HOW DOES WILFRED OWEN CONVEY THE HORRORS OF WAR IN POETRY ?
Many of Owen's poems direct anger towards the generals and those at home who have encouraged war.Owen's war poetry is a passionate expression of outrage at the horrors of war and of pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in it. It is dramatic and memorable, whether describing physical horror, such as in 'Dulce et Decorum
Est' or mental torment such as in' Disabled'. His poetry evokes more from us than simple disgust and sympathy. Owen sympathizes with the vain young men who have no idea of the horrors of war
, who are 'seduced' by others (Jessie Pope) and the recruiting posters. The detail in Owen's poetry puts forward his scenes horrifically and memorably. His poems are suffused with the horror of battle. Many of Owen's poems bring across disturbing themes and images, which stay in the mind long after readers have read them. His aim is not poetry, but to describe the full horrors of war.
In this essay I have firstly decided to analyze two poems by the war poet Wilfred Owen
, taken from his writings on the First World War. Both 'Dulce et Decorum est' and 'Disabled" portray Owen's bitter angst towards the war, but do so in different ways. Then I will analyze a very different poem 'Who's for the Game?' written by Jessie Pope, and finally contrast this with the poems by Owen.
I think that in the poem 'Disabled', Wilfred Owen is trying to convey
the real tragedy of war. Many people think only of those killed but
reading the poem you remember that many people who were not killed in
the war could still have suffered a lot more. In the poem Owen focuses
on one young man, a single victim of war. It shows the effect the war
has on the young man's life, when on returning from the war he has
been maimed "legless, sewn short at elbow"
Owen writes the poem with style. He uses the recruits contrasting
memories and new views to create the war victim's true feelings "About
this time town used to swing so gay", "He thought be better join in" -
he wonders why. "Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn".
The poem also illustrates how his lifestyle changed dramatically. He
was once a great athlete, popular with the girls but now he is in a
wheelchair, "they touch him like a queer disease", and he notices how
"their eyes pass from him to the strong men that were whole". He is no
longer seen as a normal person. An artist was once eager to paint him
but "Now he is old, his back will never brace; he's lost his colour
very far from home".
When he departed for war he was treated like hero but peoples'
reactions were different on his arrival home, "Some cheered him home,
but not as crowds cheer goals". Only one person thanked him.
The war took away everything in this young man's life and 'Now he will
spend a few sick years in Institutes".
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
This poem deals with an experience of a soldier during an attack in
World War One. The mood of the poem is sadness. Sadness is too weak a
word to describe the poem but is still the general emotion that comes
to heart. The thoughts of WW1 and the horrors of trench warfare come
into mind when reading "Dulce et Decorum Est". The fact that this poet
has experienced the war at first hand really makes you think how real
this poem is.
The poem is in four stanzas and four corresponding sections. The first
deals with the extreme conditions of the exhausted soldiers and is
couched in exaggerated terms. "All went lame: all blind" indicating
the strength of Owen's feelings rather than the misery of the men.
These horrific images really take away from the glory of war. The
second stanza deals with a gas attack and the cruel death of a
soldier, literally drowning in his own blood, unable to get his gas
mask on in time. The third stanza, consisting of only two lines,
emphasizes the personal reaction of the poet to these circumstances-it
indicates a nightmare from his experiences. His nightmare shows his
guilt due to his inability to help his fellow soldier, "Before my
helpless sight". In the fourth stanza the poet is asking Jessie Pope
and other to consider the outcome of war by writing "The Old Lie:
Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori ".
The mood of the poem is sadness. Sadness is too weak a word to
describe the poem but is still the general emotion that comes to
heart. The thoughts of WW1 and the horrors of trench warfare come into
mind when reading "Dulce et Decorum Est" . The fact that this poet has
experienced the war at first hand really makes you think how real this
poem is. The reality comes to mind of a lifeless body being flung in a
wagon; the fact that this man has nightmares about a death he
witnessed contributes to the theme and mood alike. Flashbacks were a
huge problem for ex-military men and really shows that the poet is
dealing with the sad aspects of war, before and after.
The horrible descriptions of post-war effects are disturbing. Take
these few lines and realise the non-glorious side to war: "And watch
the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's
sick of sin: If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling
from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues".
This line is a vivid description of death and really shows what men in
history have sacrificed to enable us to live the way we do. Phrases
such as "the froth corrupted lungs" really makes you think you're
lucky you're able to breathe, let alone fight in war.
This poem detests war and fighting for your country, the reality of
war and the painful deaths and memories.
WHO'S FOR THE GAME ?
Jessie Pope composed persuasive recruitment poems. She was detested by
Wilfred Owen, who saw her as a typical irrespective, unfeeling
civilian who was supporting the war from the relative safety of the
Home Front. The presentation of war is quite different in Jessie
Pope's 'Who's for the Game?' to Wilfred Owen's poems.
She writes in a more conversational manner which makes the poem more
memorable and persuasive. She compares the war to a 'game', implying
that there is little danger on the battlefield and nearly no chance of
dying. She also refers to the war as a sport where a player would
return with a minor injury such as a crutch. She persuades the men to
join the army by making them feel ashamed and cowardly if they weren't
going to fight for their country. She also has a friendly manner in
her mistruthful poem as she refers to the men as 'lads'. She
pressurizes the men into joining the military with her prediction that
they'll 'come back home safe and well'. She makes the country more
appealing and dependable upon their support when she gives it a female
gender. This capitalizes on the sexist attitude of the WW1 era where
men were expected to take care of and protect their women.
Jessie Pope has written this poem in 4 sections with 4 lines in each
section and 4 stanzas with regular rhythm and rhyming and rhetorical
questions asked. This makes the poem more memorable and is also a
technique employed in children's poetry. This poem is a recruiting
poem with the aim of encouraging men to volunteer to join the
military. It was written at the beginning of the First World War and
therefore the true disastrous effects of the war had not been
experienced. Those left behind, women, children and exempt men, were
often unaware of the true horror of the war and instead were seduced
by a romantic ideal.
In conclusion, I feel that both poets are effective, but they both
present such different pictures of War. Owen's poems are excellent
examples of poetry portraying the realism of war whereas Pope's poem
is an excellent example of the unfortunate attitude cultivated on the
home front. The contrast between the two allows the reader to see the
reality of the First World War from two hugely different perspectives.