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Compare the ways in which Owen portrays the impact of war on the soldiers in Conscious and The

Letter.
World War One was glamorised through the use of propaganda, but Wilfred Owen wrote poems to portray
the reality of the war. Conscious and The Letter are examples of these. Conscious is about a man drifting in
and out of consciousness after being a soldier in World War One; hence the title. On the other hand, The
Letter is a working class soldier writing home to his wife in the early stages of World War One; however the
poem includes the conversation he has with other soldiers whilst writing the letter.
In both poems, Owen uses similar sentiments as both soldiers feel isolation from their family, however in
The Letter, the soldier still has a sense of people around him whilst in Conscious; the soldier has nobody. In
The Letter he speaks and answers Bill and Jim in a friendly and humorous tone by calling them ruddy
cow and dear, but in Conscious, the loneliness of the soldier is extended by the nurse and doctor having a
dismissive tone when saying Yes, all right, all right. The commas indicate a slow pace, which leads the
reader to believe that the nurse and doctor are both busy with all the other soldiers injured at war. The
readers feel sympathy for both soldiers, yet in different ways as although the soldier in The Letter has
company, the real speech included allows us to feel the situation happening, but in Conscious, the fact that
there are no familiar faces when he wakes up, and that the only names mentioned are Nurse and
Doctor, imply that the war has led him into being completely alone with no sense of anybody close to him
anymore.
Both soldiers have distances between people, except for the soldier in The Letter, it is his wife he cannot
bear to tell the complete truth to, and for the soldier in Conscious, it is just people in general. In The
Letter, as the soldier uses clichs such as Im in the pink at present, which suggests to the reader that he
does not want his wife to know the complete extent of how harsh conditions are in the war, and for her to
worry about his life or that the soldier is just nave Owen presents ambiguity here to the reader, which
allows readers wonder why he used this clichs. However, once we read through the poem, it is obvious
that Owen uses irony in the structure, by placing parts of conversations in juxtaposition with the letter. The
sense of innocent mens lives being wasted is conveyed, as the war just keeps getting in the way of his
personal family life. On the other hand, in Conscious, we, as readers, see how the war affect soldiers after
being injured, as when the Nurse looks so far away, not only is the distance physically shown, but it shows
that the only person he even thinks about is the Nurse; he has no family to be close with and perhaps it
was the war which separated family and the soldiers so much that they do not even be on his mind.
The unfocussed thoughts of the soldier in The Letter is shown mainly through punctuation, because
although at the beginning of the poem, he can at least write a whole sentence for a line, he changes topic
after each sentence which shows he does not know where to focus his thoughts as so much is on his mind
at the moment and most of them are not to do with writing the letter. The full stops make what he is
saying to his wife abrupt and unloving. However, later on in the poem, Owen uses caesuras to show that
he is running out of things to say to his wife and so is losing control over his thoughts. In contrast, the
soldiers thoughts in Conscious are very focussed, with especially his surroundings, as enjambment is used.
He is not in control of what he is thinking, as he notices that the blind-cord drawls. Owen personifies the
blind cord and as we see it in the soldiers point of view, we realise that everything that happens around
him is much slower to him and uses a lot of effort. His thoughts, nevertheless, are little connected with the
war this suggests that the war was a traumatic experience for him, and he would rather notice a smooth
floor which is in contrast to his previous surrounding.

The two poems are similar as both soldiers suffer from confusion; however it is more obvious from the
soldier in Conscious than the soldier in The Letter. In The Letter, the soldier cannot find Jim whilst Owen
changes the tone of Conscious through the introduction of voices. The voices make the readers feel the
soldiers is hallucinating and has no control of his actions, as the voices seem to appear from nowhere, or at
least somewhere out of sight?, which increases the mans anxiety.
Owen makes both soldiers seem innocent, as they both do not understand the reasons for war. In The
Letter, the simple punctuation, his accent through his speech such as Say, Jimmie, spares a bite of bread,
and his longing for a taste of your old buns make him seem blameless for his death and the war in
general. Even though he says square-eaded Uns, he only says this because he does not know what else
to call the Germans. The use of simple rhyme scheme show he is an uneducated man, but because the
rhyme scheme follows through the conversation, it feels as if the war has taken up the soldiers life.
However, in Conscious, we feel sorry for the soldier because the only image to powerful enough to break
through his brokenness is of the war, and the crimson slaughter is just as natural as the yellow
mayflowers because he is so used to it but he did nothing to deserve any of this. The ellipses show the
soldier has broken thoughts as he cant remember when he saw blue sky He does not understand he is
in a hospital bed and he loses his train of thought after thinking about the blue sky making him feel
mentally damaged through no fault of his own.
Another similarity is that both soldiers seem to value everything surrounding them, even the things that
they probably would have taken for granted before the war. Owen uses ordinary nouns in The Letter, such
as cigarette and bread, which they may have had a lot more often before the war, however they also
talk about the war and body parts, both which are spoken about in Conscious. As the hospital is now the
soldiers home, all he can focus on is his surroundings. This shows that he cannot bring his mind to things
that are complex and is implying that his damaged body makes a damaged mind because although he is in
a calmed place, he still feels the tension of war.
Time is represented as a constant factor of the war in both poems, but in different ways. For example, in
The Letter, the moving line of When me and you-is the last line of the actual letter. It leaves so many
unanswered questions and the hyphen at the end indicates that a crisis has happened and that the soldier
is probably seriously damaged, and he ran out of time to even finish the letter to his wife. In Conscious, he
has no time to ask or no time to want a drink of water. The repetition of time shows that he is
conscious of time and it running out. Additionally, when he knows not what at the end of the poem, it
feels as if he is slipping away from the world and his mind is fragmenting until it is non-existent.
Owen uses imagery much more in Conscious than in The Letter. In Conscious, although the title could be
presented as question, it is immediately answered as his fingers wake suggesting the man has been
asleep for a while. The commas and semi colon on the first line makes the mood disjointed and he is just
talking about one part of his body and so is not under control over his thoughts. However, as suddenly
evening comes upon the soldiers, it is symbolic as it means towards the end of life so could mean he is
losing consciousness again. The unobtrusive rhyme scheme means we do not notice it much when first
reading it, unlike in The Letter.
The physical damage is more obvious in The Letter than in Conscious. Ironically, he is out of harms way
when he writes to his wife, but we, as the readers, know he is shot before he finishes the letter. However,
because the conversation are in parenthesis, it means the wife does not know about VRACH!. The !
emphasises the onomatopoeia, which makes the readers shocked about the shot. Consequently, it

suggests he knows his fate during the end of the poem, as he uses more names at the end, such as Nell,
Bert, and Jim. The importance of his friend Jim is also shown as at the beginning of the poem his wife
was called dear, now Jim is the dear. The soldier got a new friend who has become a new family to him,
but sadly his wife never knows of this. The war is more important than his wife as he depersonalises her. It
makes the readers think that if he is injured and not dead at the end of the poem, will he end up being like
the soldier in Conscious?
To conclude, I feel that Wilfred Owen successfully portrays the impacts of war in both Conscious and The
Letter. Using punctuation, imagery and a lot of social historical context, we understand what it was like
during World War One.