The poem starts with the narrator, Cummings talking to himself while addressing his aunt, Lucy who might have warned him against engaging in the war. The narrator shows us how men and boys go to war not knowing the physical and psychological aspects of one who is engaging in war. Cummings is young as he goes to the war and he has been separated from the people he loves including girls. In the story of two soldiers, the narrator is an eight-year-old brother of a soldier by the name of Pete Grierson who is nineteen years old. The story was published after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in March 28 1942. It tells the tribulations of a poor Mississippi family through the lives of these brothers. In the two literary works mentioned above it is through the narrators that we see the pain of letting a loved one go to war.
In the story of two soldiers, after Pete and the narrator have learnt about the bombing of Pearl Harbor Pete decides to join the army to defend his country. Since his young brother does not want to be left behind by Pete, he sneaks at night and follows Pete to Memphis. When the two meet in Memphis Pete explains to the narrator about the importance of going back home which he obliges. As the narrator is leaving, he cries for he feels that he has a duty to do to protect their country as well the pain of letting his brother go. The narrator says, В«I set there by that soldier, crying. We was going fastВ» (Volpe 260). Though he is young, he has qualities of a good soldier just like his brother but he does not understand the effects of being engaged in real war. He has left the comfort of his home to follow his brother to Memphis because he does not know what real war is. The story shows the pain that was being experienced in the country at that time as soldiers left their loved to go to war. Before Pete has decided to join the war, he was always with his young brother. The two love one another very much. The narrator does not imagine being left behind by his brother and he wants to be with him all the time.
On the other hand, in the poem My Sweet Old Etcetera by E. E Cummings the stage is set in the war. Cummings has started to feel the effects of staying away from home. He misses all his people as evidenced by the use of the word etcetera. According to the way he is talking, he was upbeat before he left for the war. He remembers how his aunt warned him about the effects of war but he thought he had what it takes to engage in real war. He says, В«my sweet old etcetera, aunt lucy during recent, war could and what, is more did tell you just, what everybody was fighting for,В» (Stallworthy 201 ln 1-6.
He is young and has hormones but in war, there are no chances of meeting members of the opposite sex. He remembers his sister Isabel as she made clothing for keeping men warm. He remembers his mother and tells her that even if he dies he will have died in honor as his father used to say. According to the last lines of the poem, the narrator is like falling asleep in a muddy trench as his aunt, mother, father and sister think about him.
It is hard to accept that a loved one is leaving for war just as it is portrayed in these two literary works. The narrator in Two Soldiers does not understand why he cannot go to war with his elder brother Pete. They have lived together for all his life and the narrator wants to be with him in the war. He knows he cannot fight but he is ready to do other menial jobs like chopping wood for the soldiers. Pete is neither happy as he is leaving his brother behind but there is nothing he can do. The soldier who gave the narrator a chewing gum was also touched by the pain the boy was going through. Cummings has realized how staying away fro home can be traumatizing. He is a brave soldier since he is not complaining but thoughts of his family are disturbing him.
Stallworthy, Jon. The Oxford Book of War Poetry: Second Reissue Oxford paperbacks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
Volpe, Edmond Loris. A reader’s guide to William Faulkner: the short stories. NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004. Print.