Marxist Criticism In Wilfred Owen's View Of The War

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“When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die”, Jean-Paul Sartre, a prominent Marxist literary critic, existentialist philosopher and author stated in his 1951 drama, The Devil and the Good Lord. Wilfred Owen’s poetry is a profound protest at this fact. Owens poetry was shaped by the horrors of the first world war, he enlisted as a naïve young man with dreams of heroic deeds and “desperate glory” only to be exposed to the realities of what war really entailed. War opened his eyes to the “truth” of the world if looked at through a Marxist lens. He abhorred the patriotic poetry that gave a warped view of the war and wrote many poems depicting the horror and helplessness, he aimed to capture the pity of war in his poetry. Through this we can…show more content…
It is a conservative force as it prevents the subject class from overthrowing the ruling class. Therefore, Owen uses his profound disillusionment with organized religion in his poems and letters to give a damning indictment of this class-divided society. Le Christianisme is a direct attack on religion which can be seen by the two lines “So the church Christ was hit and buried/Under its rubbish and rubble”. Three words are very significant here “buried”, “rubbish” and “rubble”, creating a lexical chain of negative imagery about the church and “Christ”. After witnessing the horrors of war Owen believes religion to be “rubbish” with no use to it. All it has done is be complicit with the ruling elite in stoking the fires of war. Anthem for Doomed Youth pushes this point on by juxtaposing the symbols which accompany Christianity like “passing-bells”, “orisons” and “candles”, with the images of the slaughter house, “die as cattle.” This shocks the reader with the horror of war showing how religion means nothing in the face of war. It does nothing to help and a blaming critical tone of it can be seen. Owen had been a lay assistant to a vicar shortly before the war teaching Bible classes and leading prayer meetings. The fact that war changed his view so much that he began to claim that “love of God is dying” and “Christ is in no mans land” proves how his…show more content…
Barry believes that a writer’s social class has a major bearing on what is written but I’m going to challenge that as I believe for Owen, it is the social context of the time that has formed his work. The war consumed his every thought once he’d witnessed the horrors and he began to write with a stark realism. The real turning point was at Craiglockhart Hospital for those suffering from shellshock where Owen met Sassoon. Sassoon had just published his statement Finished with War: A Soldier's Declaration, in which he announced, "I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it." Instead of the expected court martial for this direct act of rebellion against the rulers of the time, the under-secretary for war declared him mentally unstable due to shellshock, a “mental case” in Owens words, and he was sent to the hospital where he met Owen. This is an example of a repressive regime if ever there was one. Sassoon has been censored and shut away simply for voicing his protest. Therefore, Sassoon was one of the biggest contextual influences on Owen’s poetry and led him in my opinion to start writing about the unjust societal power structure he believed to be present. For according to Peck and Coyle “the idea of class struggle is central” in Marxist writings. This is very clear in Owens last poems where he became very
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