Wilfred Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth and Siegfried Sassoon's Attack - Explore the ways in which Sassoon's and Owen's words convey powerful feelings about the First World War in these two poems.

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Leech                5/8/2007

Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth

 and Siegfried Sassoon’s Attack

Explore the ways in which Sassoon’s and Owen’s words convey powerful feelings about the First World War in these two poems.

Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon are seen as the two greatest British First World War poets. ‘Attack’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ attempt to dissuade young men to go to war and to stop them from ‘dying as cattle’ on the front. These views were not conventional. The British Government and the people on the Home Front were urging people to go to war and said it was ‘a noble thing to die for your country. In these poems and many of their other poems Owen and Sassoon redefine war, from being a noble thing to die for you country to the poets mocking the war and describing the brutal reality of trenches and the Western Front. Therefore it is a very controversial poem. Sassoon used his powerful poetic voice to shock Britons and warmongers. His poems savaged the smug cruelty of the generals who sacrificed hundreds of lives of innocent soldiers and told people about the reality of the Great War. Owen had the same views on the war but his work had not yet been published but when he met Sassoon at Craig Lockhart Hospital during the war Sassoon noticed his talent as a poet and it was there that Owen was most inspired writing poems such as ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a fine example of a poem which attacks the glory of war. It starts with a rhetorical question- ‘What passing bells for those who die as cattle?’ He is asking how can you possibly recognise slaughter on such a scale. He uses the word ‘cattle’ because the soldiers are like cattle and die without funerals and in their masses. He uses this simile to emphasise that people are sending out their young lads to war as they would send a herd of cattle to a slaughter-house. The question is aimed at the ignorant civilians and the complacent generals. He goes on to answer his question, what prayers to the soldiers get?, with ‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns.| Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle | Can patter out their hasty orisons.’ He uses personification in line 2 by describing the guns as angry which brings out his anger for the brutality that the men are facing from the guns.

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He also describes the ‘anger of the guns’ as ‘monstrous’. This makes the line more vivid and enlarges the anger that the guns possess. Owen uses alliteration in ‘rifles’ rapid rattle’ to emphasise the firing of the guns. ‘Rapid’ and ‘rattle’ are also onomatopoeia as the machine guns make that noise when they are fired. ‘Stuttering’ is the sound the bullet makes as it hits the soldiers’ jackets or bodies. Owen in these few lines is describing the sounds of the war and trying to convey the brutal reality of the trenches, as he is appalled and angry at the ...

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Textual analysis of these two poems is conducted skilfully, making and supporting strong points with appropriate quotations and mostly valid explanations. A few misreadings are evident, such as the "mockery" and "dehumanisation" which the essay writer mistakenly attributes to Owen. Sentence and paragraph construction is generally well-controlled (with a few slips), and brief quotations are appropriately inserted into the sentence structure. The excellent analysis displayed in this is essay almost justifies 5 stars but falls short because of the few misreadings and the abrupt ending. 4 stars