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Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s Poetry


Poetry throughout the ages has been one literary device that has neither changed nor conformed to the whims of society. Poetry has been a device to recount history, express emotion and bring about change; thus poets being agents of change. Wilfred Owen, a brilliant poet was amongst those who Initiated anti-war writing amidst a country being fed propaganda. Owen brought attention to the harsh realities of war, rather than perpetuating societies’ ignorant delusions that war was heroic and adventurous. Owen was resolved to edify England on the actualities of war.

By writing poetry that denied England’s teachings of noble warfare, Owen set an unprecedented example of exposing repressed truth to the public. Two of his most distinguished works, “Dulcet et Decorum est.” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth” will be analyses alongside Owens life to prove the validity of this statement. The way in which Wilfred Owen was brought up was Integral to his phenomenal poetry. He was birthed in the year 1893 in England and was a devout Christian throughout his years of boyhood. On October 21 SST 1915, Owen enlisted into the army and nearly a year later was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Owen had been born into England at a time where war was what men did for adventure, it was honorable, a transition room boyhood to manhood some might have called It. What Owen witnessed was anything but what was advertised by his country and felt deeply betrayed and deceived. Owen suffered through a series of traumatic events such as falling into a shell-hole and sustaining concussion and also blown Into the air by a trench mortar that left him Incapacitated on an embankment beside the remains of another officer. This led to Owen being diagnosed with shell shock and post- traumatic stress disorder.

To overcome the PETS Owen suffered, he was encouraged by Siegfried Swanson to write about the horrors of war. Owen, haunted by his own memories dedicated his writing on the pure physical, moral and psychological horrors of war. Not to commemorate the subject but to educate and warn those that were full with propaganda influenced beliefs. Owen bravely defied the socio-cultural context he was brought up in and stood in contrast to the public perception of what war was in order to stop the travail of future soldiers.

Owens Christian beliefs and what he witnessed during the war lent to the brilliance of one of his poems that sought to change society’s view on war. “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” solemnly discusses the death of a young soldier and contrasts a normal funeral to the send -off that people who died fighting receive. Owen shows his disdain for the treatment of soldiers Immediately through the title. The word Anthem suggests a celebratory song, In relation to the words Doomed Youth it is evident that Owen believes the deaths of 1 OFF amortized by commemoration.

Owen structures his poem very similar to a sonnet with iambic pentameter; having 14 lines and mostly abides by the 10 syllable per line. In order to create effect, Owen occasionally strays from the 10 syllable line by ongoing over at some points and under at others. In combination with the unusual rhyming scheme the poem contains, the reader is set on edge and made to feel uncomfortable. Owen incorporates language that identifies the time period in which he lived, words such as “orisons,” “shires,” and “pallor” are indicative of this.

A sense of instability is constructed through Owens use of alliteration and vivid aesthetics; the lines “rifles’ rapid rattle” and “demented choirs of wailing shells” give the reader insight into the chaos of war. By initiating slowly, Owen has allowed the poem to lid Just like war, but begins to end the poem with a slower pace with the line “And each slow dusk, a drawing down of blinds,” this being significant to the death of the soldier and his last heartbeats. Owen constructs images of religion and contrasts them with descriptions of war and death.

Juxtaposing the tolling of bells with gunshots and death, Owen has effectively placed the reader in divine warfare. The overarching message is that Owen believed that soldiers did not receive a proper and respectful burial. Owen was wholly unsatisfied with how the deaths of young oldie’s were celebrated in public, rather than mourned. “Dulcet et decorum est. pro patria mort,” it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country, the final line of possibly the most significant of Owens works. Dulcet et Decorum est.,” allied itself with anti- war thinking and promoters, thus becoming extremely popular and influential on society. “Dulcet et Decorum est.” describes the story of an English soldier whose squadron was attacked by the enemy and the soldier watches a fellow veteran die violently. Through Owens creative genius the reader of “Dulcet et Decorum est.” is blew to witness how the soldier is endlessly haunted by the death and bombarded by nightmares. Towards the end of the poem, the soldier queries how his country can support and promote such despair and anguish.

Owen portrays his belief that his country should stop endorsing war, he was of the opinion that no one should ever have to undergo the horrors he had witnessed. Owen promotes this idea through the last stanza of his poem. The narrator speaks to the reader and tells them that had they witnessed what he had, they would not be willing to die for their country in what was called an honorable way. To place the reader into a context of war, Owen uses intense imagery such as the line, “Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues” and also incorporates the use of similes, “as under a green sea I saw him drowning. Owen has effectively created a feeling of discomfort and angst by incorporating techniques such as simile, metaphor and extremely vivid aesthetics. Owen sets the scene and describes the soldiers as being “bent double, like old beggars under sacks,” this depicts the dissatisfaction Owen had with war. The famous poet highlights one of society’s main faults: the glorification of war. He does this by combining elements of poetry in a frightening manner, such as the combination of slow lines, followed by “Gas! GAS! Quick boys! By straying from the structure of the iambic pentameter occasionally, Owen puts emphasis on particular lines pertaining to the nightmares of the soldier, “In all my dreams, before me helpless sight/ He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” Owen adds authority to his text by Latin phrase Dulcet et decorum est. pro patria moor from an ancient text, Owen has effectively shown that society continues to perpetuate the idea that war is honorable. As a soldier and as a poet, Owen had the authority to comment on the atrocities of war.

By using the literary device of poetry, Owen was able to speak that which was not to be spoken and voiced the thoughts of fallen soldier. His establishment of anti – war ideas allowed society to break free from the constrains of propaganda and come to the realization that war was not glorious, honorable nor adventurous. Regardless of the fact that world – wide change did not come about immediately, Owen was able to set precedent for other authors and organizations. He lit a fire in the depths of passionate hearts and inspired other anti – war poets such s Mimics Radiation.