• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The themes, techniques and reader response to the First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen

Extracts from this document...


The themes, techniques and reader response to the First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen The First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen provides an exhaustive and poignant account of the atrocities he witnessed between the Allies and the Germans from 1914 to 1918. Although the style and structure of his poems vary considerably throughout his body of work, the two elements of physical and psychological torment suffered by the soldiers in the war. He is quoted here describing his work: 'Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity.' The physical destruction the Great War had on the soldiers is often described in minute, intricate detail. Owen's most famous poem 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' paints a stomach-churning image of a victim of a gas attack, describing his 'white eyes writhing in his face, his hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin'. In poems such as 'Mental Cases', Owen shows the profound mental effect of the war on a great deal of soldiers, grotesquely describing their faces as 'wearing this hilarious, hideous, awful falseness of set-smiling corpses'. Owen's ability to write such memorable and poignant poetry with an intellectual depth that goes beyond the simple emotion of sympathy is what makes his work exceptional. His poems can be read at a number of levels, which means his work appeals to a wider audience. For example in 'Inspection' there is a reference to Macbeth when he speaks of the 'damn�d spot' of blood on the soldiers uniform. ...read more.


In this poem Owen highlights the psychological tragedy of the crippled soldier who 'threw away his knees' by joining up while underage. It highlights the fact that war is non-selective and can destroy even the most able of people. The tragedy in this case comes from the things that have been taken away from the once successful but naive youth, and his demise from being at the height of popularity to becoming a social misfit, as sitting in the park 'he noticed how the woman's eyes passed from him to the strongmen'. Not only is there physical damage sustained by the returning soldier, but underlying mental damage that takes precedence over the pain of losing his legs. This sentiment draws great sympathy from the reader by again creating a scene that is so easily imaginable in their mind. Owen states that his subject is the pity of war, and in 'Disabled', in few places is this so directly the case. In 'Strange Meeting' Owen highlights the fact that it is not the soldiers' fault on either side that they are participating in the war as they are simply following the orders of authority. Here the two enemies find it possible to overlook the hatred and contempt one would expect them each to hold against each other and realise 'the truth untold' of the horror of war. Owen aims to proclaim the truth in the face of a world set to 'trek from progress'. ...read more.


In the majority of his poems in which religion is mentioned, he questions the teachings of Christ, which the soldiers were so blatantly ignoring. In a letter to his mother written in May 1917, he describes himself as a 'conscientious objector with a seared conscience' although in 'Exposure', written in February of the same year, he directly questions the very existence of God, 'for love of God seems dying'. In 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' the practice of the Church is mocked, for the soldiers 'no mockeries for them now; no prayers, no bells; nor any voice of warning save the choirs'. After suffering from shell shock and spending much of mid 1917 in the Craiglockhart War Hospital, Owen's desertion of Christian values had peaked. Shortly after his return to action in September, he describes how he 'lost all his earthly faculties, and fought like an angel' in battle with the Germans. Wilfred Owen's poetry vividly captures the images, the experiences, and the pathos of the First World War and by using such familiar material to the everyday human being, adds a tremendous power to reach out to its audience. Although today Owen is regarded as one of the greatest British poets of all time, it took many years until after his death for his stature as a poet to be recognised. William Yeats opinion was that Owen was 'all blood, dirt and sucked sugar stick', claiming that 'passive suffering is not a theme for poetry'. Owen's poetry however has stood its ground over time with its clarity, and poignant realism sharing the experience of suffering with an audience who may never have had any contact with the war whatsoever. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level War Poetry section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level War Poetry essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Critical Response: 'The Sentry' by Wilfred Owen.

    3 star(s)

    Usage of the word "curse" connotes evil and a lingering pain for the soldiers that is inescapable. While the word "corpses" insinuates death and its inevitability. Reading this gave me the impression that the conditions were unthinkably horrific as Owen spares us no details.

  2. Peer reviewed

    "With Specific focus on Wilfred Owen poems Disabled, Mental cases, Dulce et Decorum est, ...

    4 star(s)

    These words give us a grotesque image of life in the trenches and the unjust and disgusting deaths caused to many. Language like this makes the reader understand how horrific and revolting the war was and that Wilfred himself was not a great believer in fighting in wars.

  1. Consider ways in which Owen portrays his views of the importance of camaraderie in ...

    The use of metaphor here portrays this well: 'Happy are men who yet before that are killed/can let their veins run cold', this shows that the men who can block off all emotion before their death are happy ones, yet ones who don't will not be.

  2. Compare and Contrast, The shock and horror presented in the three war poems - ...

    young boy who at first was happy fighting in the war, "who grinned at life in empty joy", had now turned into a disconsolate boy. He has 'lost' his confidence and now is scared. Parallel to the young man in the poem 'Disabled', where he has 'lost' both legs and

  1. How does Owen stress the true horror of the First World War, and how ...

    Pope's poem "Who's for the game?" is very similar to "Fall in" as they both communicate the same message in an attempt to encourage young men to volunteer. The title "Who's for the game?" gives us a good indication of how Pope views the war. By suggesting that war is little more than a contest we

  2. Compare and contrast the attitudes to the First World War in the poetry you ...

    This allegory shows us that she is pro-war, but she refers to war as deadly. In the last stanza the poem returns to pro-war feeling. Pope refers to winning the war as taking "the Kaiser's middle wicket." This poem shows that disillusionment had just started to creep in and the

  1. Stimulus and Response analysis: Dramatic and Literary depictions of war

    We found this to be very ironic as we know in the war none of the soldiers were truly important to people as powerful as Lord Kitchener. Also by the choice of words we felt that the poster used propaganda in order to persuade people, to have been politically correct

  2. Comparison of Recalling war by Robert Graves and Mental cases by Wilfred Owen

    The second stanza moves into a different tone, war is described as not only a war between countries, but a universal disaster No mere discord of flags/ But an infection of the common sky. The tone and atmosphere created are ominous, there is a feeling of anticipation and fear reminding

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work