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Discuss - 'Mental Cases', 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'The Send-Off', by Wilfred Owen.

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Discuss in detail the 3 poems, which have had the most affect on you from the selection you have studied. Explain your choice. The three poems, which have had the most effect on me, are the following: 'Mental Cases', 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'The Send-Off'. Wilfred Owen wrote all of these. Before I began studying these poems, I had a few ideas on what war would be like. I thought about the conditions they lived in (Mud, rotting bodies etc), and the appearance of the soldiers. My thoughts were challenged extremely throughout these poems as they described more horrifically than I imagined. The first one I have chosen is "Mental Cases". The poem describes the way in which the soldiers lived in the trenches and what the conditions were like and how the soldiers looked physically. In the lives of the soldiers, it was perpetually twilight. They have 'drooping tongues' which is like saying that they can't eat properly. They are 'baring teeth' which show these insane grins. Their life isn't worth living as they have 'stroke on stroke of pain'. ...read more.


The 'passing bells' are the funeral bells. Wilfred describes them as 'cattle'. This is a smile meaning that there were hundreds of men lined up like a heard of cattle. The first line is a rhetorical question. 'What passing bells for these who die as cattle?' Wilfred then answers his questions but saying that instead of the bells, the sounds of guns were the remembrance of those dead. The line 'Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle' is an alliteration and also onomatopoeia. He uses sound techniques which also helps the reader hear the sounds from the battle fields in their minds. 'Nor any voice, demented choirs of wailing shells'. This means that it wasn't church bells for their deaths, it was a choir of shell bombs. There is a confusion on which candle to hold, whether it be a high protestant or a catholic because all the soldiers were from different backgrounds. The families and the altar boys would not be holding them because they probably wouldn't have known that certain ones were dead. So the light given off from the bombs were the candles. ...read more.


One man didn't make it in time so he had to stand there in pain knowing that there was nothing he could do. You really feel the power of emotion in this poem. It describes the gas as a green sea (simile) in which the soldier was dying. Wilfred describes the way in which he had always had nightmares of witnessing this sight. The devil is accused of taking his life as his face hangs and his white eyes writher in his face. The final detail of his death which really grabs your attention, is when Wilfred explains that 'the blood, come gargling from the froth-corrupted tongues'. This is when his lungs had been filled with the gas and he was taking his last and final breath. I think this is a very dramatic finish and it reminds the reader of how much suffering and pain the soldiers actually went through. Wilfred describes the happenings very well. My final thoughts are that I think the poem with the best effect on me personally is 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. It gives you every detail of the lives of these poor soldiers and it reminds us to give thanks to all of those who did give their lives to save our country. Ashleigh Carleton 12s ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a response to a comparative task with three of Wilfred Owen's poems, with a question that directly asks for a personal response. The candidate, at the beginning of their answer chose to analyse 'Mental Cases', 'Anthem for Doomed ...

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Response to the question

This is a response to a comparative task with three of Wilfred Owen's poems, with a question that directly asks for a personal response. The candidate, at the beginning of their answer chose to analyse 'Mental Cases', 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'The Send-Off'. In question like these, it is best if the sections where candidates analyse the effect the poems have on the reader are instead directed at the effect on the candidate themselves, just so that the personal response is explicit. Also, in any question, candidate must stick to answering what they set out to answer in the introductory paragraph. Seeing the candidate promising analyses of 'Mental Cases', 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'The Send-Off' is fine enough, but if that candidate later then chooses to completely ignores the analysis of 'The Send-Off' and instead dedicates analysis to 'Dulce et Decorum est' without ever specifying doing so, then they are not structuring a cohesive answer and explaining fully what they intend to do in the introduction. Structure is very important in an essay as thus what is written in the introduction should be adhered to as a rough plan for the course of the essay.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is average, but the extent to which there is a clear-cut comparison between the poems is limited because the candidate has addressed the poems in turn, rather than discussed a similarity and/or difference between the poems and then discussed how that poetic device (emotive language, irony, Second Person address, etc.) features in each poem. The latter method is better at encouraging active comparison throughout the essay and also saves time because there is no need to explain the poem's use of a certain technique individually, so it is greatly recommended that candidates aim to leave their comfort zone as, if done well, this method of essay writing can elicit many more marks much more easily than the standard Poem-by-Poem structure.
The candidate discusses a number of different techniques used by Owen, including his manipulation of language and the effect on the reader. I would have liked to have seen more on the context of the poems, such as what mental statement of mind and attitude to War Owen had at the time of each poem's writing (though predominantly anti-War and unconventional, his stance did change somewhat over the course of the four years of World War I). This would show the examiner the candidate has the incentive to conduct external, independent research in their own time and has a dedicated enthusiasm for the poems. As a final note, it should be noted that the conclusion of any essay must be at least four lines long and must introduce no new ideas, as it is conclusive. The main aim of a conclusion is to tie together all the ideas explored in the essay answer and so a fully-fledged conclusion of about four to six lines is imperative to ensure a well-structured essay.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is reasonable. At no point during the answer is the meaning of the candidate's answer incomprehensible, but there are a few spelling errors which could easily be ironed out if the candidate re-reads their answer to look for these errors. Also, the range of punctuation is limited. Though, challenging to use correctly, colons and semi-colons are excellent at bumping up the QWC mark as the correct use of them encourages examiners to believe the candidate is a very confident writer who displays a knowledge of more complex punctuation than just commas and full stops.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 09/03/2012

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