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War Poems - Evocation of the Five Senses

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Extended Essay - WWI Poems Poems evoke one or more of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) to make abstract issues tangible. Discuss this statement with reference to the work of one or more of the War Poets. Expressing oneself through the medium of text may seem limited at times, especially when trying to convey opinion on a matter such as the First World War. Thus many of the more famous war poets, including Wilfred Owen, tried numerous different techniques to pass on their true intentions. One such technique was to evoke one or more of the five senses of the human body; namely sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. With this in mind, Owen managed to craft several of his works in such a way that stimuli for all five senses lay within a single poem. Additionally, he would make a direct reference to the organ that provided that particular sense; for example if evoking the sense of sight the eyeball would be detailed. Two of his poems in which this is evidently demonstrated are "Mental Cases" and "Dulce Et Decorum Est". After reading each one, it is apparent that by including stimuli for the sense, the issue Owen is trying to express is made more tangible and thus the reader is able to easily identify with it. Imagery is present throughout "Mental Cases", and with it Owen attempts to appeal to our sense of sight. ...read more.


It can be argued that onomatopoeia is the strongest technique available for a poet to appeal to the sense of sound. As Owen writes, "Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles", the reader can emphasise with the tormented, hear their pains. In addition to this, alliteration is present twice within the poem, firstly, "Memory fingers in their hair of murders, multitudinous murders they once witnessed" and secondly, "Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous awful falseness". In each case, with the emphasis placed on the beginning consonant, Owen is able to better present to the reader the suffering of the soldiers, through the pronunciation of the details. Finally, repetition is also used, as shown in the line, "stroke on stroke of pain". By repeating the word "stroke", Owen is able to draw out the suffering of the men, indicating that it is an ongoing torment with no end in sight. This can be likened to the whipping of a person: as each stroke of the whip brings fresh pain, there is no end in sight. In "Dulce Et Decorum Est", Owen does not directly utilise the sense of sound by incorporating similar poetic techniques as found in "Mental Cases". Instead, he evokes the sense by structuring the poem in such a way to position the perspective of the reader as if they were hearing firsthand the events the poem dictates. He directly addresses the reader, "If you could hear at every jolt..."as if they were present in person. ...read more.


Thus, as Owen ultimately intended, he ends the poem with the note that we are responsible for all their suffering that has been described to us through he length of the poem. Furthermore, repetition is again utilised to deliver the "touch" of the tormented, with no fewer than six verbs used. As Owen writes, the victims are "plucking", "picking", "pawing" and "snatching" at both themselves and at us, who are responsible for their state as we "smote" and "dealt" them what they receive now. Owen uses the same style of strong verbs and repetitions in "Dulce", however there are fewer and are more spaced out. The point where the sense is best evoked is the line, "He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning". Here, the similarities to the ending of "Mental Cases" are obvious, with the direct address and the repetition of strong verbs. And as is Owen's style, he points the blame again at us, the readers. Altogether, the successful evocation of any one of the five senses vastly improves the ability for the reader to identify with the poem and thus the poet. This is clearly evidenced by Wilfred Owen's two poems, "Mental Cases" and "Dulce Et Decorum Est", where without appealing to the senses of the human body, the issues presented would have remained largely intangible and abstract. It is interesting to note that if all five senses were to be evoked together within the same poem, the result would complete the immersion experience for the reader, basically reaching the limits of conveyance through text. K.Y ...read more.

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