The novel ‘Birdsong’ focuses on the lives of those in war and also those at home. Faulks gives a graphic and detailed insight to war, focusing on the people who are wounded and showing how the war both changed and affected all the people at that time.
The novel is constructed in a certain way for a purpose. Faulks provides the reader with information before the characters in the novel. In part three of the novel Elizabeth is starting to discover her grandfathers history, however as readers we already know it. Faulks has transported the readers to the war and made them feel they have actually witnessed the tragedies he describes. The construction of the novel allows readers to be engaged and feel they are on the same journey as the characters.
Faulks uses certain characters to present different ideas. The character of Isabelle is used to explore what life options women had in WW1. Azaire is used to show capitalism compared to socialism, he takes advantage of the lower classes. Stephan is used to show how war changes a person, after the war Stephan “said little”, his character is used to show how damaging the war was to soldiers. The character of Elizabeth shows how the war has changed modern day society. Elizabeth is able to work, go out on her own and have a baby without being married, all because of those who died in the war.
Faulks uses a number of techniques throughout the novel. In the opening of the novel Faulks uses language associated with nature “wild”, “flowers”, “river”. This allows the novel to begin with a calm and peaceful tone, which is then a direct contrast to the descriptions of war. This helps intensify the brutality of war and nature being destroyed.
Faulks also begins to use language of war at the beginning of the novel. Azaire uses words such as “retrench” and “assault”. This introduces the themes and causes of war before it has even began. This helps create a link with people at home and those sent away to fight.
The use of short sentences also allows certain sections to be stripped of emotion, “He had just been married. There was a baby on the way”. The short sentences create the image of a computer scanning through the system for the soldiers name, the lack of emotion shows the frequency of how often people were killed. It allows the reader to see how immune the soldiers became to their surroundings.
Faulks also uses a hyperbole, “the air overhead was packed solid with noise that did not move”. This shows the intensity of the noise in war. He then ends the page with “looked around him, for a moment it was completely quiet”. This creates a complete contrast and just like Stephan it makes the novel pause for a moment.
Faulks also uses a mixed semantic field of language in the same section to describe all the aspects of war. He first uses language to do with butchery “pink skin” . This shows that the soldiers were treated like meat and sent to be butchered. He then uses language associated with drowning in sound “wave breaking”, “noisy”. This is the language of madness. Both semantic fields show both the physical and mental affect the war had on the soldiers.
The description of the men’s sleeping conditions creates the image of a bullet entering the skin, “once they had inserted themselves there was no chance of movement”. This also helps the reader realize how claustrophobic the conditions were.
Faulks uses a metaphor to describe the amount of lice there were in war, “his skin was alive with them”. This also links to nature, as thousands of soldiers were dying, thousands of lice were being created, “hatched eggs of hundreds of lice”. It shows how nature continues even in the worst conditions, which gives some sort of hope.
It is however Faulks graphic language which helps present the horrors of the war, “missing part of his face”, “dilated pupil floating in an area of white”. The language is so descriptive and grotesque it creates the image in the readers head.
Overall it is clear that Faulks techniques allow the reader to feel part of the characters story. The use of language and imagery make the reader feel like they have witnessed the actual events. Faulks ending the novel in modern day also shows how life changing the war was,even now in modern day the stories of the soldiers are talked about as though it was a recent event.