The Theme of the Pity of War in "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen

Authors Avatar by Brittany

How does Wilfred Owen convey the pity of war in two of his poems?

Wilfred Owen’s war poetry is used to shed light on the atrocities of war and reveal how war is not noble and glorious as patriotic propaganda portrayed it to be. In his biography, Owen stated, “Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry .My subject is War and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity.", this helps us to see that whilst he has acclaimed himself as a poet – and a brilliant one at that, he is using his poetry as a way to expose the suffering soldiers endured and share his viewpoints on the war. Through gruesome description, rich imagery, and rhythm, Owen successfully conveys his feelings of war and exposes the deep pity that accompanies it.

Firstly, looking at “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, an elegiac sonnet, we see the traumatic experiences soldiers endure and the horrific reality surrounding war. The poem is set during The Great War and employs various techniques to convey the lasting effect on the families of the soldiers after their deaths, but most importantly, it conveys the true nature of war, where soldiers, who are risking their lives for their countries, don’t receive a proper burial and whose lives are treated so cheaply.  

Starting with the very title: ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, Owen uses juxtaposition between “Anthem” and “Doomed” to create an irony. As anthems are associated with praise and triumph, and doomed means certain demise, Owen creates an irony that helps draw attention to the sarcastic bitter tone underlying the poem as he makes mockery of religious funeral services. This irony is continued further through the poems structure, whereby Owen uses a patrician sonnet to express his feelings of war. This introduces irony, as sonnets are associated with love as they are usually lyrical, smooth flowing, therefore, as this poem is about death and suffering, it seems ironic to construct his poem in this way, thus adding ironic elements and emphasising the twistedness of war and war propaganda

In the opening octet Owen introduces a rhetorical question “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle”, which he then proceeds to answer.  By describing the soldiers as “cattle”, Owen dehumanises the soldiers and introduces zoomorphism, conjuring the image of a slaughterhouse and foreshadowing the soldier’s inevitable butchery. This simile not only suggests that the soldiers are pointlessly massacred in an undignified manner, but also evokes sympathy from the reader as it shows the naivety of the soldiers – sucked in by the patriotic jingoism encouraged by war propaganda at the time.

Join now!

Whilst Owen dehumanises the soldiers, he personifies weaponry to intensify its power and show how the soldiers only commemoration or “anthem” of their lives is through armaments of war. We see this in the quotation “only the monstrous anger of the gun”, where Owen personifies the gun as an angry entity to heighten its danger and power over the soldiers. This personification along with his unorthodox linking of war noise with religious imagery successfully shows that in the place of a normal funeral, these men “who die as cattle”, receive a parody of funeral rites, enacted by the noises of ...

This is a preview of the whole essay