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With Reference To All of His Major Poems, Evaluate, Compare and Contrast the Ways In Which Wilfred Owen Uses Language and Technique To Illustrate the Harsh Realities of the War

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Introduction

With Reference to all of his major poems, Evaluate, compare and contrast the ways in which Wilfred Owen uses language and technique to illustrate the harsh realities of the war By Paul Jannece Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest of the war poets, filled every poem he wrote with blood, fire, pain, suffering and agony. Living only until the age of 25, he had little time to develop his abilities, yet he wrote with a masterful variety of images. He easily found parallels between his own experience and that of the great Romantics. As he was a war poet, our immediate assumption is that his poems are protests, but this is not the case. The war was a human catastrophe and he himself was part of it. In "At a cavalry near the ancre" he adapts biblical images to describe the war. The Church sends priests to the trenches to watch the soldiers die, and they also get wounded ("flesh-marked") and take pride ("faces there is pride") .The Beast represents Germany who is denied by Christ, as is the Devil in the Bible. The word "Golgotha" means death, being a dramatic and yet deeply spiritual reference to the site of the Crucifixion. The poem "Dulce et Decorum...." sounds like a nightmare, as the completely exhausted soldiers march toward a "distant rest", and no one knows where that will be. Owen's use of words, such as "under", "sludge" and "trudge", and the constant use of the "o" letter makes the march sound as if it was a funeral. ...read more.

Middle

The way Owen captures the appearance of the soldiers as cripples, just makes them seem even more alienated and distant to us, and the disjointed, monotonous way they are seen, echoes this particular group of men, their disorderly fashion, and their dull, repetitive journey. The alliterative "knock-kneed" phrase also slows and dulls down the tempo greatly: "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind". And then the gas attack, put incredibly realistically into words by Owen here. The "guttering, choking, drowning," phrase showing the repetitive, prolonged anguish of the soldier as he "plunges" towards his death. In fact, throughout "Dulce et Decorum Est", a surreal feel to the poem is established by Owen's continual use of metaphors when describing the atrocious scenes: "As under a green sea, I saw him drowning,". "Anthem for Doomed Youth", however, uses real, physical objects, linked in with heavily descriptive words, as a different way of representing the action. These two techniques both result in a similar effect, by creating a real atmosphere in the poems, whilst delivering a believable, yet dramatic account. The vivid imagery in these poems makes the reader think, whilst Owen's imagination can run wild. The first movement of "Anthem for Doomed Youth" shows clearly how Owen intends to use some of his poetic techniques, even if they aren't particularly tasteful in the context that they are used: "What passing bells for those who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. ...read more.

Conclusion

The 'thick green light', the "white eyes", and the "haunting flares", just some of the keywords that Owen uses to enable him to create the intense imagery that he achieves in this poem. On the other hand, "Anthem for Doomed Youth" is much less of a visual poem, and all to do with Owen's subtle use of loud words, full of noise and body. Although this creates less imagery in the poem, we can still visualise the scenes captured in the poem by imagining the sounds Owen describes at great length: "The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells, and bugles calling for them from sad shires." Both pieces offer a conclusion to the poems, a final moral to the story if you like. In "Anthem for Doomed Youth", Owen drags the sonnet to a close, almost trailing off, but not, for the words are too important and too full of meaning for any reader to scan over. The funeral is over, and the rhetorical question that the poet asked at the beginning of the final stanza has been answered, and the noise has vanished. All is now quiet: "And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds." The long, heavy, alliterative "d" sounds really do drag the ending on, and draw the poem to a deliberate close. So these poems of Wilfred Owen are not completely contrasting, but are very different in many ways, and even if those differences are extremely subtle, without them the poems would never be able to fulfil their purpose. Whether it be to argue a case, or simply to enlighten the reader, neither would be possible without Owen's extensive knowledge and use of various poetical techniques and the context that he puts them in. ...read more.

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