Remains - Simon Armitage (Born 1963)

  • Created by: v.a..
  • Created on: 23-05-19 01:04

Summary of Remains

In Simon Armitage's Remains, the speaker describes an occasion during war when he shot a looter.

1 of 59

Summary

  • The speaker describes an occasion during war when he shot a looter.
  • He is unable to get the memory out of his mind and is traumatised.
  • He is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD – anxiety caused by very distressing or traumatising events) even when he is home.
2 of 59

Context

  • This is a contemporary poem.
  • It explores the impact of war on soldiers' mental health, even when they are no longer fighting.
  • Armitage based the poem on an account of a real soldier as part of a collection called “The Not Dead”.
  • This also featured as part of a television series. In the series, the soldier the poem is based on describes the incident and its lasting impact.
3 of 59

Key Concepts in Remains

The poem explores a soldier's experience in war and the aftermath.

4 of 59

Contrast: war and the aftermath

  • There is a contrast between:
    • The casualness of death when the soldier is at war.
    • The horror of his memories when he is in a different context at home.
5 of 59

Trauma and guilt

  • The poet explores a lesser discussed aspect of war: returning home and living with the traumatic memories of acts committed in war.
  • The soldier is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. The poet raises questions about the way men in war are conditioned. They are conditioned to put aside their personal emotions when they commit acts of violence or destruction.
  • Like the soldiers in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, these men are following orders. There is no room for their thoughts or feelings about the value of human life and the moral implications of taking it.
6 of 59

Injustice of war

  • There is a sense of the injustice of conflict. The looter was potentially not dangerous but lost his life anyway.
  • Split decisions are made in war about life or death. They have lasting consequences.
7 of 59

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The speaker from Remains is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (anxiety caused by very distressing or traumatising events) even when he is home. He cannot get the memory of shooting the looter out of his mind.

8 of 59

Dehumanisation of Soldiers

Like the soldiers in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, the soldiers here are following orders. There is no room for their thoughts or feelings about the value of human life. Armitage uses vague and colloquial (conversational) language to show that the speaker is desensitised to war:

9 of 59

Colloquial verbs

  • Tosses” and “carted off”.
  • Casual, colloquial (conversational) verbs indicate the soldiers’ lack of regard or respect for human life in war.
10 of 59

Colloquial language

  • The poem opens with the phrase “on another occasion” and includes other colloquial (conversational) language, such as “Well myself and somebody else and somebody else”.
  • This kind of language shows that experiences, such as the one described, were common.
  • The soldiers are almost desensitised to the horrors of conflict when they are immersed in it.
11 of 59

Vague language

  • This looter”.
  • This kind of language could show how soldiers dehumanised those they attacked.
  • They may have done this to make it easier to deal with taking another human’s life.
12 of 59

Trauma

The poet explores a lesser discussed aspect of war: returning home and living with the traumatic memories of acts committed in war. Here are some of the techniques Armitage uses to explore post-war trauma:

13 of 59

Metaphors

  • His blood shadow stays”.
  • This metaphor creates the image of something dark that cannot be dispelled. It is related to his memory.
  • Blood is related to death.
  • Shadow relates to a memory that lingers. He is constantly reminded of what he did
14 of 59

Sensory language

  • I see” conveys a sense of the trauma it has caused the soldier. It's as though it is branded on his memory.
  • The use of the present tense relates to the idea that this suffering is ongoing. It suggests he constantly re-plays the memories.
15 of 59

Trauma

The poet explores a lesser discussed aspect of war: returning home and living with the traumatic memories of acts committed in war. Here are some of the techniques Armitage uses to explore post-war trauma:

16 of 59

Violent verbs

  • Bursts”.
  • This verb highlights how the image erupts into his mind without warning.
17 of 59

Short sentence and caesura

  • End of story, except not really”.
  • The speaker believed the memories would remain at war when he left.
  • The short sentence and the caesura could reflect his stark (sudden) realisation that he will continue to be plagued by them.
18 of 59

"Flush"

  • And the drink and drugs won’t flush him out”.
  • This phrase indicates the speaker’s desperation to rid himself of the harrowing memories.
  • The verb “flush” suggests that something needs to be cleansed or disposed of.
  • It links to the unpleasantness of his memories.
19 of 59

Guilt: language

The soldier is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt in Remains. We can analyse the poem's title and how Armitage uses uncertain language to explore the theme of guilt.

20 of 59

Uncertain language

  • Probably armed, possibly not”.
  • This reminds readers of the doubt that soldiers must deal with.
  • It links to the theme of guilt. There is an indication that the man who was killed should perhaps have not been shot.
21 of 59

Title

  • Remains” has negative connotations of death, something unwanted or leftover.
  • It could indicate that all that is left of the speaker’s life is guilt.
  • It could also indicate that he is just a shell of his former self.
22 of 59

Guilt: imagery

The soldier is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt – the poet raises questions about the way men are conditioned in war. They are conditioned to put aside their personal emotions when they commit acts of violence or destruction. Armitage uses these images to convey the soldier's sense of guilt:

23 of 59

“His bloody life in my bloody hands”

  • This is bloody imagery.
  • The repetition of "bloody" reinforces the sense of his frustration.
  • The image of having blood on his hands symbolises the guilt he is unable to rid himself of.
  • Bloody” could also be interpreted as a swear word and mark his anger or regret.
24 of 59

"...Some distant sun-stunned sand-smothered land”

  • not left for dead in some distant sun-stunned sand- / smothered land”.
  • The sibilance and alliteration of the hard “t” sounds make it seem like he is spitting out the words. This conveys his anger and frustration.
25 of 59

Sound techniques

Armitage's use of sound in this quote makes it seem like the speaker is spitting out his words: “Not left for dead in some distant sun-stunned sand-smothered land”. It conveys the speakers' anger and frustration. The different sound techniques used are:

26 of 59

Sibilance

  • “Not left for dead in some distant sun-stunned sand-smothered land”
27 of 59

Alliteration of "t"

“Not left for dead in some distant sun-stunned sand-smothered land”

28 of 59

Guilt: blood

You can pick apart the quote “His bloody life in my bloody hands” in the following ways:

29 of 59

Swear word - "bloody"

  • Bloody” could also be interpreted as a swear word and mark his anger or regret.
30 of 59

Repetition of "bloody"

Reinforces the sense of his frustration.

31 of 59

"Bloody hands"

  • The image of having bloody hands symbolises the guilt he is unable to rid himself of.
32 of 59

Brutality of war

Armitage highlights the brutality of war using these techniques:

33 of 59

Gruesome imagery

  • Gruesome images, such as “pain itself, the image of agony” and “sort of inside out…tosses his guts back into his body” – indicate the reality of war and the lack of glory or honour associated with such a job.
34 of 59

Violent imagery

  • I swear I see every round as it rips through his life”.
  • This kind of violent language (like the verb “rip”) highlights the brutal nature of the attack.
35 of 59

Contrast: War and Post-War

One of the main contrasts Armitage draws in the poem is between the casualness of death when the soldier is at war, and the horror of his memories when he is at home. Here are contrasts Armitage draws to emphasise this contrast:

36 of 59

Collective vs singular pronouns

  • The use of the collective, possessive pronoun “we” reminds the reader that the soldiers act as a unit in war.
  • It contrasts with the singular possessive pronoun “my” at the end of the poem, which reinforces the idea that the soldier is left to deal with his guilt alone.
37 of 59

Peaceful vs violent imagery

  • Sleep” and “dream” are associated with ideas of peace and tranquillity, but these are contrasted with violent images such as “torn apart by a thousand rounds”.
38 of 59

Structure of Remains

The structure of Remains reflects the speaker's trauma in the following ways:

39 of 59

Two part structure

  • In the first half of the poem, the speaker focuses on an event in the past. It begins in an anecdotal (telling a story) fashion as he describes an occasion on which he and his team raided a bank and killed a looter.
  • The second half of the poem focuses on the aftermath of war. Even in the present, the speaker still lives through the horrors of that day.
  • The poem is structured to convey the reality of PTSD.
40 of 59

Repetition

  • Repetition of “probably armed, possibly not” creates an almost cyclical (happening in cycles) structure.
  • This reinforces the idea that the memories are inescapable and that he is stuck in a never-ending cycle of torment.
41 of 59

Dramatic monologue

  • The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue – we, therefore, get an insight into the personal experiences and thoughts of one individual.
  • These could be applicable to many soldiers who have suffered in a similar way.
42 of 59

Rhythm and Rhyme of Remains

The rhythm of Remains and the lack of rhyme is designed to show the nature of the speaker's suffering. Armitage uses the following techniques to achieve this:

43 of 59

No rhyme

  • The poem is made up of unrhymed quatrains (stanzas of four lines).
  • The lack of rhyme not only gives the monologue a more natural, speech-like feel but could indicate the speaker’s unstable state of mind.
44 of 59

Regular stanzas

  • The regular pattern of stanzas could reflect the ongoing, relentless (never-ending) suffering of the soldier.
45 of 59

Rhythm break

  • The fact that the last two lines break the pattern of four-line stanzas could represent his mental disintegration.
46 of 59

Key Quotations in Remains

Here are key quotations to remember for your exam:

47 of 59

“His bloody life in my bloody hands”

  • Repetition.
    • Reinforces the sense of his frustration.
  • Bloody imagery.
    • The image of having blood on his hands symbolises the guilt he is unable to rid himself of.
  • Bloody” could also be interpreted as a swear word and mark his anger or regret.
48 of 59

"Sort of inside out…tosses his guts back into his

  • Gruesome image.
  • Indicates the reality of war and the lack of glory or honour associated with such a job.
49 of 59

“Probably armed, possibly not”

  • Uncertain language.
  • Reminds readers of the doubt that soldiers must deal with.
  • It links to the theme of guilt as there is an indication that the man who was killed was innocent.
50 of 59

“His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on

  • Metaphor.
  • Indicates something dark that cannot be dispelled, a constant reminder of what he did.
51 of 59

“I swear I see every round as it rips through his

  • Violent language.
    • The verb “rip” highlights the brutal nature of the attack.
  • Sensory language.
    • I see” conveys a sense of the trauma it has caused the soldier, as though it is branded on his memory.
  • Present tense.
    • The use of the present tense links in with the idea that this suffering is ongoing and he constantly re-plays the memories.
52 of 59

“Torn apart by a dozen rounds”

  • Violent image.
  • Contrasts to ideas of peace and tranquillity, e.g. “sleep” and “dream”.
53 of 59

“Well myself and somebody else and somebody else”

  • Colloquial language.
  • Shows that experiences, such as the one described, were common.
  • The soldiers are almost desensitised to the horrors of conflict when they are immersed in it.
54 of 59

“And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out”

  • An indication of the speaker’s desperation to rid himself of the harrowing memories.
  • The verb “flush” is indicative of something that needs to be cleansed or disposed of, linking to the unpleasantness of his memories.
55 of 59

Key Comparisons: Remains

Here are some themes that come up in Remains and other texts:

56 of 59

Reality of conflict/effects of conflict

  • You may want to compare the theme of the reality of conflict and/or effects of conflict in Remains to the following texts:
    • War Photographer.
    • Exposure.
    • Poppies.
    • Bayonet Charge.
    • Charge of the Light Brigade.
57 of 59

Powerful, memorable and/or unpleasant experiences

  • You may want to compare the theme of powerful, memorable and/or unpleasant experiences in Remains to the following texts:
    • Exposure.
    • Charge of the Light Brigade.
    • Bayonet Charge.
    • The Prelude.
58 of 59

Powerful memories

  • You may want to compare the theme of powerful memories in Remains to the following texts:
    • Kamikaze.
    • Poppies.
    • The Emigree.
    • War Photographer.
    • The Prelude.
59 of 59

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all AQA Anthology resources »