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Wilfred Owen - Anti-war Poet

Wilfred Owen - Anti-war Poet

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Published by felipesader
Essay question: "Owen is not so much a war poet as an anti-war poet".
- discuss, referring to three of his poems.
Essay question: "Owen is not so much a war poet as an anti-war poet".
- discuss, referring to three of his poems.

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Published by: felipesader on Oct 21, 2007
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05/08/2014

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Wilfred Owen, one of approximately nine million fatalities in World WarI, was killed in action on the Sambre Canal just seven days before theArmistice on November 4, 1918, this, as in many of his poems, isironic. His poems depict the horrors of trench and gas warfare duringWorld War I. Owen was an anti war poet, his experiences in the warfixated his view on the horrors, atrocities and the pointlessness of war. Owens uses a series of poetic techniques in order to convey tothe reader the essence of war and how it should not be portrayed as anoble, heroic feat as was thought in the early 20
th
century.
Dulce et Decorum Est 
(Latin for: it is sweet and proper, and at the endof the poem, pro patria mori: to die for ones country) describes theeffects of a gas attack. The fact that it is sweet to die for ones countrycan be linked to the bittersweet taste of the nerve gas used duringWWI, like in many of Owens poems this title is ironic, it expresses theagony suffered by the gas victims who have died in vain. Throughvivid imagery and metaphors, the poem gives the reader the exactfeeling the author wanted, to be horrified by war. The use of onomatopoeia aurally captivates the reader. Words like “guttering”,“choking”, and “drowning” not only show how the man is suffering,but that he is in terrible pain that no human being should endure.Other words like “writhing” and “froth-corrupted” say precisely howthe individual is being tormented. Nerve gas, when inhaled, causesthe lungs to fill with water thus giving the victim the feeling of beingdrowned, it also attacks the victims nervous system which causesuntold pain. Owen captures the victim’s pain and desperation throughhis use of onomatopoeia and descriptive language. Owen uses strong,impacting language to describe the situation:
“... the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores... “
 
By using the natural rhythms of speech and descriptive but simplewords he engages a much wider audience than that of other poets of the time, he can express his outrage to the masses and the fact thathe has actually seen the carnage of war with his own eyes makes hispoems even more real. The strong language used by Owen captureshis hate toward the war, the negativity can be seen in lines such as
¨His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin
¨. Owen also depicts theuseless loss of life through this poem. ¨Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! ¨refers to the young age of the soldiers many of them actually look likeboys as they are in their late teens.
Dulce et Decorum Est 
alsocaptures the monotony of a soldiers life, the daily routines havechange the young men into “old beggars” as they are forced to marchfor kilometers on end. The soldiers have become so accustomed tothe explosions of shells and the fire of automatic weapons that theyare not alarmed to hear them and march on. Throughout the poem,and particularly in the last stanza, there is a running commentary, aletter to Jessie Pope, a civilian propagandist of World War I, whoencouraged "with such high zest" young men to join the battle,through her poetry, for example, in one of her poem she writes"Who's for the game".
 Anthem for Doomed Youth
is one of the most popular of WilfredOwen's poems. It is in a traditional sonnet form. The imagerysuggests Christian funeral rituals and the poem moves fromunbearable noise to mournful silence. The title again employs irony,an anthem is meant to be a joyous or religious song but the poemreflects on death. This has a significant effect on the reader as it isquite a macabre thought.'Anthem for Doomed Youth' argues the factthat soldier who die on the battle fields of WWI have no funeral rites.In place of a normal funeral, these men “who die as cattle” willreceive funeral rites in the form of gun fire and “wailing shells”. Thepoem contrasts the loud, devastating and threatening sounds of the
 
frontline in the first stanza with the calm peaceful life in the hometowns of the soldiers. In order to achieve this Owen usesonomatopoeia, for example,
“The shrill, demented choirs of wailingshells” 
. Owen uses two rhetorical questions at the start of eachstanza symbolizing the contrast he has made between the frontlineand the home front. The poem describes how spirituality is lost in themidst of battle and war, there are no religious ceremonies for thedead and there is no recognition for their deaths. Owen shows hisbitterness toward the war and his compassion for the soldiers. Thispoem expresses the senseless waste of human life and how theyoung men who have gone to war in order to live up to the standardsset by society have passed away without recognition. As Owen says,they “die as cattle”.
The Send-off 
concentrates on the effect that sending men to the warhad on the public. The poem describes the sending-off of troops tothe front.
The troops have just come from a sending-off ceremony withcheering crowds, bells, drums, flowers given by strangers and now they arebeing packed into trains for an unknown destination. Owen truly affected thepublic with this poem as many people could not bear to watch a train movingaway because this reminded them of a last meeting. The poem is eerie andsomewhat scary as it describes the way in which soldiers would be packed intotrains and sent to their deaths. The train awaits for the soldiers, usually one hasto wait for the train, this indicates that there is something sinister about thistrain. Owen describes the atmosphere, the “dull porters” watch the men go intothe train as if it were a routine, everything happens smoothly and wellorganized, they are being efficiently taken to the horrors of war where many of them will never return from. Owens use of pronouns diminishes the soldier’sindividuality as they are all being driven into the train like cattle, as in
 Anthemfor Doomed Youth
. The poem has a rocking motion like that of a train, the dullsystematic motion contrasts with what the soldiers will encounter at the front.Owen depicts the scene as an organized routine like that of a slaughter house,the tone of the poem is not exiting. The fact that the individuals that constitute

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