The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Warfare Theme

Warfare is probably the #1 theme here.  Ultimately, "The Charge of the Light Brigade" is a poem about a battle.  It spends a lot of time describing the confusion, the terror, the bloodshed, and, yes, also the heroism and excitement of armed combat.  Notice that most of the images and descriptions in the poem relate to warfare: cannon, bullets, smoke, sabres, etc.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Why don't we hear more about the Light Brigade's enemy in this poem?  Why are there no real descriptions of the Russians?
  2. How does the speaker talk about actual violence in this poem?  Why do you think he doesn't include more blood and gore?
  3. How does Tennyson's description of battle compare to more modern pieces of art that also depict war? (Hint: We're thinking movies, music, poetry, you name it.)
  4. Do you really feel like you're there, in the heat of the battle? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think this poem glorifies war?  Does it criticize it? How can you tell?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Even though the Russians were half of the battle, the speaker couldn't care less about them. He carefully limits his descriptions of the enemy to keep us completely sympathetic with the Light Brigade.

The relentless repetition of the details of the battlefield is meant to immerse us in the world of the poem, to give us a gut-level sense of the intensity of war.

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