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The World War One poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote two poems named ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘Disabled’. The main themes running throughout both poems are that of the pain and worthlessness of war, and the crime towards the young soldiers it was. The beginning and ending of these two poems link these ideas through the use of imagery contrast and language features.
The poem ‘disabled’ begins by describing a physically and mentally destroyed soldier, clearly a result of war, welcoming darkness to come and end his misery by taking him away. The image of a “wheeled chair” implies that he is disabled and probably dependent on others. Legless, sewn short at elbow” further implies the disability of the persona. Wilfred Owen describes him as a ‘ghastly suit of grey’ painting a picture of a colourless and lifeless man, an idea that is driven home through the use of the word ghastly, which the reader may easily mistake for ‘ghostly’. “Voices of boys rang saddening” reminds him of the old times when he used to be like them, playing and enjoying himself. The language used in this description of these boys carries very positive connotations, ‘play and pleasure’, in contrast to the dull words used to describe the wounded soldier. Darkness fell too quickly for these boys who were forced to end their games and retire inside, unlike the soldier who welcomed nightfall. The two contrasting sentences are used as juxtaposition, and set up the main theme of the poem, that would be the resentment and anger Owen had towards those at home who organized the war, and the sympathy he had towards the young men who had their lives taken away from them.
Throughout the poem, Wilfred Owen illustrates how injury on the football field would be met with glory and pride, knowing you had put your body on the line for your team, but injury on the battlefield was neither glorious nor fulfilling ‘one time he liked a blood smear down his leg, after matches carried shoulder high…Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer goal, only a solemn man who brought him fruits thanked him’. The poem then switches back to the immobilized soldier, who through the destruction of war had become an object, unable to fend for himself, once a very capable athlete, now reduced to a wheelchair. This links in with the first idea introduced in the poem of children having their childhood and potential life stolen from them by war.
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The second poem, also by Wilfred Owen, is called ‘Dulce et Decorum est’. The beginning of DEDE depicts the tiredness and pain caused by war. The poem opens with a group of soldiers, ‘bent double like beggars under old sacks’ trudging back to camp. The men are described as ‘marching asleep’ and ‘all went lame, all blind’ to show that their senses had collapsed and they were moving like zombies, not even bothered by the ‘outstripped five-nines that dropped behind’. This introduces the theme that young men had grown tired of the war, and tells the reader of the negative effects and pain war caused its victims. This is a complete contrast to the title ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ which translates to ‘it is sweet and right’, and this may shock the reader.
As the poem progresses, it focuses on a man who couldn’t fit his gas mask in time when they were attacked. The scene is compared, through use of a metaphor, to being underwater as the gas drowns its victim who was left ‘floundering’. Owen then switches style and appeals to the reader ‘if in some smothering dreams you too could pace…’ This is used to make the reader think about what it would be like to actually be there in the war, which once again, is aimed to shock. The killed soldier then becomes an object ‘the wagon we flung him in’. Very negative images are then used by Owen, such as cancer and hell, to further the pain and suffering caused by war. Owen ends the poem with sarcasm and the irony of the World War One quote ‘Dulce et Decorum est, Pro Patria Mori’ ‘It is sweet and right to die for your country’. This links in with the start of the poem which is intended to shock the reader and the truth about the destruction and pain of war, compared to the lie they had been given of the glory and honour to fight and die fighting for your country.
In conclusion, Wilfred Owen writes two poems to shock his readers and enlighten them about how awful war really was. Both the beginning and end of each poem are linked throughout, and therefore, they retain the same messages throughout. These messages are reinforced through strong language features, contrast and imagery which play on the reader’s emotions and allows them to fully understand the magnitude of the war.