Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ describes a particular scene in the lives of WWI soldiers. Owen opens the poem with a description of the soldiers who are ‘Bent double, like old beggars’ (line 1). The soldiers are tired, fatigued, their feet are bleeding; they are marching from the battlefield towards their camp for some rest. They are then attacked by poisonous gas, effects of which are similar to drowning. One of the soldiers fails to fit the gas mask in time, and Owen masterfully describes himself witnessing the soldier’s gruesome death.
Charles Yale Harrison’s novel Generals Die in Bed strips away the misconception that war and is glorious and in doing so strongly conveys to the reader the horrible reality that was the First World War Harrison emphasises the harshness of this reality through the constant bombardment of gruesome and desensitising events experienced by the Narrator. The dramatic degree of different between the fictional views held by the public and the truth is highlighted by the contrast of the soldier’s experiences and society’s false impressions. Furthermore the novel shows war for what it truly is, a dominant force with the power to consume, transform and scar all that stands in it’s way. Through GDIB the reader is given a raw and truthful depiction of the
• How come a soldier is doing such an inhumane thing with such ease? • Why does a soldier feel comfortable taking life? • Robert comes to understand this once he goes through war • Roberts idea of a soldier also changes when he sees Eugene Taffler at the whorehouse being intimate with another man • Questions the masculinity of men in war • Questions why these soldiers enjoy coming to this place • It is not part of their duty as a soldier • Roberts doesn’t see other soldiers living the exact stereotype that he had expected • “We’re all strange, Robert thought. Everyone is strange in war I guess. Ordinary is a myth.” (page 90) • Roberts opinion of these men have changed and matured to a logical idea instead of the impression put onto him by society • All the soldiers are people just like him Thesis Statement: In the novel, The Wars, stereotypical identities are replaced by the truths from war and divided into many levels that show the readers how easily transformed people, relationships and opinions are.
This gives the reader the sense that he really knows what he is talking about and has experienced these gruesome sights. Visual and auditory imagery are also used throughout this poem. Owen saw a man “flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” (12) suffering from the gas and dying a very slow and painful death. In this alone he shows how awful the war was through the man choking and having his skin eaten away from the “lime” (12). He saw things “obscene as cancer” (23) which is a bold image when death for a country is supposed to be sweet and proper.
By using a sonnet, a touch of irony is used. The conventional function for a sonnet is love, but this sonnet has a theme of a love that has turned bad. The young male population have so much patriotic love and are so eager to serve, but this love turns sour. They spend time rotting in the wastes of the trenches, only to be mown down by a machine gun nest. Not only are their lives wasted, gone without the holy ritual of funeral, but the lives of their loved ones at home are also ruined.
GAS! Quick, boys!’ places a confronting reality amongst the literature. In addition, polysyllabic verbs such as ‘fumbling’, ‘stumbling’ and ‘floundering’ force you, the reader to place emphasis on these depictive words which create visuals and mirror those moments of sheer desperation. It is through the controlling techniques of pace and imagery in my poetry that I hoped to depict the violence and utter vulnerability of life at war. However, the horror does not stop there, the dehumanisation is unrelenting.
In the book Paul feels that they have no reason to be fighting and that they have been abated to beasts just trying to protect themselves from others who are doing the same. At such a young age him and his comrades are exposed to so much tragedy, Paul stated that “Our knowledge of life is limited to death, what will come afterwards? And what will happen to us” (264). For the soldiers who die fighting in the war it is unfair what becomes of them. People who died a noble death get treated as if they are nothing, and were never anyone.
The poem however, rejects this maxim by vividly describing the condition of physically poor and decrepit old soldiers ready to die. The weary soldiers are returning from battle and the front liners are gassed unexpectedly by their enemies. The poem records the painful struggle of one of the men, affected by the poisonous gas, as he approaches his inevitable death. Throughout the poem, Owen creates gory, graphic images and uses apt diction to clearly convey the horror and squalor of the war and the soldiers’ extreme languor and suffering. To end the poem, he simply refutes the old Latin saying he considers a total lie; a fallacy.
Wilfred Owen said “my subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity’”. The three poems I wish to explore portray Owen’s pity towards men going through the First World War. ‘The Send-off’ shows anonymous men who are about to depart to the battlefront, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ explores trench life and, ‘Disabled’ charts the legacy of war on the wounded. ‘The send -off’, shows Owen’s cynical attitude towards war.
HOW DOES WILFRED OWEN CONVEY THE HORRORS OF WAR IN POETRY ? Many of Owen's poems direct anger towards the generals and those at home who have encouraged war.Owen's war poetry is a passionate expression of outrage at the horrors of war and of pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in it. It is dramatic and memorable, whether describing physical horror, such as in 'Dulce et Decorum Est' or mental torment such as in' Disabled'. His poetry evokes more from us than simple disgust and sympathy. Owen sympathizes with the vain young men who have no idea of the horrors of war, who are 'seduced' by others (Jessie Pope) and the recruiting posters.