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How do 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Lord Alfred Tennyson present an image of war?

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Introduction

How do 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Lord Alfred Tennyson present an image of war? Although the two poems, 'Dulce et Decorum Est' and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', share a common theme of war, they interpret, communicate and portray the concept of war and the images evoked by war differently from each other. In most cases, in the poems, these differences directly contrast each other. The poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen was written as anti-war poem, focusing on the propaganda and the lies that the Government used in the days of the First World War, to lure eager, patriotic men of different ages into joining the army and fighting for their country's welfare and defence in the war. The poem compares these lies to the reality of the war, focusing on the horrors and the emotional as well as physical devastation caused by the experience of life in the trenches and, in particular, being on the receiving end of a gas attack. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' heavily criticises the propaganda and deeply emphasizes the bitterness and anger felt by surviving soldiers, their families, and the families of soldiers who were not fortunate enough to survive the horrendous ordeal, Wilfred Owen being one of them. The poem explores the meaning of its own title, 'Dulce et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori)', a Latin phrase from the famous Roman poet, Horace, meaning 'It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country', and tries to prove to readers that this is indeed an 'old lie'. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', on the other hand, celebrates the glory of war and praises the efforts of the soldiers involved. The poem was written by Lord Alfred Tennyson, former poet laureate to the Queen. It focuses on a particular battle during the Crimean War, the Battle of Balaclava, a battle now of historical status historical status not just because of its outcome, ...read more.

Middle

begins shouting "Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!". The urgency of this situation is revealed through these short, one word sentences, which quicken the originally unhurried pace of the preceding stanza. And then the poem starts to be come as hectic as in the opening 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', although the soldiers in 'Dulce et Decorum Est' become frantic in their attempts to escape death, whereas the soldiers in 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' are marching towards possible death. As the gas begins to diffuse into the trenches, Owen uses many metaphors and similes to try and capture the havoc in the trenches and the complete desperation of the soldiers fearing for their lives. A lot of water imagery is also used in this section of the poem as yet another major shock awaits the readers, as we are about to witness what Owen painfully witnesses himself: a soldier about to be sent to his death by the gas. Amidst all the chaotic activity in the trench, one soldier is "still yelling out and stumbling" and Owen can see him "floundering" as he peers through his "misty panes" and through the green gas; his colleague is "drowning" as though "under a green sea". The words "floundering", "misty" and "drowning" can all be connected negatively to images of water. "Floundering" suggests that the soldier is struggling, just as a fish flounders and "drowning" suggests a slow, uncontrollable kind of torture by water and is used to describe the gas entering the soldiers lungs and dissolving them. The idea of dissolution is also linked with water. Yet more shock and emotional torment is administered, both to Owen and the reader, through the next two isolated lines: "In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." For the first time we can think Owen's thoughts, feel Owen's emotions and helplessness and are emphatically involved in the situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Owen almost asks the question "What is friendship, when something like this happens". Owen's understandably bitter feelings about the lies and propaganda are not only directed at the government, but also to those who, at the time, who wrote and spoke of war in the way which Tennyson does in 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. And the greatest and final shock of 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is when we learn that "The old lie", "Dulce et Decorum Est pro patria mori" is not being told to "old beggars" and "hags", but "to children ardent for some desperate glory". In other words, the soldiers whose lives are being wasted and sacrificed in the name of patriotism are not old men, but young men who would have been the future of our country but for the government taking advantage of their enthusiasm. The last few lines of Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' pay tribute to the brave efforts of the soldiers: "Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred" It is clear to see that, particularly from use of positive words such as "honour" and "noble" Tennyson looks upon the charge as noble and brave and is trying to convince the public that he is justified in having such a romantic and glorious outlook on war by saying what they want to hear. Tennyson does not so much present a false image of war as a different perspective. Both poets were in different positions during the wars about which they write: Owen was directly involved, whereas Tennyson was a member of the public and could only write about what he heard and not what he experienced. I feel that both Owen and Tennyson achieve have both achieved their intention; Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est' shocks and disturbs readers, making them think about certain important moral issues, and Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' depicts a romantic view of the role of a soldier in a war. These were the aims of the respective poems. ...read more.

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