A Comparison between Dulce et decorum est. by Wilfred Owens, and Refugee Blues by W.H Auden

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A Comparison between “Dulce et decorum est.” by Wilfred Owens, and “Refugee Blues” by W.H Auden

These two poems are both written concerning the same subject of War. Owen writes from a personal viewpoint, recanting the horrific events he lived through during the Great War and exploring the mythical status of the soldier by using images that are unexpected of a soldier.

“Bent double like old beggars under sacks…coughing like hags.”

People expected soldiers to be strong, young and healthy fighters with a strong sense of patriotism, but instead see images of weak, vulnerable despairing men.

The main theme in his poem, of how it is not sweet and just to die for one’s country, is presented by the way in which he describes the scenes, showing his anti-war feelings to the reader.

This poem was originally a personal letter aimed at one of Owen’s opponents, Jessie Pope. She wrote pro-war poetry that encouraged young men to join the army “with such high zest”; this can be seen throughout the poem, but particularly strongly in the last stanza where Owen seems to be telling the story as it is happening in real life. Owen was later dissuaded from sending this to her alone by Siegfried Sassoon, and adapted his poem to address a wider audience- the supporters of the war.

 He forces the reader to experience the war with him, making the reader feel almost as strongly as himself by showing his pure hatred. This can be shown for example when he says:

“His hanging face, like a devil sick of sin”

This creates an image of the soldier spitting out the words with such hatred at the moment one of the soldiers dies from the gas attack.

Auden writes before the outbreak of World War II, from a different point of view to that of Owen. He writes from the viewpoint of a group of German Jews, fleeing the Nazis.  He strongly conveys the feelings of not belonging and persecution against the Jews, for example:

“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”

“Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.”

This shows how they were not accepted by the countries and people who thought they could ignore the problem by denying the Jews into their environment.

There appear to be three different protagonists within the poem:

The Country officials and people within the countries acting as bystanders; ignoring the people hoping that the problem will go away if they cant see or experience it themselves. Hitler and the Nazis acting as the perpetrators, wanting to hunt down and exterminate all the Jews, and finally the victims being the Jewish people in Europe, having been persecuted throughout history.

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This is shown when Auden writes:

“Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.”

Auden writes from a Jewish point of view, although he wasn’t in fact Jewish, and spent most of the war in America.

 Auden’s usage of these three different viewpoints contrasts the way Owen uses the soldiers and himself, as the protagonists, making them seem heroic in the way they put up with the traumatising events and appalling conditions of the war,

“Men marched ...

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