State Rank 1 Mod B :: Wilfred Owen

Throughout his body of work, Wilfred Owen uses explicit language techniques to capture the horror and futile of war. During the course of WW1 Wilfred Owen’s poems had significant impact on the ideology and perception of war. He offers a sarcastic criticism of the governments’ use of propaganda the historical act of the governments to glorify war and entice young men to their inevitable deaths. His didactic nature is particularly evident in Anthem for Doomed Youth, which explores the atrocities and cruelties of war undermining the sense of glory attached to war and highlighting the lack of commemoration accorded to the fallen soldier.  Similarly, Dulce et Decorum Est criticises the betrayal of government and conveys the decay of morality associated with the dehumanisation of modern warfare. Lastly, Owen powerfully depicts the loss of war in Futility to reflect upon the waste of human potential. Therefore, these poems through evocative language features maintain textual integrity and create rapport with the responder to examine human misery.Cosequently, through examining the historical, personal and cultural setting and contexts of Owen’s poems the responder can intimately understand the message portrayed and developed.

Anthem for Doomed Youth reveals the insight of the horror of war and offers a powerful criticism of the loss of life and the cost of war in innocence. Owen challenges the conventions of a sonnet to depict the bestiality and suffering of war which effectively draws the responder’s attention to the victims who are only ‘boys’. The horrific insight that WW1 involved many young men who were merely adult are send to their inevitable death on the battle filed. Owen criticises this loss of life and the cost of war in innocence. The tragedy of sending young men full of possibilities die like animals is captured in the solemn lament, “what passing-bells for these who die as cattle?” The combination of this rhetorical question with the confronting simile draws the analogy between soldier and cattle. It powerfully reveals the denied dignity of individuals and the immense waste of human lives in war. What particularly poignant is the juxtaposition of the Christian funeral rites at home, “Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,” which is a vision mournful contemplation, compared to the chaos of the battle field, with, “The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells.” The choir of repose at home is transformed into the choir of artillery and gas shells, with this; Owen expresses the lack of respect shown to these men who gave lives up for country. Lastly, Owen reveals the meaningless answer of war as, “each slow dusk [there is] a drawing down of blinds.” The metaphor of the blinds signify a number of meanings, from the ‘blindness’ of a state avoiding the acceptance of sending men to their deaths, to a society averting their eyes from the brutality of war. The final vigil then, brings not a sense of closure, but the sad acceptance of the loss of all that human potential. In this manner, Owen powerfully depicts the horrors and brutality of war whilst also emphasises the lack of acknowledgement to the lives lost and the futile of war – waste of human lives. Owen by closely fusing the contextual settings of WW1 presents the responder a powerful perception of the war which is a massive waste of human potential.

Dulce et Decorum Est is a satirical poem which condemns the idea that war is glorious, instead the confronting contexts of WW1 informs the responder that modern war is full of chemicals, suffering that utterly dehumanises the soldiers. Owen reveals the horrific sights of war which questions the use of propaganda. The responder is provoked with a sudden gas attack conveying the ruthless of war, “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling.” A powerful tri-colon and enjambment depicts the moment of incredulity where death can occur in a split second. The oxymoron through distorting the positive connotations of ‘ecstasy’ by contradicting pleasure with terror emphasises the shocking value of war. Infers the dreadful gas shells used in WW1 to emphasis the ruthless war denying the glory attached to it. Furthermore, Owen positions the responder in first person to witness a friend die in front of them due to the effect of chlorine gas. This is captured in the tri-colon “In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” in which the persona’s vitriolic condemnation and disgust is evident at the government’s betrayal of their people. The dream like state infers that those are still living are hunted with the nightmarish image of his friend’s death. It perfectly captures the PTSD of war. Moreover Owen encapsulates the corruption of war and the decay of morality which is conveyed in the simile, “Bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.” The juxtaposition of traumatisation and innocence denotes people’s stupid and naïve ideas of the war. It ironically highlights the absurdity of propaganda, because only the soldiers who involved in the war truly understand what war is capable of destroying. Ultimately, the poem defies the use of propaganda to glorify war and shows the suffering of modern warfare to reveal the old lie, “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori”. Ultimately, Owen pre-sets the responder to experience the setting of WW1 to see the terrible ethics and tactics in war whilst reveals the idea war is nothing but killing of humanity.

The loss of faith is central to the aftermath of WWI. The world, after witnessing the horrors of the Great War, could no longer believe that a benevolent higher power can possibly exist. After the shocking battles and death in WW1, the western countries and people can no longer believe in their Gods which would save humanity. Wilfred Owen’s Futility is such a poem which captures the moment in which the old Romantic world died, and the faithless, bleak world of reality sets in. The poem begins with a sense of tender hope, that the sun is able to resurrect persona’s friend. This is suggested in the allusion “If anything might rouse him now … the kind old sun will know” in which the sun is personified to be God. The persona becomes frantic, angry demanding God’ action which is captured in the hyperbole, “Think how it wakes the seeds— Woke once the clays of a cold star.” Owen emphasises upon the almost desperate tone of the persona through the alliteration of the speaker’s lament, alluding to Genesis 1: 27, in which God made human life, from lifeless clay. What the persona implores is that a benevolent higher power surely is capable of bringing back a life so purposely lost; and there is a greater being watching over the multitude of men. However, though the limbs of his friends are “still warm” nothing brings him back to life. The persona questions the meaning of life itself and the existence of a higher power which is powerfully captured in the double rhetorical question, “Was it for this the clay grew tall?”, “To break earth’s sleep at all?” The “clay growing tall” represents both God raising man from lifeless clay, as well as a visual depiction of the shallow graves the mass of WW1 slain.  Therefore y noting the meaningless of life Owen defies the domain of God which clearly shows the loss of faith. Therefore, Owen’s personal experience of loss of faith is symbolic of all the man kind’s pity and tragedy what follows is the secularisation of western civilisation.

Consequently, Owen engages the responder extensively through distinct poetic techniques to explore the horror, hypocrisy, and pity of war. By enhancing the contexts of WWII, Owen’s poems powerfully demonstrate the [Key word] and therefore elevate textual integrity.


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