Wilfred Owen – Writing

Wilfred Owen uses language features in his poems ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth,’ ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Exposure’ to portray his feelings towards war. He delivers through these poems: that war should not be glorified, that the soldiers were poorly looked after and that the soldiers were overworked.

Owen uses language features in his poems ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ to display the message that war should not be glorified. Owen asks a rhetorical question in his poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth,’ “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.” ‘Passing-bells’ reference the bells which are rung outside a church when there has been a death or funeral. Owen is wondering, where are the bells? These soldiers do not get such a privilege as to have their deaths marked by bells. Owen answers his own question with alliteration saying that, all they get is the “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.” Owen introduces the idea of soldiers only being seen as cattle off to the slaughter, they aren’t even acknowledged as humans. Soldiers are only seen as the tools of war. Owen is disgusted at how people who have never been to war try to tell others that it is glorious. “The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” In English this says, “the old Lie: It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” Owen implies with this oxymoron that he does not believe it is glorious to die for your country. There is nothing glorious in thousands of men dying for a country which doesn’t see you as an individual. In 1914, when WWI began, English citizens still believed that it was the greatest honour to fight and die for your country. This made it easy for propaganda to draw in men. They weren’t prepared however, for the mass killing which they were thrown into. There was nothing Glorious about the First World War.

Owen uses language features, in his poems “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Exposure,” to protest against the conditions which soldiers faced in war. “We cursed through the sludge.” Owen uses an unusual verb ‘cursed’ to show how the soldiers despise the war conditions. Changing the use of ‘cursed’ tells the reader that they didn’t just curse the mud, they were cursing as continuously as the steps they took through the mud. Sludge was the bane of many problems which the soldiers faced; mud would get into their sleeping bags, boots and socks leading to trench foot and hypothermia. This makes it understandable for soldiers to be cursing the sludge after months of enduring its labours. “Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us.” Owen personifies the wind in saying that it was so cold, it was as if the soldiers were being stabbed with knives. This makes the wind an enemy of its own, even when the soldiers weren’t being fired upon, they were still ‘at the mercy’ of the weather. Bad weather was a big danger for the soldiers, as they didn’t have the proper technology to protect themselves. “The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow…” Owen uses emotive language so the reader can understand the misery which the soldiers feel. Dreary weather has made the soldiers so depressed, that even dawn doesn’t bring them happiness. The weather not only ‘took a toll’ on their bodies, but the dreariness also affected their mental health. This relates to the real world as the soldiers actually faced the struggles of weather conditions. The conditions were so bad manly for the reason that, they didn’t have the proper technology to protect themselves.

Owen uses language features to convey the idea of the exhaustion of war through the poems “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Exposure”. The soldiers faced some horrific things at war, things which put immense stress on the body. “Men marched asleep,” a metaphor from ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ tells the reader that the men were so exhausted from war, that they were walking, talking and killing as if in their sleep. The soldiers being in this state would not feel as if their actions were their own; this made them kill without instinct. They would have also been scared for their lives as their functions wouldn’t have been working properly. This made them more ‘at risk’ to the dangers of war: gas, bombs, guns and even the weather. Owen shares that they didn’t feel like they were part of their own bodies in ‘Exposure’, “Slowly our ghosts drag home.” This use of hyperbole exaggerates how the soldiers were hollow, as if their soul and body were separate entities. This shows the immense spirit in which these soldiers had. They kept going and following orders, even against complete exhaustion. They could be related to slaves, as modern day slaves are usually bound to their masters by debt; soldiers in WWI were bound to their country by honour. Despite how exhausted they were, they were pushed to keep fighting, against their will and better judgement.

Wilfred Owen’s clever use of language features, allows the reader to experience his feelings towards war. Through his poems ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth,’ ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Exposure’ he delivers three ideas about war: war should not be glorified, the conditions for the soldiers were poor and the soldiers were far too overworked.

Respond now!