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How does Wilfred Owen present the horror and reality of war in his poems?

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How does Wilfred Owen present the horror and reality of war in his poems? '...But sweeter still and far more meet to die in war for brothers...' This is a line taken from a draft war poem by Wilfred Owen written before he realised the true horror and reality of war; entitled 'The ballad of Peace and War'. This poem contrasted strangely with his later work, when he wrote of how the fake glamour of war leads to unbelievable suffering. As a recent critic spoke of his poems: "...He has done as much as anyone to prevent the reading public from being persuaded ever again that death in battle is 'sweet and decorous'". Wilfred Owen's attitude to war changed form belief of brave, adventurous and exciting tales in war to bitter anger, anger at propaganda, the public and at war itself. It is this in his poems, which portrays the true horror and reality of war. This, I believe is what made Wilfred Owen and his poems so striking. Four of his most famous poems are: 'Dulce et decorm est', 'Disabled', 'Exposure' and 'Anthem for doomed youth'. Dulce et decorum est, literally translated means 'It is sweet and proper'. At first glance, you would presume that it was one of Owen's earlier pieces. It is not until we begin to read on, stanza-by-stanza that we realise this is not the case. ...read more.


The very striking line, 'His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin' completely sums up just how horrifying and horrific war is. He is suggesting war is so bad, even the devil would be appalled and sick of it. Owen effectively uses sarcasm to portray his anger directly at Jessie Pope, a poet of war when he says 'My friend'. Wilfred Owen is saying if you had seen what I had seen, you would not urge them to fight. The second of these poems is 'Disabled'. In this poem, Owen imagines the thoughts of a very young and severely wounded soldier. He has lost all of his limbs: 'legless, sewn short at elbow', and now sits helplessly in a wheelchair thinking sadly and bitterly of the past. The idea of the poem itself portrays the horror and reality of war. Owen described the young soldier sat in a wheelchair, 'waiting for dark...' in a 'suit of grey', suggesting he is wearing despair. This is a great contrast to the 'kilts' and 'plaid socks' he was promised he would wear, as described later in the poem. Two striking lines later on depict regret, bitterness, and reality, starting with '...before he threw away his knees'. He suggests a waste of life. I think Owen here is expressing his anger towards the authorities that irresponsibly sent those young men to fight. ...read more.


This poem is so sad and effective, through Owen's use of metaphors, time travelling and striking language; the horror and reality of war is made clear here. The third poem, 'Exposure' is quite a contrast to 'Dulce', which is filled with the frantic side of war. Exposure, in its own effective way shows the other side of war, equally as scary and horrifying. Soldiers are marooned on a frozen desert. On the words of Wilfred Owen 'There was no sign of life on the horizon, but a million signs of death'. In this poem, again Owen is here; he is describing a past experience. In this poem, winter is more dangerous to the men than war. Words and phrases such as 'merciless iced east winds that knive us', link comparisons of weather and war. As well as the weather, the soldiers have also got the constant worry of when attack comes. Owen communicates their feelings using words such as 'curious', 'nervous', but then finally ending the stanza with 'but nothing happens'. Owen repeats this line throughout the poem to emphasise the reality that often there was no action just waiting. Owen shows the weather as the enemy in stanza three with his strong use of personification, where he compares the dawn to a general: 'Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey'. ...read more.

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