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Owen incorporates both of these definitions into his poetry when describing war. I intend to concentrate on the various devices Owen uses to convey his opinion of War in three of his poems, 'Disabled', 'Mental Cases' and 'Exposure'.

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Introduction

'My subject is war and the pity of war'. Owen's use of the word 'pity' in this quotation immediately reveals his opinion of war. In the dictionary pity is defined as 'sorrow and compassion aroused by another's condition' or 'something to be regretted'. Owen incorporates both of these definitions into his poetry when describing war. I intend to concentrate on the various devices Owen uses to convey his opinion of War in three of his poems, 'Disabled', 'Mental Cases' and 'Exposure'. The titles of two of his poems, 'Disabled' and 'Mental Cases' tell of the effect that Owen believes the war to have on those who fought in it. He believes that it has a detrimental, crippling effect on such people and that many lose their sanity because of it. Owen's poem 'Mental Cases' focuses on those people who survive the war but are confined to a mental asylum because of it. He uses words such as 'misery', 'tormented', 'hideous' and 'madness' to describe the mental state of these men. Owen's poems give the distinct impression that the men involved in it are constantly plagued by memories of those that they have killed. Owen writes effectively and truthfully about this because he fought in World War One himself. In 'Exposure' the soldiers imagine the bodies of their comrades impaled upon wire: 'we hear mad gusts tugging on the wire, Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles'. ...read more.

Middle

In 'Disabled' Owen dwells on the debilitating effect the war has on a young boy. He is changed from a handsome man for whose face an artist was 'silly' into an insecure 'old' man who 'will never feel again how slim girls' waists are'. The poem focuses on this man's life before and after the war in order to make the change in his life from good to bad seem more dramatic. The picture that is conjured in the readers' mind by Owen's poetry is lacking in colour. The image formed in the reader's mind are grey - bland and empty, not at all alive or vibrant. They therefore can represent the lives of those involved in the war. In 'Disabled' the man's life before the war is described using 'colourful' words. Trees are 'light blue' and his blood is 'purple' (the colour purple is considered to be prestigious, and therefore may be an indication that courage coursed through his veins before the war ruined him). After the war, his world becomes dull and grey. He wears a 'ghastly suit of grey' (note the use of the word ghastly to represent the horror of the War). In 'Exposure' a personification of dawn attacks the 'ranks on shivering ranks of grey' men. This lack of colour is explained in 'Disabled', when Owen states: 'he's lost his colour very far from here', Owen explains that war strips the colour and life from all those involved in it. ...read more.

Conclusion

To me, Owen's poems convey a strong sense of regret. In 'Disabled' the young man ruins his life simply 'to please the giddy jilts'. Because of this the man is eventually forced to: 'take whatever pity they may dole'. Owen's use of the word 'dole' seems as though the people doling the pity are insincere, and it makes the man sound bitter and resentful. It is possible that the young man in this poem is a figurehead of Owen himself, who spent time in Craiglockhart War Hospital having been severely injured during the war. The above quotation uses the one word that Owen directly associates with war: 'pity'. In 'Exposure' the soldiers constantly ask questions, almost as though they are vulnerable ('exposed') and in need of guidance. They are despairing and definitely regretful: 'We cringe in holes'. This animal-like action reveals the soldiers' shame at what they have been reduced to. They do not try to glorify or even justify their actions. They are forced to accept them. In 'Mental Cases' there is no regret expressed on behalf of the mental patients until the very end of the poem. Throughout the poem the mental patients are described as 'purgatorial shadows' and do not appear to have the state of mind to by conscious of their surroundings. However at they end they are described as: 'Pawing [those] who dealt them war and madness'. This shows that they resent those people who caused them to end up as 'mental cases'. ?? ?? ?? ?? Hannah Fulford. 22/11/04 ...read more.

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