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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
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Wilfred Owen, one of approximately nine million fatalities in World War I, was killed in action on the Sambre Canal

just seven days before the Armistice on November 4, 1918, this, as in many of his poems, is ironic. His poems depict the horrors of trench and gas warfare during World War I. Owen was an anti war poet, his experiences in the war fixated his view on the horrors, atrocities and the pointlessness of war. Owens uses a series of poetic techniques in order to convey to the reader the essence of war and how it should not be portrayed as a noble, heroic feat as was thought in the early 20th century. Dulce et Decorum Est (Latin for: it is sweet and proper, and at the end of the poem, pro patria mori: to die for ones country) describes the effects of a gas attack. The fact that it is sweet to die for ones country can be linked to the bittersweet taste of the nerve gas used during WWI, like in many of Owens poems this title is ironic, it expresses the agony suffered by the gas victims who have died in vain. Through vivid imagery and metaphors, the poem gives the reader the exact feeling 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 how the individual is being tormented. Nerve gas, when inhaled, causes the lungs to fill with water thus giving the victim the feeling of being drowned, it also attacks the victims nervous system which causes untold pain. Owen captures the victim’s pain and desperation through his 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 simple words 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 that he has actually seen the carnage of war with his own eyes makes his poems even more real. The strong language used by Owen captures his 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 the useless loss of life through this poem. ¨Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! ¨ refers to the young age of the soldiers many of them actually look like boys as they are in their late teens. Dulce et Decorum Est also captures the monotony of a soldiers life, the daily routines have change the young men into “old beggars” as they are forced to march for kilometers on end. The soldiers have become so accustomed to the explosions of shells and the fire of automatic weapons that they are not alarmed to hear them and march on. Throughout the poem, and particularly in the last stanza, there is a running commentary, a letter to Jessie Pope, a civilian propagandist of World War I, who encouraged "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 Wilfred Owen's poems. It is in a traditional sonnet form. The imagery suggests Christian funeral rituals and the poem moves from unbearable noise to mournful silence. The title again employs irony, an anthem is meant to be a joyous or religious song but the poem reflects on death. This has a significant effect on the reader as it is quite a macabre thought.'Anthem for Doomed Youth' argues the fact that 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” will receive funeral rites in the form of gun fire and “wailing shells”. The poem contrasts the loud, devastating and threatening sounds of the

frontline in the first stanza with the calm peaceful life in the home towns of the soldiers. In order to achieve this Owen uses onomatopoeia, for example, “The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells”. Owen uses two rhetorical questions at the start of each stanza symbolizing the contrast he has made between the frontline and the home front. The poem describes how spirituality is lost in the midst of battle and war, there are no religious ceremonies for the dead and there is no recognition for their deaths. Owen shows his bitterness toward the war and his compassion for the soldiers. This poem expresses the senseless waste of human life and how the young men who have gone to war in order to live up to the standards set 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 war had on the public. The poem describes the sending-off of troops to the front. The troops have just come from a sending-off ceremony with cheering crowds, bells, drums, flowers given by strangers and now they are being packed into trains for an unknown destination. Owen truly affected the public with this poem as many people could not bear to watch a train moving away because this reminded them of a last meeting. The poem is eerie and somewhat scary as it describes the way in which soldiers would be packed into trains and sent to their deaths. The train awaits for the soldiers, usually one has to wait for the train, this indicates that there is something sinister about this train. Owen describes the atmosphere, the “dull porters” watch the men go into the train as if it were a routine, everything happens smoothly and well organized, 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’s individuality as they are all being driven into the train like cattle, as in Anthem for Doomed Youth. The poem has a rocking motion like that of a train, the dull systematic 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

the herd of soldiers are willingly to accept the inevitable reality of war arises feelings of pity and sorrow. These three poems by Wilfred Owen express his feeling towards war and the effects that war has on individuals and society. In Dulce et Decorum Est Owen touches on the individual suffering of soldiers affected by nerve gas and those surrounding them. Anthem for Doomed Youth describes the injustice of war on its victims, the lack of spirituality in battle and the contrast between home and the front. The Send-off describes the sending-off of troops to the frontline, their departure is secret, 'like wrongs hushed-up', because the true nature of what is happening to them is being concealed in the parades that seek to clear peoples minds.

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