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The Soldier

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Introduction

The Soldier In a time before conscription, this poem was an important, effective persuasion tool for recruiting potential soldiers. The basic, overall purpose of 'The Soldier' is to encourage English people to sign up to fight in the war. It focused on the apparent aspects, experiences and events relating to death; describing them in a positive way. One might say that the message of this poem, literally, is "Join the war! Don't be afraid of death; it is a victory for your Country." It achieves this persuasion by introducing patriotic ideas into people's minds, describing war and death in glorious terms. During the time in which people would have read 'The Soldier', they were unaware of what the experience of war was really like. Oblivious to the reality of war's horror, people would have been susceptible to the poem's seduction. By beginning with an apostrophe, the poem appeals directly to it's reader with "If I should die think only this of me..." The poet wants people only to think positively of his death, should it come to be. He goes on to say "...That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England", trying to make people think of his death as a victory, where his decomposing corpse conquers the land where he perished, making it become "England". This line also makes people believe that the same would apply their death if it were to come about, that their bodies would make the land where they die become "England". ...read more.

Middle

When Owen writes "Men marched asleep", he refers to them being oblivious to the fighting that was going on around them, almost unconscious. They had a long walk back to their camps, and so 'switched off' mentally, becoming mostly unaware of the surrounding battle. When Owen says "Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod", he is speaking about the way in which the appalling conditions (mud, sludge) caused the loss of the soldier's footwear. He uses the metaphor "blood-shod", meaning they wore their own blood as shoes (their feet were covered in blood), just after emphasising the lack of pace to the soldiers' advancement with the words "limped on". Also, by using the word "but", he implies that the soldiers were either determined or just not thinking about what was going on, as they continued to walk without boots. Writing the metaphor "drunk with fatigue", Wilfred describes how the soldiers were so tired, their reactions would have been as if they were drunk. "...Deaf even to the hoots of gas-shells dropping softly behind" represents how poor their reactions would have been. The poem then spontaneously launches you into a panicked mood with the - in contrast - extremely quick words "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!" By using monosyllabic words, and quick-to-finish sentences, the emotion of panic is well created. "An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time," implies that the panic was so great there may have been an adrenaline rush for the desperate-to-survive soldiers. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Dulce et Decorum Est' did well in steering the emotions of the reader. Judging by what actually happened during the war, the second poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is more accurate in its treatment of the subject matter. The first poem glorifies death from battle as being honourable and dignified. However, the second poem tries to not only render patriotism - as conveyed in the first poem - worthless, but also to comment upon (and be truthful about) the mental and physical suffering endured by those who fought. It also touches upon how the innocent were affected: often killed. The poem serves to highlight the inhumane nature of war, and to make clear that death is most often not dignified nor glorious, as the first poem, 'The Soldier', implied. I prefer 'Dulce et Decorum Est' overall. It is truthful, powerful, influential, and emotive. I respect Rupert Brooke for being able to write so convincingly, but his intentions are not as pure as those of Wilfred Owens. 'The Soldier' was more metaphorical but less truthful. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' was much more descriptive and detailed. It was able to create strong imagery with it's carefully chosen vocabulary. The onomatopoeia was particularly appropriate when it was used ("guttering", "choking"). The aspect which compelled me most about 'Dulce est Decorum est' was the reality of it. In 'The Soldier' the poet is merely trying to encourage patriotism, but in 'Dulce et Decorum Est', Owen is writing from experience, from the heat. His emotions and experiences were very real; in my opinion this makes for a better read. ...read more.

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