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Consider the very different approaches to war presented in Wilfred Owen's poem

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English Coursework. Consider the very different approaches to war presented in Wilfred Owen's poem "Mental Cases" and Henry V's speech before the battle of Agincourt from Shakespeare's play "Henry V". Both these poems take their theme about war, but treat it in different ways: The poem "Mental Cases" was written by Wilfred Owen during the First World War and talks about the consequence and effects war has had on the minds of the soldiers. The poem is also very graphic in its descriptions and has an archaic feel. It shows the psychological and physical damage that occurs to the "survivors" of the war. Wilfred Owen talks as though he's observing them in a mental hospital, compared to the home he is actually viewing them in, again stressing the point that they are looked at as mental. The title "Mental Cases" is very brutal, it shows the consequences of war and that war is not a great thing to participate in unlike what the propaganda surrounding the war said at the time. It also shows that war does not just leave physical scars but also psychological scars. The poet appears as though he wants to lock them away and call them mental, it is as if he is trying to shift responsibility and not accept it. Also, the way the poet uses the title makes him seem patronising and insulting towards the men, as though he does not respect what they have done. I think he feels this way as he disagrees with war plus he can see the consequences of the war, feels that they have brought this upon themselves and cannot sympathise with the men. The first sentence has a cesaura, which slows down the poem dramatically. The first line also contains two rhetorical questions, which the reader cannot answer to due insufficient information that has been given. The poet is proclaiming it to an audience, trying to get them thinking about the poem rather than him just telling them the information and not letting them get involved. ...read more.


From the time they wake up, until the time they get to sleep, their day is exactly like the one before, the pain never leaves them. Everything to the men is tainted with the memories of the war, even what is normally good. The final line, "Pawing us who dealt them war and madness." Tells us that we are all to blame for sending them to war, whether it is the society itself for sending the men out there to be killed or the soldiers who actually killed them. There seems to be a moral to this poem, and it is; we sent these men to war which made them mad due to the consequences, and is causing them unnecessary pain. It also seems to be saying that we should also be suffering, as even though we were not there in person, we were directly responsible for the suffering the soldiers and the men in the poem. The second poem "Before Agincourt" was written with second hand knowledge by William Shakespeare and is totally fictional. The poem is written as though Henry V is talking to his soldiers and is full of propaganda. This poem takes the theme of war as being something to be celebrated and will be remembered as a great thing for years to come. It tells of how the soldiers will have physical scars which they can wear with pride and that they will not have any psychological effects after. The poem only concentrates on the positive and does not talk about the negative effects war has. Firstly, William Shakespeare tells us that Henry the V says, "The fewer men, the greater share of honour." Here, he is trying to say that the more men that die, the greater your honour and reward will be for staying alive. However, he is saying that if you die you are doing your friends a favour as they too will have a greater share of honour, he doesn't see death as a dreadful thing but one of glory. ...read more.


He tells the men to believe that they are to go and fight in the war and that God will decide who shall live and who shall die, and that that is their destiny. Also, he is telling them that if they die they will be doing the survivors a favour as they will receive more honour. This is all one big illusion and propaganda, as they believe that when the war ends the suffering will also end. He gives you the idea of being happy in your old age and that your scars will be trophies that you should wear with pride, a quotation that backs this point of view up, is "Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars". He does not tell you about the emotional scars that they will receive, as this will put the soldiers off going to war and will reduce the numbers of his army which he does not want to happen. Wilfred Owen is more critical in the poem "Mental Cases", as he lives in the age where you can challenge authority freely; he lived in the period of the fall of the absolute monarchy and the rise of socialism and communism. This means he could express his views freely and not be controlled by what the king or queen deems to be correct. Shakespeare however did not have the freedom of speech as they believed strongly in God and that the king was appointed by God and that the king is God's representative on earth, therefore the king had the right to decided whether or not Shakespeare's work could be used in plays and his message spread around the kingdom. I have noticed that Wilfred Owen writes about the consequences of "Before Agincourt" in his poem, as he writes about what he has seen, and how the men have returned from war and are treated as mental. The purpose of his poem is to express his disquiet. ...read more.

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