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How Kim Cheng Portrays a Vivid Image of Military Life in 'the Reservist'

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Kim Cheng presents military life in 'Reservist' primarily as a chivalric charade, an anachronistic romanticisation of the military ideals of the government within modern Singaporean society. This also acts to create sense of the powerlessness of the reserves in the face of such authoritarian control, alluding to the idea of the training as an unjust obligatory chore. Along with this, his abundant use of satirical language conveys contempt for the annual farce, comedically highlighting the absurdity of the situation whilst creating an atmosphere of drawn out monotony.

Immediately, Cheng gives implications of the superannuation of the military training, using a lexical cluster of archaic, medieval terms of warfare to hint at the outdated nature of the system. For example, in the first stanza, Cheng uses the terms such as 'annual joust' and 'regular fanfare' which while being antiquated phrases that are perhaps incongruous in such an advanced nation, also constructing an atmosphere of pomposity and nobility, which seem idealised and inherently ingenuine. This is emphasised by the intertextual illusion of Dom Quixote: 'to tilt at the old windmills', where Cheng begins to hint at the futility of their service, in which chivalry appears somewhat counterintuitive and fruitless. This suggests the idea of annual training being as nonsensical and pointless as attempting to attack a defenceless old windmill. Additionally, the referral to the monarchy in the phrase 'upon king's command' gives a hierarchal and feudalistic atmosphere, extending the archaic depiction, however perhaps hinting at a more oppressive subtext, especially considering the use of the word 'command', which gives a imperative and autocratic sense. Here, it can be perceived that Cheng may be criticising the seemingly tyrannical government for their enforcement the futile and tedious ritual. This idea is further accentuated in the last stanza: 'Will we play the game till the monotony sends his lordship to sleep?' Cheng conveys a mocking and slightly derisive tone towards the authoritarian control of 'his lordship' - whilst giving them a godly and revered title - he counteracts their actions as a 'game' - something trivial and futile. Through this use of satirical language, he effectually highlights the absurdity of mandatory military training, mocking and devaluing the old-age tradition.

Further into the first stanza, Cheng then goes on to bathetically deflate the chivalric ideals that were set up in the first few lines, exposing the absurdity of the training for those ill-fitted to do so. The onomatopoeic phrases of 'creaking' and 'grunts' serve to depict the dotage of the men, as well as a sense of their fragility, making the idea of their pompous military affairs seem farcical and ridiculous. In particular, the word 'creeps', also conveys a tone of men's unwillingness to partake, considering their unsuitable state. Cheng adopts a comedic tone to further illustrate this: 'tuck the pot bellies with great finesse into shrinking gear' This satirical phrase is a great contrast from the previous pompous language, directly acknowledging the poor physicality of the men. This, combined with its self-depreciating quality acts to disprove the initial romanticised knightliness. Furthermore the striking and unexpected phrase 'shrinking gear' additionally emphasises the ridicule of the situation - the surprising reversal of roles, with the gear being the object humorously hints at the men's unfit physique. This embeds an absurd image of inadequate and reluctant men being forced into chivalry, further adding to the mockery and irony within this stanza to create the sense of the training being trivial.

Cheng depicts a sense of the monotony and tedium of military life and illustrates the lack of freedom or control over the situation,

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