Wilfred Owen - the Sentry

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Poetry Analysis – The Sentry by Wilfred Owen The morbid beauty of this poetic piece can be conceptualised by the emotive, raw and real impact it inflicts upon the senses. Owen achieves this powerful effect with the use of various literary techniques which will be highlighted throughout the following analysis. The poem is told in the first person narrative which enhances the personal experience and emotions of the speaker. It is a realistic, true to life account of an officer on the front line in World War One and a detailed documentation of an injury sustained by his sentry as a result of enemy bombardment. Whilst opening the poem almost conversationally Owen quickly reverts and sets the scene of a frantic and relentless attack of gun fire. The sudden impact of the words mimic the abrupt shock of the attack whilst the rhyme and repetition used in “gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell” adds sound and speed to the experience, you can almost feel the force, velocity and relentless pounding of the shells as they “Hammered on top, but never quite burst through”. As well as the heavy bombardment another enemy weighs down heavily on Owen and his platoon and incurs just as much of a threat if not more. The men are at the mercy of the elements and the rain is falling fast and “gutter down in waterfalls of slime”. This is almost an oxymoron as waterfalls are typically emblematic of beauty and tranquillity, a clear cascade of a nourishing life force. The juxtaposition of this with “guttering down” implies a grotty image of waste and filth spilling down and powerfully illustrates the fact these men were literally living in the gutter, easily disposable and a waste of life. The dark and grizzly realities of war are given substance with the techniques Owen employed to create the mood and atmosphere. The sense of inevitable condemnation is creatively demonstrated

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