Importance of “patriotism” during war

Categories: Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen in his poem “Asleep” and Andrew Hudgins in his poem “Listen? The Flies” have analyzed the concepts of death, war and violence. Even though both poets experienced the military actions themselves, they did not describe the life of soldiers and the philosophy of war from the patriotic point of view. On the contrary, in their poems Owen and Hudgins illustrated the most horrible scenes of war that emphasize that war can never be justified because it destroys human life and brings physical and moral sufferings.

Both poets portray death as the only way out for soldiers, express compassion towards soldiers as the greatest victims of war and describe low importance of human life as the result of military actions in order to disprove the idea of patriotism that plays upon the mind of soldiers and exploits them for the mercenary interests of their governors.

First, Andrew Hudgins and Wilfred Owen justify death to some extent because it rescues soldiers from anger of war and occurs as the natural process unlike war that goes against all moral laws.

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 When Hudgins talks about war in his poem he describes human life as purity that was shaded by war and turned into putrefaction: “everything that lives is pitched from purity to putrefaction, back and forth”.  At the same time Wilfred Owen, uses comparison in order to show that death becomes more pleasant than life during war. He compares death to the deep sleep: “his deeper sleep lies shaded by the shaking of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars.

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” The soldier in the poem has finally got a chance to have some rest after long days of battle.

The main characters of both poems are not afraid of death and to some extent they accept it because even death cannot be more frightful than war. Thus, in the poem “Asleep” Wilfred Owen describes the soldier who does not suffer in his dead sleep because he is “above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead”, above all severe weather conditions, constant attacks and stress from killing and being killed. Moreover, those soldiers who are still alive envy the dead soldier that does not have to wake up in the morning and see the horrors of war again. Similar to Wilfred Owen, Andrew Hudgins refers to Bible to justify death.

He uses allusion and gives quotes from the Bible to show that death is more natural for a soldier than war: “from ash to ash, it says, from dust to dust, with fire and dirty water in between”. Hudgins depicts how soldiers were waiting for death in prison camps praising the flies. The flies are symbols of death that is always near. In the last part of the poem the author killed a fly that got in his room but he knows that there will be more flies in the future.

The main character of the poem does not see any point in struggling for life because it’s easier to accept death that is unavoidable during war.  Thus, according to both authors, the horrors of war lead to the condition when death becomes a happy end for a soldier because it sets him free from all the hardships that he has to go through during war and it can be explained by laws of nature.

Second, the authors stress the cruelty of military actions by describing the dead soldiers as the greatest victims of war and showing their compassion for them. The length and the concentration of events in both poems are the brightest indication of the authors’ ability to awaken in the mind of readers the same kind of sympathy that both poets have for their characters. The length of the both poems does not let the reader to remain indifferent to the events which take place and arouses the feelings of grief, horror and deep sorrow in the reader’s mind. Thus, the poem of Wilfred Owen is short that enables us to read it at one sitting at the highest degree of excitement.

The phrases in the poem “Asleep” are abrupt that turns the reading into the process when there is a minute to think and move to the next line. The poem by Andrew Hudgins is longer; however, most of the sentences are short and it provokes the reader to pay attention to every detail and not to leave anything without attention. All events which occur in the poem “Asleep” are concentrated in one place during certain time interval; at the same time in the poem “Listen? The Flies” the author tells about events which happened in different places during different periods of time.

The concentration of time and place in the poem by Wilfred Owen is used because the author wants stay-at-home citizens to be carried to the battle field for a moment, experience what the soldiers experience every day and see the “backstage” and the reality of war. Lack of focus on time and place in the poem by Andrew Hudgins makes the reader see the war from the different standpoints and contemplate more about the meaning of life. Thus, at the beginning Hudgins describes how he noticed the body of the dead soldier, and then he points out that death took away many people in prison camps, after that he explains death using quotes from Bible and at the end he goes back to the symbolic scene with the flies.

Third, both authors illustrate that military victory and destruction of enemies during war have higher importance than life of a person. The soldiers in both poems are described as some human bodies without soul rather than as human beings. In the poem “Asleep” no one notices the dead soldier; his head “confuses more and more with the low mould” and his hair becomes of the same color “with the grey grass of finished fields”.  It seems like the soldier is the machine that is out of order.

Andrew Hudgins describes with certain irony the scene when the soldiers “walked the marsh” and sang the patriotic song; however, their friend was dead. The author portrays how someone’s death can be neglected because patriotic idea supported by political and economic interests plays more important role.  The dead soldiers are heroes because they were killed for their country. However, the question remains whether the interests that they defend are the interests of people or the interests of politicians.

Both poems lead us to the conclusion that the consequences of patriotism are death and emotional breakdown. The poets used different techniques to emphasize that the glorious idea of military patriotism is based on political ambitions and soldiers are only instruments. The romantic beliefs about nobility of military actions made both characters of the poems the victims of war whose life lost its value and death became the answer to sufferings and hardships.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Importance of “patriotism” during war. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from

Importance of “patriotism” during war essay
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