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How does Owen stress the true horror of the First World War, and how is his poetry influenced by the work of propaganda poets such as Harold Begbie and Jessie pope

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Introduction

How does Owen stress the horrors of the First World War, and how is his poetry a reaction to the propagandist poets such as Begbie and Pope? When World War One broke out in 1914 Britain had only a small professional army. It needed a large one very quickly. In order to solve this problem the government would introduce conscription in 1916. However, before the introduction of conscription the government would put a tremendous amount of social pressure onto the young men of Britain to volunteer to join the army. The government began a massive recruitment drive, with posters, leaflets, recruitment offices in every town and stirring speeches by government ministers. Not only this many newspapers would include poems written as a means of shaming men into joining the army. For example, the poem "Fall In" by Harold Begbie would make those who did not join the army feel ashamed. Also, the women would put further pressure on men to join the army. The idea that the women would want the men after they came back from war was common. During this time young the young men of Britain were put under a lot of pressure to join the army. The recruitment campaign was highly successful as by 1916 over 2 million had enlisted. At this time the people of Britain were ignorant and inexperienced about war. To most the war seemed like an adventure or almost like a "game". The use of propaganda only served to increase this impression. Government produced propaganda would make people dismiss reality and the truth, instead opting to believe what the government wanted them to believe. Whilst in reality World War One was a highly dangerous and horrific experience. As well as this many young men thought the war would be over by Christmas and that they would be seen as heroes when they defeated the enemy and came home. ...read more.

Middle

It is these views expressed by Begbie and Pope that would have influenced the work of Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was one of the most recognised war poets during the war. Influenced by the poems of propagandists such as Begbie and Pope, Owen would write about the true dangers of war with the focus being on the young men who had been almost forced to join the army. One of Owen's most recognised poems is "Disabled: a victim of war". In this poem Owen communicates the effects of war as he assumes the role of a young man who has just returned from war after being severely injured. Whilst in other poems the life of a soldier is generalised here we are given access to an individual sole person. Consequently we are able to sympathise more as we are presented with one man's experience. Furthermore, as this poem is written in the free indirect style it allows the reader a unique access to the young man's thoughts and memories. For instance, we are given a sense of his pain: "He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark, And shivering in his ghastly suit of grey." Here we are presented with a grim indication of this young man's current situation. The mention that he "sat in a wheeled chair" augments his sense of pain and disability. However, a real sense of sympathy is experienced when we realise that it was the work of propagandists such as Begbie and Pope that manipulated men like him into volunteering. It is very likely that this man signed up to prove his potency but now he has ended up totally dependant and rendered impotent. Also, the suggestion that he was "waiting for dark" could show that the night is his only source of comfort as when it's dark he can sleep and experience no pain. Another way of looking at this is that night is a metaphorical symbol of death. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the fourth stanza Owen attacks those people at home who uphold the war's continuance unaware of its realities: "If in some smothering dreams you too could pace ... And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; Owen is suggesting here that if those people who are ignorant to the horror of war could experience his own "smothering dreams", which replicate in small measure the victim's sufferings, then maybe they would change their perceptions. The "you" whom Owen addresses could imply people in general but it more likely it applies to the propagandist poets who influenced his work. The sufferings that are experienced at war are described in sickening detail by Owen to shock the reader. The verbs "writhing" and "hanging" denote an especially virulent kind of pain. Whilst the simile comparing his face to a "devils sick of sin" indicates that he has somewhat experienced hell on earth in the form of war. Thus we can see how Owen stresses the horrors of war through his vivid description of one man's sufferings at war. Owen ends this poem with a somewhat angered bitter line that represents his attitude to the propagandists: "The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro Patria mori." This translates to "the old lie: sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country". We can see just how disgusted Owen was by the propagandists in this poem. Therefore, we can see just how Owen stresses the horrors of war through his vivid and descriptive writing about soldiers in the war. The main purpose of "Dulce et Decorum Est" was to make people aware of the true nature of war. Similarly, "Disabled" also attempts to communicate the horrors of war. Both these poems were influenced by the works of propagandists such as Begbie and Pope who wrote poems unaware of what war was really like with the intention of manipulating young men into volunteering. ...read more.

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