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War Imagery

War Imagery

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Published by cristinamortes
comparative essay on war poetry
comparative essay on war poetry

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Published by: cristinamortes on Sep 06, 2009
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10. Explore and compare the ways both authors use language to create effects inRegeneration and Wilfred Owen’s war poetry, in particular their use of imagery toconvey the experience of war.Wilfred Owen’s poetry is among the most moving poetry of WWI. It shatters theillusion of glory of war, revealing its hollowness and cruel destruction of beauty.Owen’s work shows war’s most inhuman and savage face. In order to do this, Owenuses a wide range of literary devices. We can appreciate a very effective imagery in his poetry, which manages to transmit the reader all the suffering men had to go through inthe trenches of WWI.Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration explores men’s war experiences in order to capture thehorrors of war. She also uses very effective imagery, full of symbolism to show howwar mentally affected men, dehumanising them. Barker’s use of imagery helps thereader empathise with the soldiers’ suffering and understand the consequences thesehorrors had.Wilfred Owen’s imagery’s objective is to transmit emotions to the reader. He wants tosituate him in the trenches, to panic with the soldiers, to suffer with them, but overall, hewants the reader to feel pity and sorrow for the innocent men’s souls that were lostunnecessarily. His poem “Dulce et Decorum est” questions with irony, from a sarcastic point of view, the glory of war. Owen situates the reader through the use of similies andmetaphors. He dehumanises the soldiers through visual and aural imagery, presentingthe supposed heroes as “bent double, like old beggars” “knock-kneed, coughing likehags”. From the start, Owen introduces us men who are isolated from society, hopeless,exhausted “drunk with fatigue”, dirty “blood-shod”, weak “lame”. This description isfollowed by a second stanza where Owen makes the reader dive into a “green sea” of  panic. The reader can hear the shouts, the assonance, “Gas! Gas! Quick!”. The metaphor “an ecstasy of fumbling” enables him to visualise the description of the reaction to theattack which strongly contrasts with the beginning of the poem. Owen then usesimagery so that the reader can share a soldier’s pain and understand his suffering. Thereader can hear him “yelling and stumbling” “like a man in fire or lime”, the similyhelps the reader visualise the horrible pain while he accompanies the soldier till heasphyxiates to death “drowning under a green sea”. The reader can visualise the “thick green light” and is haunted by the sound of the man “guttering” and “choking”. He cansense the “incurable sores” because it is the description of a physical injury andunderstand the pain. Owen narrates as a witness, and by describing what he saw andwhat he heard, the reader can share his experience and is haunted by the same horrors ashim: “if in smothering dreams you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung himin , and watch the white eyes writhing in his face”. He’s most effective metaphor is thecomparison of the boy’s face: “like a devil’s sick of sin” the pain is so unbelievable thateven the devil is tired of so much suffering, death and cruelty.Barker’s characters, on the other hand, are physically good looking and clean“admiring glances”, however they are still mentally exhausted and weak. While Owenuses imagery to describe directly and effectively impactating war horrors, Barker exposes the long-term consequences that they had. She explores the mental conflict thatmen had after going through such devastating experiences. Her use of imagery enablesthe reader understand, through symbolism these conflicts, the mental state they were leftin, the reasons why they broke down, and what horrors haunted them.In chapter 4, Anderson, a surgeon that served in France tells Rivers his nightmare,which is full of imagery and symbolism in order to help the reader understand hisfeelings. Anderson broke down after a period when he used to do an average of ten
amputations a day, he’s a respectable doctor who has a wife and a five-year old kid tocare of. However, he’s developed a trauma towards blood. He’s worried aboutemasculation and this theme, one of the centrals to the book is evoqued throughsymbolism throughout his dream. He looses his uniform, symbolising authority, control,militarism, duty, all manly virtues infront of his wife who’s dressed in whiterepresenting purity and innocence. She can see him naked, discovering the nature of his breakdown which she really ignores: he’s fear towards blood. This shows the reader how vulnerable, unprotected and exposed men felt when men suffered neurasthenia because of having gone through a traumatic war experience. Men tried to hide their emotions, Anderson actually hides behind a bush, because emotions were considered afeminine privilege and he’s ashamed of his. However, in Rivers’ words “the war thathad promised so much in the way of ‘manly’ activity had actually delivered ‘feminine’ passivity, this most brutal of conflicts should set up a relationship between officers andmen that was domestic, caring and maternal”. In the dream Anderson is chased by hisfather in law representing society’s pressure to confront reality. He waves “a big stick”with “ a snake wound around it” the snake is representing the sin Anderson believes he’scommitting if he doesn’t keep saving lives as a surgeon. A stick, being used as a flail,represents the punishment he will receive from society. The hiss of the snake shows thereader how it’s mocking at him: the reader understands how pathetic Anderson feels as asurgeon who fears blood. Anderson is then ridiculised with the image of him tied upwith ladies corsets, emasculating him and then carted of, as Owen’s character as if hewere useless because he’s injured, although as we know, the wound is not physical butmental. The difference is this time it is not a physical injury but a mental one. “ thedoors of the carriage banged shut and it was very dark” the violent sound instils thereader fear, suggesting aggressiveness and finality and the dark atmosphere emphasisesthe character’s sense of fear and hopelessness. Rivers is wearing a “post-mortem apron”which communicates the idea of an analysis of the dead. Rivers is going to dissect him,to expose his emotions in order to help Anderson understand who he is. That representshow lost men were and how afraid to find themselves. In this passage we can see howBarker uses imagery to explain the mental consequences of war. However, through the book, she also uses imagery to show the physical consequences of war. Sarah sees aroom full of people that have lost their limbs and are now hidden from a society thatdoesn’t want to witness the atrocities war has caused to the men that fought to defend it.Barker obliges us to witness them and to understand like in “Dulce et Decorum est”how little they had to do with honour and glory.In “anthem for a doomed youth” we can see how Owen insisted on telling the crueltruth in a constant protest against war. The poem opens showing us the battlefield as aslaughter house showing how men died “as cattle”. So from the start the reader canvisualise the savageness of war. The scene could become gruesome but Owen preventsthis by focusing on the sounds It is a parody of a funeral rite, enacted by the noise of guns, rifles and “wailing shells”. There is a sharp, satiric contrast between the peacefulsounds of an Anglo-Catholic burial and the demented and monstrous noises of thewarfare. Owen uses the iambic pentameter rhythm and the repetition of a stressed vowelfollowed by the sound of the letter n represents the steady thundering of the guns “only”“monstrous” “anger” “guns”, while the alliteration “rapid rattle” “rifles” combined withthe sound of the letter “t” “stutter”, “rattle” “patter”, represents the crack of gunfire. Allthese different noises situate the reader in the middle of the battlefield, introducing himin war’s atmosphere, intensifying his experience. The noise and violence of the battlefield stand in contrast to the private, patient, silent grieving.

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