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Select two poems by Wilfred Owen in which he describes the conditions of the trenches and the experience of war. By close reference to the poems, say what you have learnt and comment on the language used to convey his message.

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Introduction

Select two poems by Wilfred Owen in which he describes the conditions of the trenches and the experience of war. By close reference to the poems, say what you have learnt and comment on the language used to convey his message. Through his war poetry Wilfred Owen communicates to the reader the realities of war. In his poems, he creates emotions and feeling, which describe the horror of the war and the conditions of the trenches. The language that Owen uses shows the truth and power of his feeling. Two of his poems that demonstrate Owen's ability to express this are 'The Sentry' and 'Dulce et Decorum est'. 'The Sentry' is a poem in which Owen describes how a sentry was injured. The poem describes in detail how it happened. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is a description of a gas attack and in particular, the effect on one soldier who failed to protect himself against the gas in time. In both of the poems Owen describes the effect that the events have had on him and by doing this expresses his feelings towards war. His poem 'The Sentry' is an example of a poem in which Owen describes, in detail, the terrible conditions of the trenches. Owen shows such conditions when he talks about "Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime". By comparing the rain to a waterfall, Owen shows the power and force of the rain. Use of the word 'slime' indicates that the rain was not pure and refreshing, as might be expected, but in fact dirty and muddy. ...read more.

Middle

This is effective as it makes the reader more able to relate to the soldiers. His description of the shells at the beginning of the poem: "for shell on frantic shell hammered on top" is personifies the shell saying that the shell is 'frantic'. This gives an insight into the panic and the fear that the men feel and an impression that the shells are relentless, like animals focused on their prey. In the second stanza, Owen makes use of the metaphor "Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime". When Owen talks about the 'waterfalls of slime', he describes slime that is oozing and muddy. This is different to rain because rain is imagined to be pure and refreshing as it brings life and helps crops grow. By saying that there were waterfalls of slime Owen makes the metaphor even more effective as it suggests force and power making the slime seem dangerous and implies the strong will of nature. Use of words like "hammered", "blast", "thumping" and "pummelled" all help to convey the strong impressions in the poem, as they are all words that imply strong and violent sound indicating the violent and aggressive nature of war. It is particularly effective as it suggests how the soldiers had been used to every loud noise being an attack or a threat so it shows the reader how vulnerable and nervous the soldiers are. Indeed, they "herded from the blast" this is effective as it implies that the men cowered together like animals because they were frightened. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the final stanza Owen talks about his "smothering dreams", use of the word 'smothering' is effective as it gives the reader an insight into how awful these dreams are. It also seems that his dreams overcome him so that he cannot escape. Owen then describes the face of the man, "his hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin". Owen is comparing the face of the soldier to the face of the devil, Owen says that the devil is sick of sin. This communicates a message to the reader that it must be something truly terrible if the devil is sick of sin because by definition the devil is the master of sin. The awfulness of the soldiers condition is highlighted in the words "the blood come gargling from his froth-corrupted lungs". This Owen talking about the physical condition of the soldier, he makes a very graphic description that is very disturbing. There is much irony in the final lines of the poem when Owen talks about how people at home see the "glory" of the war. When he talks about "the old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country, there is a hint of bitterness and anger. It is clear that after the experience that Owen has had he cannot see anything 'sweet' about dying for one's country and this is the main point of the poem. Owen relates a very anti-war message to the reader throughout 'The Sentry' and 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. He influences the reader through his horrific descriptions and appeal to the emotions. His use of language and literary techniques make his war poems so effective. ...read more.

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