Beautifully Crafted Poetry for Ugly Moments in Time

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Whether there is a soldier fighting in the heart of war or a city dweller observing the death of civilians, poetry that describes a period of war often portrays it as damaging and destructive. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," Wilfred Owen takes a soldier through trench warfare that ends in the death of a fellow fighter. In "Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of 1941," Sharon Olds has her narrator recount memories of a civilian urban centre during World War II. While both poets use similar techniques to convey the pain and anguish felt during times of war, Wilfred Owen is successful at constructing a more effective poem.

An important aspect of literature is the position of the narrator. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," Wilfred Owen uses the first person--point of view of a soldier fighting in the war. I believe that by doing so, he makes it easier to represent war as gruesome and horrifying. The poem is able to communicate ideas about war while maintaining a level of believability because the main character is someone who has experienced the thoughts and ideas being conveyed. Even though, as a reader, it is important to question the narrator, Wilfred Owen's experience, having fought during World War I, adds validity to the poem. The soldier in the poem suggests that it is easy for people who have not experienced war to believe that fighting for your country is proper and honorable. He feels, however that these people are in no place to do so because they have never been subjected to the pain and suffering that soldiers have experienced. When he says things like "If in some smothering dreams you to could pace/ Behind the wagon" (17-18) or "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood" (21) and "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest" ...

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...I feel that people are often exposed to the sight of dead bodies and corpses through movies and the media and have become desensitized to the images that Olds' portrays.

Olds and Owen both exhibit horrendous aspects of war in their poems. While Owen uses a soldier to convey his thoughts, and Olds makes use of a civilian, the techniques and methods that both poets use are comparable. Owen skillfully creates tragic, heartbreaking images and makes use of figurative language and words that are unforgettable as they linger and haunt. In addition to this, his extensive use and wide-range of punctuation only serves as to reinforce the atmosphere of war. Olds also constructs vivid images and employs similar techniques as Owen. Owen takes it one step further, however, and creates a more intense and dramatic atmosphere that serves to produce a more effective poem.

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