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Presentation of Suffering in Dulce et Decorum est and The Sentry

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How does Owen convey the suffering of the soldiers in the Sentry and Dulce et Decorum est? In both the poems "The Sentry", and "Dulce et Decorum est", Wilfred Owen create a strong impression of the suffering of the soldiers involved, both at the time of the incidents portrayed, and the time lapsed since those incidents. Dulce et Decorum est tells the story of the death of one of Owen's men in a gas attack. In the first stanza, the use of hyperbole is a strong technique illustrating the torment of the soldiers. For example, lines such as: "Men marched asleep." And "All went lame, all blind" are blatant exaggerations, but subsequently convey the overwhelming nature of the soldiers' exhaustion and pain. Consequently, I feel that the use of such ideas as "Men marched asleep" gives the impression of the soldiers' psychological detachment from their own bodies - they have been subjected to so much stress and trauma that their minds no longer work in the same way as their bodies. This is a clear symptom of shell shock, and is evident in The Sentry also: "And splashing in the flood, deluging muck - / the sentry's body; then his rifle". ...read more.


To further this technique, Owen uses personal pronouns carefully: "we" shows the narration of the events - the things that physically happen to the soldiers and their reactions to them. "We'd found and old Boche dug out", "We dredged him up", "we heard him shout" in The Sentry, and "Behind the wagon that we flung him in" and "we cursed through sludge" in Dulce et Decorum est. On the other hand, sentences that use "I" or "my" as a pronoun instead tend to show the most evocative feelings - Owen own clearest and most haunting memories of the incidents. "As under a green sea, I saw him drowning", "In all my dreams, before my helpless sight", "I held a flame against his lids", and "I forgot him there". This demonstrates how the mental suffering caused by the memory of such an event is prolonged and unrelenting. I also feel that the mental torment suffered by the soldiers is demonstrated in the many references to the loss of hope, particularly in The Sentry: "We dredged him up, for killed" as well as the last line, "'I see your lights!' But ours had long died out". One line in the last stanza of the sentry seems superficial, and too obvious in the context of the poem to actually be stated: "I try not to remember these things now." ...read more.


This technique is almost a rebellion against the traditional Victorian poetry conventions of the time, which in itself helps to illustrate that Owen seems to feel that a new and different style of literature is necessary to represent an unprecedented and shocking period of history. Owen's description of the environment of war also contributes to this effect. The Sentry has a particularly strong atmosphere of claustrophobia and filth, as well as the imminent danger of the enemy. "What murk of air remained stank old, and sour" and "Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath - / through the dense din" "And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell / hammered on top, but never quite burst through." The atmosphere in Dulce et Decorum est is less reliant on claustrophobia, instead the description centres around the fatigue and suffering of the soldiers. "Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge": This is a more direct approach to the illustration of the soldier's suffering, however both techniques are equally effective, and alongside the other Owen's many other poetic devices, are successful in building up lasting images of the experiences of the soldiers and the conditions they endured. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sophie Miller English Literature Block 5 ...read more.

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*** 4 STARS

A well written essay which clearly understands the effects of the techniques used by the poet. There are some perceptive comments which show engagement with the poems and PEA is used throughout the essay.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 05/09/2013

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