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An analysis of the poetry of Wilfred Owen with specific reference to language used.

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Laura Harvey 4Ng 15th January 2004 Wilfred Owen.[1893-1918] The Last Laugh. The Send Off. The Anthem for Doomed Youth. An analysis of the poetry of Wilfred Owen with specific reference to language used. Wilfred Owen was an English poet who specialised in writing about the war. Owen was born on 18th March 1893 in Oswestry. He was the son of a railway worker and the eldest of four children. Owen started his education at the Birkenhead Institute and then continued his education at the Shrewsbury Technical School. Wilfred Owen then started work as a pupil-teacher at Wyle Cop School while he prepared for his matriculation exam for the University of London. After failing to win a scholarship, in 1913, he found work as an English teacher at the Berlitz School in Bordeaux. In October 1915 he joined the army. The next he knew was that he was fighting at the Somme. He returned to England and was put in hospital only two years after he joined up in 1917 because of shellshock. Explosions from nearby shells and the content of the war caused the shellshock in general. Owen was send to Craiglockhart Hospital, in Edinburgh, and met Siegfried Sassoon, another war poet. ...read more.


'The big gun guffawed' is just one example of how Owen shows that this devastating war was not controlled by men, but by machines. In some places in this poems Owen uses repetition to help show the noise of these guns, ('Tut-tut-tut-tut!') and when he describes the facts that 'The machine guns chuckled' he is implying that the machine guns are laughing at the helpless soldiers. In the second stanza, 'They smiled at nothing, childlike being dead', the soldiers are compared to the innocence of children. The last stanza is talking about the women a soldier loved. I feel an interesting way of saying the man died is, 'His whole face kissed the mud,' this uses the word kissed interestingly, as kissing is usually associated with love not death. In 'The Send Off' a poem published after Owen's death, Owen explores further the conditions experienced by soldiers at war. In this poem Wilfred Owen seems like he is talking completely form experience. The language he chooses is particularly effective in achieving his aim. In the first stanza Owen uses an example of oxymoron, 'grimly gay'. This phrase shows that soldiers were putting on a brave face even though they know what they are letting themselves in for. ...read more.


The last few words of the poem are 'drawing-down blinds,' it has two meanings as it could either mean people are closing their eyelids for the final time before death or the families close their blinds as respect for the dead. It as if their life slowly disappearing as the draw the blinds. This has a strong effect on the people at home as they begin to think how terrible the war actually is, it also makes people respect the dead. In his poems, Wilfred Owen uses a lot of different techniques to convey his message effectively. Owen uses personification to make the poems feel more personal and human. Repetition and alliteration are used, they work well as they reflect the ordeals that the army faced. He also uses the occasional examples of an oxymoron to convey his message; like when he uses 'grimly gay' it means the soldiers are happy on the surface but inside they are feeling the guilt of what they are about to do. Owen criticises propaganda so that the people at home are not shielded from the truth of the dreadful war. All Owen's poems suggest to the reader the outcome of the war was shocking, and if soldiers even returned at all they were injured. A certain amount of irony is used in the poems as he describes the horror of war. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a response to a question comparing the language Wilfred Owen uses in his poems 'The Send-Off', 'The Last Laugh' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'. Once past the first paragraph, there is an excellently demonstrated focus on the question, ...

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Response to the question

This is a response to a question comparing the language Wilfred Owen uses in his poems 'The Send-Off', 'The Last Laugh' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'. Once past the first paragraph, there is an excellently demonstrated focus on the question, with an undivided adherence to the steer and an astutely specific reference to language. With regards to that first paragraph - a little context is always a very good use of time before an exam because it demonstrate an incentive to conduct independent research to fortify candidates' answers, but I would argue it would prove more useful to comment on the context of the poems (When were they written? What state of mind with regard to War did Owen have at this time? A knowledge of Owen's experiences at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh will be useful here), rather than a biography of the poet. The first paragraph earns very few marks if any at all, because even though there is contextual appreciation abundant, it is not tied in with the analysis and is left to stand-alone as a detached chunk of text that wastes a lot of exam time and/or squanders word limit for coursework. Candidates should aim to integrate context - but only if it is relevant.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis here is extremely good. The focus on the specific words, phrases and poetic devices use by Owen in these three poems is indicative of someone who operate as a solid A grade. Though I would argue that the structure of the poems, whilst not at the forefront of what the question asks, is also important to comment on in all of the poems, rather than just 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'.
Where this candidate could've saved a lot of time is in their own essay structure. Instead of analysing poem by poem, candidate should aim to analyse point by point i.e. comment on the use of emotive language and then analyse it's use in the three poems in turn as one paragraph. Then, moving onto the next paragraph, talk about something like metaphors, similes and personification and analyse the use of this in the three poems, etc., etc. Doing this actively encourages comparison between the poems within the same paragraph and making the comparative points more obvious e.g - "In 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' Owen uses [...] Whereas in 'The Last Laugh' he uses [...]" - this kind of comparison shows a candidate that does not segregate their answer by the poems and is therefore not taking them in turn but commenting on all aspects of the three poems at the same time - a sign of a true top marks student so it is highly recommended that this essay structure is adopted by candidate hoping to achieve high grades.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is also excellent. There is a very adept handling of the English language in shaping the response, and evidence that this candidate is a very confident writer, with her use of complex vocabulary, punctuation and grammatical sentence syntax. This varies the response and makes it feel less prescribed - a Godsend for examiners who have to marks essays with laboriously similar structures for the most part.

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