‘Mental Cases’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ are two outstanding pieces created by Owen, each using techniques such as hyperboles, personification and imagery that associate the two poems, giving us, the readers, a bigger picture of what is happening in the poets eyes. In the poem Mental Cases Owen expresses his perception that war is taking away a soldiers future, a life full of happiness. It illustrates the bloodshed and suffering of war, using a series of graphical description of young men who are treated for war-related illness’, such as shellshock. It was a heart-wrenching poem for Owen because he himself was a patient of shellshock. The repetition of question marks and dashes illustrate the confusion and frustration witnessing Owens fellow comrades, it is a demanding tone begging for explanation for the entrapment of victims.
In this poem Wilfred Owen describes many of the harsh sounds of war on the battlefield. It starts off with a question, “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?” The question contains a simile, “die as cattle”. This refers to the soldiers being treated as cattle and creates an image of cattle being slaughtered in huge numbers. Nobody mourns the death of cattle; similarly, a soldier’s death was one of little meaning. This has a great effect on what you think about the poem and the war.
In the first two lines of the poem, Owen uses the similes “Bent double like old beggars under sacks, knocked kneed, coughing like hags” to paint a grim picture in readers minds of how the soldiers were. He compares the young and fit soldiers to old sick men. This comparison goes against society’s perception of how the soldiers were in world war one and two. In the
The swirl and muddle of rough and raw emotions of the battlefield, permeating the air like a smog. They think war is a game … when someone is shot they merely die… They do not know, cannot know the truth, cannot hear the screams of dying broken men, crying for their mothers. The tremor of men in their death throes, missing limbs, spewing their own entrails. The malodorous fetor of death loosened bowels. How could we have fathomed the unvarnished nature of war, it was supposed to be an adventure to find our true measure.
Soldiers who go off to war are meant to be healthy and strong, however, this poem portrays the soldiers as old and unhealthy people. Owen uses images that are far from noble. The soldiers are described as, ‘bent double, like old beggars under sacks’ and ‘coughing like hags’, and this highlights the exhaustion the soldiers were feeling. Considering that the exhaustion of the soldiers is representing humanity at its worst, this emphasises how Owens poetry is driven by a passionate exploration of humanity at its worst. The poem is also able to depict how the soldier’s condition is, and what they should be.
Owen starts the second stanza with an ironic ‘merry.’ The war front was not a happy place, but a place filled with intense pain and death. In the next line Owen exposes reality of how ‘death becomes absurd and life absurder’ and how soldiers lost all morality and became desensitised as they felt no ‘remorse of murder.’ The soldiers were trained to be mindless tools of their government as they did what they were ordered to do without questioning the morality of what they were instructed to do. Owen personifies fear as something which can be ‘dropped off’. Fear can be paralysing which can be disastrous for a soldier. ‘Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon’
Are they people, sons of mothers waiting back home anxiously for their return, or just another statistic in the folder on the desk of their cushy offices well away from the hell on earth that was the first world war in the quote: “What passing bells for those who die as cattle?” Owen asks: who cares when these valiant young men who march forward unto their deaths, what passing bells? What tribute is offered to mark their deaths? There is no ceremony or care, the men are not valued, they are expendable, and Owen portrays the people sending them to their deaths as butchers, sending their men to trench warfare. Like “cattle” to the meat grinder. By asking a question Owen forces the reader to also question the morality of the butchers responsible for the war and all the death that the war creates.
Useless Savings “He had the eye of a vulture…Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so, by degrees…I made up my mind to take the life of the old man and thus rid myself of the eye forever” (Poe). A man killed someone all because of the mans’ eyes. How crazier will someone kill another person all over nonsense. “He saved the nails because it was a sin to allow good material to go to waste…He saved nails and wasted life” (Hall). The man in this story saved useless stuff such as bent nails and pieces of string.
Immediately from the start of the poem Wilfred Owen immediately dehumanises the youth as he labels them as ‘cattle’. This alludes to the feeling that they are all the same, all to serve the same purpose with no one caring about their individuality as Owen narrates the image of the soldiers being lost and almost waiting to be exploited, ‘Passing bells’ initiates the idea that the soldiers’ time is up on this world by giving the idea that the bells are an anthem to signify the indication of death. The idea of ‘bells’ and ‘cattle’ shows that in war group of soldiers die at a time and that’s now it will always be. Owen utilises personification by saying that the guns are ‘monstrous’ which allows the reader to sympathise with the youth as they simply do not have the power to override the strength of the enemy so they are doomed before they even start to fire back. A complete contrast is used to describe the youth as their guns are described to be ‘stuttering’ which personifies the temperament of being genuinely scared and uncertain for their life.
It is inhumane and is against human rights. First of all, War is tool used to destroy the population numbers. Just recently there has been an article about an afghan massacre which killed 17 afghan civilians, the TV news also showed the deep mourning and sadness felt by the village. Destroying and massacring small villages just so the government can escape economic depressions and to put fear into the citizens is what modern wars are about. Fleeing refugees, murder from both the government and the enemy have resulted in such a devastated state of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan where the Taliban scares innocent people with death by military equipment.