A comparison of poems by Wilfred Owen: 'Dulce et Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'.

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A comparison of poems by Wilfred Owen:

'Dulce et Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'

Wilfred Owen fought in the First World War. He enlisted as most young men were doing, so that they could protect Britain. However, in the trenches he realised how horrific the war was and started to make notes about the conditions at first. Then later in a military hospital he edited and collected these notes into the poetry of Wilfred Owen.

'Dulce et Decorum Est' is Latin for: It is sweet and fitting (to die for one's country). This line is repeated at the end and by repeating a line at the beginning and the end it is most remembered. This line needs to be remembered as the poem is based on the idea of it as 'the old lie' mocking the established belief of nationalism and duty to your country. Also, it is mocking the established authoritative language of Latin that was reserved for the courts and churches. The line is sarcastic as Owen has now himself seen a gas attack and a man drown 'under a green sea', and has found out that dying out there in a far off land was a waste of a life and is completely pointless.

How can it be sweet and fitting to die for your country if no one knows about your death? Similarly the line from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth':

'What passing bells for those who die as cattle?'

raises the same question - Who cares about these men that die deaths like cattle that are just bred for their slaughter? This particular quote was changed from Owen’s original draft of this poem, “What passing bells for these who die so fast?” to What passing-bells for you who die in herds?” He then changed the ending to “dumb-dying cattle” The fact that Owen actually drafted and redrafted this poem shows the care and detail put into this piece of work. It also shows that it wasn’t just his notes on the war but was his actual feelings. He redrafted his poem until he was satisfied that his feelings towards the war were conveyed in a dramatic way.

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'Anthem for Doomed Youth' is a sonnet. Sonnets traditionally were happy and about love or an epic tale. In contrast, Owen uses the rigid structure of a sonnet (two quatrains and a sextet) to contrast with the theme of death and loss. In the title are the words, 'Doomed Youth' which immediately informs the reader that this sonnet isn't a fairy tale or a happy tale of love but is a distressing poem about the boys who went to war 'doomed' never to return.

There is a strong marching beat to the poem and as it is entitled 'anthem', ...

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

There are some fair points made about the two poems and the essay is comparative at times. However, there is an overall lack of clarity. More considered planning and attempting to apply the point, evidence, explain structure to each point would improve the essay. There is also not enough exploration of poetic devices and their effects and there are some inaccurate assertions. **

Here's what a star student thought of this essay


The Quality of Written Communication is very good, though there a few inconsistencies and irregularities than could be ironed out with a spell-check and a proof-read before submission/closing the exam booklet. One such example of where the candidate appears to make constant mistake though, is when they refer to the poems as "'Dulce'" and "'Anthem'" - this is not the standard expectation of English writing and the full title should be refertred to at all times when candidates write their answers.

The Level of Analysis is very good here. There is a sensitive handling of how Owen uses language in order to shape his meanings, with plenty of contextualised appreciation of where the poems came from and the process Owen went through in order to perfect them (the comments on how Owen changed the words "die so fast" to "die as cattle" are evidence of external research and examiners love to see this). This kind of analysis is highly respected from a GCSE candidate as it shows they can analyse in great detail the aspects of language and how they contribute to the effect on the reader. Comments on structure of the poems is also very good. The success behind this is because the candidate adopts the Point-by-Point analysis, rather than Poem-by-Poem, and this is good because it encourages an more actively comparative essay, linking between the poems in one single paragraph rather than One thing this essay does not need is the information about Wilfred Owen. The question directs candidates towards the poems and not the writer. Whilst there must be appreciation of the writer's background and the context that influenced the writing, there is no need for a block biographical paragraph at the beginning of the essay - they elicit no marks and waste valuable exam time.

This essay is a very well-informed repsonse to the question. There is an astute understanding of the deprth of analysis required to successfully comment on both 'Dulce et Decorum est' and 'Anthem For Doomed Youth'. The candidate has displayed an outstanding ability to comment on specific details about the poems with regard to language, structure, imagery and audience effect. This shows examiners that the candidate is well-equiped as they consider how the reader feels when reading the poem. Factoring in a small amount of personal response does help strengthen and answer, but only in moderation (unless the question directly asks for otherwise, e.g. - "How do you respond..." etc.).