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World War I Poet: Wilfred Owen

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Wilfred Owen was an English poet who specialised in writing about the war. Owen was born on 18th March 1893 in Oswestry. In October 1915 he joined the army and assigned to fight at the Somme. On his return to England and was put into hospital only two years after he joined up in 1917 due to suffering from shellshock. In August 1918 Owen was declared fit and returned to the Western front. He fought at Beaurevoir-Fonsomme, where he was awarded the Military Cross. Wilfred Owen died on 4th November 1918, killed by machine gun fire leading his men across the Sambre Canal, just a week before the Armistice was signed.

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Well known for his war poems, Owen uses literary techniques to convey his belief that war is disenchantment, obscenity and torture. In his poem Exposure Wilfred Owen uses literary techniques in way to show the reader what the conditions were really like during the First World War and to make it clear that the events that surrounded him, were not pleasant.

The reader can assume that the soldiers fighting in World War One and there are flares going off around them. One of the techniques that Owen uses is personification.

He writes “the merciless east winds that knife us”. This helps to show the pain that the wind was causing the men, and by comparing it to the pain that would be caused by a knife allows the reader to get an understanding of the intensity of the pain. In this sentence the soldiers aren’t actually been acted upon by a knife, Owen has used this personification to describe the qualities of the wind. The author also uses alliteration throughout the poem. “Flowing flakes that flock” and “Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun dosed” use alliteration.

This use of alliteration emphasis the conditions and conveys the imagery of an eerie war scene. The repetition of “but nothing happens” and the word “dying” leave these ideas strongly in the readers head emphasising their importance throughout the poem. By describing the pain the soldiers felt in a way the reader can relate to, describing the scene they were present in and leaving the thought of suspense and death in the readers head Wilfred Owen is able to convey the negative image of war and thus his belief that war is disenchantment, obscenity and torture.

Apologia Pro Poemate Meo, which either means apology for my poetry or an explanation of his poetry, is a poem conveying the battle between good and evil, both within the soldiers themselves, and war as a whole. A Soldier has to put aside his conscious and kill for the bigger picture without ever questioning whether he is doing the right thing or not. Wilfred Owen uses a number of literary techniques in this poem to convey this story. “Dropped off fear”, “hopes lay strewn” and “wound with wars hard wire” are example of Owens use of personification.

Giving these things human qualities allows the author to describe them in ways he wouldn’t be able to without personification. Personification allows the reader to understand how the soldier feels in a simple way. Onomatopoeia has also been used throughout the poem also with words such as “cracked”. Onomatopoeia helps to set the scene and reinforce the imagery in the poem. Wilfred Owen has also used the literary technique of similes within the poem. “Dead as my platoon” is a quote from the poem which harnesses the use of similes, comparing death to a platoon.

Similes are a way to describe something by comparing it to something unrelated, this comparison has a strong effect on the reader, in this case for the example the reader feels sombre and sadness as the simile over emphasises. The author has written in such a way that many things throughout the poem contradicts itself and what the reader would have thought, this makes the reader think about what the author is saying and then feel remorse for the soldier as they are not functioning as a ‘normal’ human. Owen describes the soldiers as wretches (miserable unhappy people) but ironically these wretches are smiling.

The smiling could mean that they have lost their ability to tell right from wrong; they appear to be happy when they kill someone, but that is contradictory to what we are brought up to think about killing. Owen contradicts the readers beliefs describing the war as “merry,” the war front was not a happy place; instead it was filled with intense pain and death. These techniques all combine to leave the reader with negative feelings towards the war, the same beliefs of disenchantment, obscenity and torture as Wilfred Owen.

Wilfred Owens has harnessed the use of literary techniques in his poem The Sentry to allow him to convey his beliefs of war to the reader. The use of internal rhyming throughout the poem irregulates the rhyme scheme and gives a repetitive effect of attack. This irregular pattern allows the reader to feel the panic and confusion of the scene, “and gave us hell; for shell on frantic shell” is an example of this irregular rhyming. Owen has also used the technique of alliteration throughout the poem. He writes “clay to climb”, “steep steps”, “dense din” and “Buffeting eyes and reath”. The use of alliteration conveys the imagery of the war scene; “Buffeting eyes and breath” uses explosive alliteration to trigger the suddenness of the attack and imitates noises of the explosions. Another technique Wilfred Owen has used to convey his imagery and beliefs is onomatopoeia. Word such as “thumping” and “sploshing” represent the panic and struggle incited by the bomb attack and panics the reader thus setting the scene of the attack and allowing the reader to feel part of the poem.

The reader feeling as though they are part of the story strengthens the imagery in their head and allows them to understand the message Owen is conveying. The combination of these techniques creates imagery that confirms Wilfred Owens belief that war is disenchantment, obscenity and torture. Wilfred Owens poems all convey his negative beliefs of war. He combines many literary techniques and uses them in a way to persuade to reader that war is disenchantment, obscenity and torture.

His time on the front line shines through with accurate and realistic imagery of events and this is key to his ability to persuade the reader. One of the world’s most famous war poets Exposure, Apologia Pro Poemate Meo, and The Sentry are just a number of his many poems written about the First World War, all of which strongly convey his feeling s. Wilfred Owens poems all succeed in allowing the reader to connect with the soldiers represented in the poem and in conveying his beliefs to the reader.

Cite this World War I Poet: Wilfred Owen

World War I Poet: Wilfred Owen. (2016, Nov 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/world-war-i-poet-wilfred-owen/

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