Close Study of Texts – Wilfred Owen

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How does Owen’s portrayal of the relationship between youth and war move us to a deeper understanding of suffering? As an anti-war poet, Wilfred Owen uses his literary skills to express his perspective on human conflict and the wastage involved with war, the horrors of war, and its negative effects and outcomes. As a young man involved in the war himself, Owen obtained personal objectivity of the dehumanisation of young people during the war, as well as the false glorification that the world has been influenced to deliver to them.

These very ideas can be seen in poems such as ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce ET Decorum EST Pro Patria Mori’. Owen uses a variety of literary techniques to convey his ideas. Wilfred Owen shows a binary comparison of deaths in the war, and a normal funeral in the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Through this contrasting, Owen is able to portray notions of horrors and pity of war.

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This poem is specifically a sonnet, where the sestet includes mournful entities to represent and complete the mock of a funeral for the youth.For instance, the metaphor “not in the hands of boys but in their eyes” referring to the substitution of candles for tears in the friends of the soldiers’ eyes instead. As well as the metaphor in “the pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall” which suggests that the coffin is covered by memories of loved ones left behind. The indecent ritual that is given to the people in the war is just one of many true horrors of war Owen aimed to reveal through his writing.

Another horrific truth about the war is conveyed in ‘Dulce ET Decorum EST Pro Patria Mori’.Wilfred Owen brings attention to such a brutal attack which he personally witnessed; the use of poison gas. “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! ” At this specific point of the poem, there is a change of rhythm where it becomes quicker. This is achieved through the use of short sentences, and gives off an effect of adrenaline rush to the readers to emphasise the soldiers’ situation and the pressure they were under.

In addition to this, Wilfred Owen exposes the haunting fact about the war through his nightmare, “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”.Although the subject of nightmare is only in two lines of the whole poem, this minor contribution is highly effective for it allows the audience access to the traumatising aftermath of the horrors of war. Wilfred Owen exhibits dehumanisation at an early stage in the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. The first line already connotes such idea, “What passing bells for these who die as cattle? ” This metaphor represents the soldiers as cattle for they are slaughtered like cows, and at a much too young age.

Dehumanisation is also indicated through the improper celebratory send-off they receive after death, where there is a lack of appropriate commemoration. “No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells”. These factors demean the value of the young lives lost, therefore showing dehumanisation. Similar to Anthem for Doomed Youth, the idea of dehumanisation in ‘Dulce ET Decorum EST Pro Patria Mori’ is also introduced early in the poem.

The first lines, “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, and “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags” both describe the condition in which young people of the war suffered through.The similes allow the audience to visualise the soldiers more accurately. They are portrayed somewhat so weak and devaluated, look and feel much older than they are; in general, not at all possessing the qualities of a substantial, conventional soldier. This direct revelation of the unexpected twist of how the world typically views soldiers to how they actually are in the war has a strong correlation with how dehumanised they were, therefore impacting Owen to make his audience aware of such false idealism.

More often than not, the world is led to believe how glorious it is to serve one’s country in the war and to honour those who are brave enough to. However, if soldiers deserve the most utter respect, why is the realism of war deaths, revealed in the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, so appalling? “And bugles calling them from sad shires. ” Wilfred Owen publicises the truth behind the sort of ceremonies held for those who die in the war, and how they are so insufficient as opposed to those back at home, especially onsidering that they are soldiers who must be glorified. Owen’s point in regards to false glorification is that the erroneous idea behind such expected exalting is nothing but false hope, for the soldiers and for their family.

False glorification is already apparent in the ironic title of the poem ‘Dulce ET Decorum EST Pro Patria Mori’. The direct translation of this is “Sweet and fitting it is, to die for my country”. Despite the positive note of this, this is later referred to as “The Old Lie”.Owen’s main purpose for writing this poem is to express that, contrary to popular belief, there is nothing honourable about dying for one’s country.

He articulates the delusive nobleness of war by vividly describing moments and sights beheld by him himself while being in the war. “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin”, these remorseless images achieved using similes are then concluded with an assurance that had the audience been there to witness what he did, they would not be telling their children the old lie.Through the use of techniques, as well as personal experiences, Owen successfully demonstrates his understanding that it is, in fact, not glorious or noble to be involved in the war. It is evident that Wilfred Owen pushes aside the curtains printed with false glorification only to reveal the true horrors of war and the dehumanisation that compassed the youth that engaged in such horrific events.

Owen achieves this through the use various poetic techniques and are delivered in such a way that it confronts the readers about the flawed idealism of war.

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Close Study of Texts – Wilfred Owen. (2017, May 23). Retrieved from

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