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Themes- Wilfred Owen Essay

Wilfred Owen’s poems have numerous themes that explore the negativity of war. Owens poems talk about the truth of war. The poems focus on the fear of war, horror, sacrifice, glory and questioning life’s purpose. . In particular, the poems “Mental Cases” and “Dulce Decorum Est” both strongly emphasise the reality and horrific experiences of war. Dulce Et Decorum Est shows what it was like during the war and what the soldiers experienced. Mental Cases explores the aftermath of the war and the lives of those young soldiers.

Mental Cases is a strong and powerful poem that concerns the aftermath of war. The poem alludes to many horrific memories that each soldier witnessed and shows that each memory is there forever. The poem builds up to the consequences of war and what impact it has had on the soldiers. This is shown in three stanzas of the poem. Each stanza discusses different aspects of the war, supported by numerous techniques that help to warn the home front that war is immoral and horrendous.

The use of repetition in “Stroke on stroke of pain” is used to evoke feeling from the audience and to emphasise the pain suffered by the soldiers. The repetitive ‘s’ sound also creates imagery; you can almost see and sense what it would have been like to experience the war. Stanza one has five sentences with each of them being a rhetorical question. The first stanza question “who are these? ” and “Why they sit in twilight? ” Owen has used this stanza to engage the reader and force them to consider who these men were and how they have come to be here.

The horrific language has left us to wonder what has happened to them. The simile “Baring Teeth that leer like skulls’ teeth wicked” allows the reader to consider how the soldiers felt and how they will never forget the graphic images they saw . Stanza two identifies what these men went through and why they became so mentally ruined and inhumane. The use of repetition of horrific images and alliterations such as “Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,” or “Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter” assist the reader in visualizing the vivid images of war.

These quotes assist the reader in visualizing the realistic vivid images of war. The quotes make the reader stunned and horrified about the truth of war and now have no reason to question why these soldiers act so strange. The readers are simply left in despair and empathy. Stanza three completes the poem by accentuating the consequences of war and how war is such a hideous experience for the soldiers. The last stanza deals with the soldier’s depression after the war. This is highlighted by their memories “Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses” which is an example of alliteration.

This alliteration reinforces the death images that they have witnessed. These memories are forever. The alliteration of “set-smiling” highlights the hopelessness and inescapability of the thoughts that drive these soldiers mental. In the last two lines Owen used the words “us” and “brother” which means that the reason for war is not just one person’s fault or his fault, it is everyone. Owen wants the readers to understand that everyone is to blame for this war. Dulce Et Decorum Est poem focuses on the horror whilst it is happening.

Targeting themes like sacrifice, glory and horror. The four stanza’s portray its themes and messages through the use of horrific imagery that challenge the truth of Dulce Et Decorum Est. Dulce Et Decorum Est is Latin for “Honorable thing to die for one’s country” which was used to persuade young men to sacrifice their life for their country as it was a “good” deed. Examples of horrific imagery include “the blood came gargling from froth corrupted lungs” and “Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues”.

Alliteration is used to challenging the minds of the homefront because it was an old belief that dying for your country was glorious, Owen strongly suggests that this is not the case. Owen uses imagery to inform the homefront that war is un-glorious, hideous and dreadful to prove that going that dying for your country isn’t a source of pride. War is so inhumane that Owen wonders what the purpose of life is. Millions of young men should not be fatigued, weary or old before their time and this is what war has done to them.

Owen has used a similes to show this “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks” to emphasise how they had to live and “serve” their country. This is not humane for anyone and Owen wanted to convey this to warn people about the horrible events that happen to men at war. In the second stanza Owen has used repetition and grammar “Gas! Gas! Quick boys! ” to emphasise the urgency needed to escape the deadly weapons being used. The fear of the “gas” is highlighted as a major threat because of its silent nature which contrasts to the loud sounds of artillery.

The men are dying from this weapon and each solider has the fear of dying or knowing they are going to be watching their friends die. The suspenseful nature created by this grammar draws the reader in and evokes feeling. This horrendous event is shown in a simile “As under the green sea, I saw him drowning”. This suggests why monstrous images are kept in these soldiers minds forever. Wilfred Owens poems have a number of themes including the fear of war, horror sacrifice, glory and the questioning of life’s purpose. Whilst both texts explore different periods of the war they both are similar in accentuating how the individual felt.


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