For writers living during the Civil War, their work was often directly inspired by the war itself. Such work often showed how the war affected the writers themselves, and how they were or weren’t able to cope with it. What makes such work unique is that the men and women who wrote them were not always soldiers and did not have to fight. Nevertheless, the Civil War was still enough of a reality for them that they could write of how it affected them and others. By looking at some work, one can see what it meant for these men and women to live during times of war.
Emily Dickinson’s poem “It feels a shame to be Alive”, is told from the perspective of one who did not have to fight in the war. Nevertheless, her life is still affected by the war, causing her to feel guilt. The narrator’s feelings of guilt come from the fact that she is still alive, while many soldiers are now dead. This can be seen in the first two lines of the poem, where the narrator writes “It feels a shame to be alive–/ When men so brave–are dead.” Here, one can see from Emily Dickinson’s poem is that to live during times of war is to feel guilt and shame for those who have died in one’s place.
Another work that shows what it means to live during times of war is Walt Whitman’s poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” Unlike Emily Dickinson’s poem which shows how war can affect the individual, Walt Whitman’s poem shows how affects the community. In the poem, the phrase “Beat! beat! drums!–blow! bugles! blow!” is repeated throughout the work, and represents war itself, describing it as “a ruthless force” (2). This “ruthless force” disrupts life all over the community, as seen in these lines: “Into the solemn church and scatter the congregation, / into the school where the scholar is studying.”(3-4) Here, the the terrible power of war wrecks the lives of both the congregation and the scholar. Not even the bridegroom is safe from war, as seen in the next line. In Walt Whitman’s poem, what it means to live during times of war is to have everything in your life be uprooted. One’s life is changed almost entirely by war, and can not be easily put back the way it was before.