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Compare and contrast the ways in which Wilfred Owen and Ted Hughes write about nature.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which Wilfred Owen and Ted Hughes write about nature. In this extended piece of writing I am going to compare and contrast 'Exposure', a poem written by Wilfred Owen, to a poem written by Ted Hughes, 'Thistles'. 'Exposure' is a poem about the men who are fighting in the First World War and are suffering from the effects of the weather and the formidable conditions in which they have to live. They hallucinate about going back home and dream about what it would be like, but then return to reality, to the cold and dreadful trenches. Towards the end of the poem, there is a shift in tone and atmosphere. The men realise that their being in the trenches is essential for the protection of freedom and domestic security. Moreover it is their destiny. Ostensibly, 'Thistles' is about nature. On a more profound level, the poem is about survival and the pain endured during the growth and rebirth of this plant. There are comparisons and effective phrases using natural imagery as the poem's focus, showing that the battle for survival in an indifferent world is a brutal one. I will now examine in more detail each poet's approach to the role of nature in these poems. Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us... This quotation is from the first line of 'Exposure'. Immediately, we recognise a sense of pain and anguish. This line is particularly effective as the use of assonance, repetition of the [i] sound, reinforces the great power of the chilling wind. It is also very graphic as it personifies the wind as having the ability to stab. Alliteration has also been used; the repetition of the [s] sound emphasises the effect of the wind being indestructible and how much they sting the soldiers. This line is an echo from a poem written by Keats, 'Ode to a Nightingale', which begins, My heart aches... ...read more.

Middle

The thistles are situated in a field amidst cows and farm workers. Yet they appear to have an aggressive purpose. Alliteration is used: 'blue black'. The repetition of the [b] sound emphasises the immense pressure that the thistles have within them: they are literally bursting with reproductive energy. It can also give an image of a bruise, caused by a physical action. This perspective on the alliteration may come in useful as we read further on in the poem. The thistles then pollinate and reproduce: Every one a revengeful burst This describes that there is a motive for the reproduction other than simply to maintain the species. The motive is to fight a battle. The thistles don't sprout up, but they burst. Unlike the way that Owen has given nature the image of causing suffering and pain, Hughes has given the thistles human features such as the ability to take revenge. The word revengeful is used for a purpose. It is dramatic and strong, which shows that the thistles aren't pretty, but fierce. The thistles also show emotion by being revengeful. Like the nature in 'Exposure', it is fierce but the effect is that in 'Thistles', the nature is not evil and not a torment. Of resurrection, a grasped fistful Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up Here we sense that the thistles are ready and prepared with their weapons for a battle. This battle is for the land, their field of reproduction. Hughes has used the idea of fighting a battle, a war, to connect with nature whereas Owen has used the theme of nature as a background to suffering. Hughes has used a sense of time and history in 'Thistles' to describe how long they have existed: ...Icelandic frost thrust up From the underground stain of a decayed Viking. The fight for the land is a repetitive cycle, trailing back to ancient history. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the second stanza, there is a very questioning tone. Owen starts to question why the sun exists when it can't bring back life; it can create it but cannot bring it back: -O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth's sleep at all? This is where there is relevance of the last line from 'Exposure'. The sun in many ways is useful, 'but nothing happens'. The pointless sunbeams aren't at all useful if it cannot save this man's life, is the message that is given from this poem; that nature is useless. Nature causes death and suffering, but is unable to bring back life. Wilfred Owen and Ted Hughes have used the theme of nature in different styles of poetic language. Wilfred Owen, being a war poet, has created the image of what it was like to be in the war. He, being a soldier who fought in World War I, has first hand accounts of the many tortures he had to face. By using personifications and metaphors in ways that create powerful and graphic description gives us an idea of how deadly nature can be. Owen has also used half-rhyme to give this effect, which Ted Hughes hasn't. For example: ...streak the silence. ...black with snow, ...pause, and renew, ...wind's nonchalance, The effect of this is that it links together ideas so that each image is almost subconsciously linked to the next. Ted Hughes has personified nature in a way that it is similar to mankind. We see this in 'Thistles' as nature also striving to reproduce and how much they to endure to fight a battle. As well as us humans having a complex world, 'Relic' shows that life under the sea has far more complexity of survival; how each organism also aims to live the best quality of life. Wilfred Owen has used the theme of nature to portray it as evil and causing torment, whereas Ted Hughes has used the theme of nature to show how they too have obstacles to overcome in the fight for survival. ?? ?? ?? ?? Page 1 ...read more.

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