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The First World War marked an important turning point in Literary History: in the poems of Wilfred Owen, war is described for the first time in all its horror.

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Introduction

The First World War marked an important turning point in Literary History: in the poems of Wilfred Owen, war is described for the first time in all its horror. War has always been described as horrific, but you had a chance to prove yourself in warfare. This is the impression we get from Chaucer's General Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales ". Chaucer (the pilgrim) describes the Knight, as a worthy man who had certain knightly qualities. He was a brave man and he behaved like a knight in shining armour should. He set an example to all the people around him and he had great respect for his King and Country. "He loved chivalrie..." in other words this noble man was well experienced in battle and he had fought in fifteen wars. Chaucer the pilgrim believed that he was a noble, generous and liberal Knight with good manners: "He was a verray, parfit gentil Knight". Chaucer's Knight is respected because he has proven himself in battle. Earlier poets recognised the violence of war but saw it as an honourable struggle, and that death was a worthy sacrifice. In pre-World War One poems, Alfred Tennyson among other poets describes war; the emphasis on honour and glory: "When can their glory fade? ...read more.

Middle

But ours had long died out." This blind man was persuading himself that he could see the light, to cheer him self-up. Nevertheless, there was a slight sense of guilt when the poet watches his dreams because he could still see him, and as much as this man is trying to forget, there is no escape from the memory. In "Dulce Et Decorum Est": (It's sweet and honourable to die for ones country), Owen concentrates on the horror of the front line and how it couldn't be less glorious. Soldiers were going to their deaths without any argument in the front line. Death is being described in all its true horror as the soldiers are gassed and the cries for help couldn't be less glorious. There is a vivid description of a man dying, and the poisonous gas filling the air chokes him: "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs". Worse still, death seems inevitable from the moment of 'The Send Off': "Shall they return to beatings of great bells in wild train-loads?" The soldiers are treated like animals in 'Anthem for Doomed Youth': "What passing-bells (funeral bells) ...read more.

Conclusion

Just like a game of football the man thought team spirit would carry him through the war. Even those not obviously injured have to live with the guilt of survival, we can recognise this in the 'Send-off': "A few, a few, too few for drums and yells, may creep back, silent, to village wells up half-known roads." At the end of 'Dulce Et Decorum Est': "In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." - And near to the end of 'The Sentry': "Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids, watch my dreams still." Owen understood that War was no longer glorious or honourable for the ordinary soldier-there was no longer any hand-to-hand fighting anymore but mechanical weaponry e.g. Artillery, guns, bombs etc. He experienced it first hand and saw that the war was merely destructive. "Shall life renew these bodies?" he asks in 'The End', and the only answer he can find is that "it is death." There is no purpose in fighting such a terrible war and now it is up to the poets to tell the truth about it: "All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poets must be truthful." ...read more.

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