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Explore the portrayal of war in the poetry of Wilfred Owen.

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Introduction

Explore the portrayal of war in the poetry of Wilfred Owen. In this assignment, I am going to examine Wilfred Owens's portrayal of war within his poetry. To do this I will firstly examine the context of the poems Mental Cases and Dulce Et Decorum Est. I will also discuss the attitudes towards the myth and reality of war. I will then be exploring the choice of language and structure of the poems. I will conclude this essay with my own thought on the impact that these poems had on me. History has allowed us not to forget the losses we as a national endured. However, the portrayal of war as seen through the first hand experiences of poets such as Wilfred Owen offers us an insight into the sensory invalidity of war. Owen uses both Mental Cases and Dulce et Decorum Est, as a verbal pallet in which he paints the colour, sound, smell and distaste of his war. Although we as a generation have never experienced these atrocious; Owen's use of graphic imagery within his poetry allows us the reader to instinctively know that we would not want to experience these first hand realities. Both poems where written by Owen during his military service. Nevertheless, the contrast between Mental Cases and Dulce et Decorum Est, allows the reader to gain a intuitive insight into both the physical and emotional casualties that this war produced. Owen wrote Mental Cases during his convalescent period at Ripon in May 1918. Originally titled 'The Deranged', Owen exemplifies the more sinister unspoken effects of war. His illustration of the pained psychological damage that was being inflicted to the youth in the name of patriotism conjurors horrific images of youthful innocents being lost forever. 'This war was like none other' and Owens use of vivid imagery portrayed back home that there was much more at stake now than the expected psychical deformities caused by war. ...read more.

Middle

His graphic visualisation of the psychical effects caused by the continual batter of gunfire and gas attacks was meant as a shock tactic towards Pope and her whimsical adaptation of war. Owens use of bland, emotionless words such as 'haunting, cursed,' within the first verse conveys the images of soldiers being numb and void of any natural feelings. His choice of words conjuror the image of the walking dead and men whom have been trapped within a state of purgatory. Additionally, Owens use of metaphor's such as 'Men marched asleep' and 'Drunk with fatigue' reinforces the images of deflated psychical appearances. Whilst, his use of similes depicts the fact that these once virile men are now a shadow of their former selves 'like old beggars' and 'like hags.' Owen changes his stance within the second verse allowing him through graphic imagery to transpose the reader into the forefront of the experience of a gas attack. The first cry of 'gas!' suggests an almost unconscious response yet the second cry of 'GAS!' is the definite realisation of the impending peril that suddenly filters into their conscious weary minds. Owens accentuates this image by the use of the verbs 'fumbling and stumbling,' these are not the descriptions you would normally expect to be association with highly trained soldiers. Yet, Owens descriptive use of 'green light, green sea' as well as his use of the powerful onomatopoeia 'drowning' conveys the comprehension that these men were not only fighting the enemy but also there own exhaustion, to faultier meant certain death. Owens associates the consuming gas with the supremacy of the sea, as neither is answerable to man. While both consumes who and what it wants without any conscience. Once again Owen is able to alter the message by structuring a short blank verse with alterative rhyme to add impact. Nevertheless, the first line is almost a reflective thought that Owen is relaying to himself, 'In all my dreams.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Owens poetry has coloured my life but not in the way of Keats or Wordsworth. His uses of literacy evoked not only my emotional senses but also my cognitive need to know why. I have consider why I, someone who was neither born nor knew anybody that had taken part during this allegedly 'Great War,' would be so inexplicitly sadden by these events. After some deliberation the answer I came to was because I never cared to ask. Ignorance is no excuse; historians claim that there are lessons to be learnt from history, alas, in all the people I have spoken to regarding the events of the First World War, nobody knew when or why it had started. Ex-serviceman parading on Remembrance Sunday, Poppies and the two-minute silent is associated with just the lives lost during the second war world by the youth of our country. With World War One, being that thing that happen so long ago, why do we still need to harp on about it. I myself have been guilty of this thought. However, unless we as a Nation remember, that it was for us these men laid down their lives it was a catastrophe waste of live on their part. If we choose to allow our children not to remember how young men were allowed to become 'cannon fodder' without any recourse. With the safe and secure hierarchy not being made accountable for their military errors. How do we teach those to show compassion, should the need arise again to command men of a lesser station. The real travestied being that a gifted, and emotive young man should die only and short time before Germany surrendered. Irony followed Owens even in death, with his parents receiving the fateful telegram that conveyed his death on the same day the bells declared Armistice. Which I consider to be Owens last poignant statement to the establishment in that 'old men that make wars that young men have to fight. ...read more.

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