The Brutality of War

The brutality of War involves the sacrifice of many lives with death and suffering the only consequence. The physical and mental suffering that the soldiers endured along with family grievance are the horror effects of war on men. The poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ (Dulce) and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ (Anthem) by war poet Wilfred Owen, conveys the dehumanisation of man through war’s utter destruction and brutality in order to support the mother country. Ultimately, the harsh realities of war impact their families back home.

In (Dulce), Owen reveals the realities of war with the battalion returning from the frontline exhausted and wounded to the point of death. The horror of war is highlighted throughout the poem to demonstrate the physical and mental suffering experienced by soldiers. For instance, Owen explains the physical suffering endured with an appalling image of ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks. Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge’.

This couplet depicts the men’s wrecked and unrecognizable condition that are compared to old beggars and ugly old women ‘hags’.

Their bodies and limbs are twisted and deformed directly from the effects of war. The onomatopoeia of ‘sludge’ implies how heavy and difficult the trench ground is to move in and around further adding to the sense of physical duress encountered by the soldiers.

In stanza 3 of the poem, Owen recalls the traumatic events of the past ‘Gas! GAS!’ attack and the emotional suffering that it has caused. He cannot forget this as his ‘dreams’ are now nightmares of fellow soldiers dying on the battlefield.

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In the quote ‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning’, Owen conveys a sense of guilt that he is powerless to help his fellow soldier as ‘He’ falls towards him.

The use of onomatopoeia of ‘choking, drowning’ imitates the soldier’s attempts to draw breath before ‘guttering’ symbolising the soldier’s life being extinguished. This horror image is constantly being replayed in his mind causing distress. Therefore, through the poet’s use of various quotes and techniques, sacrifice and suffering is illustrated in the poem. In this way, Owen demonstrates that sacrifice and suffering are the direct effects of war.

In (Anthem), Owen questions what is being done to commemorate the slaughtered deaths of soldiers on the battlefield and compares this to the traditional ceremonies and rituals deserved in a civilian world. The pity of war is utilised throughout the poem to demonstrate the suffering experienced by soldiers but more importantly the suffering and grieving of family and friends who are left to mourn them far removed from the battle grounds.

This is shown in the sestet where the true mourners are in contrast to the initial octet where the mayhem of the war machine conducts the ‘hasty’ remembrance in the form of guns being the ‘passing-bells’ and shells the ‘demented choirs’. The volta “And bugles calling for them from sad shires” marks a change in focus away from the aural imagery of the battlefield, positioning to a much more silent and quiet verse, showing the sadness of war where the bugles are sounding and mourning for the soldier from sad towns and countys.

In the final 3 lines, Owen conveys sombre and grief. “The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.” Owen reflects upon the mourning and grievance experienced by family and loved ones by symbolising the sadness of pale faced girls metaphorically standing in for the draped linen cloth over the coffin.

Equally, the flowers decorate the soldier’s graves as they patiently await their return. The alliteration ‘d’ in the final line “And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.” suggests an atmosphere of tranquillity and closure. The final line symbolises the families at home who will draw their blinds after the death of their loved one and also a metaphorical approach of the blinds being drawn on the soldiers lives.

Therefore, Anthem demonstrates through war’s utter destruction that suffering impacts not only soldiers but their families and friends.
Owen emphasises the poem’s message through the use of various techniques. The poem juxtaposes the ritual of a traditional funeral and ceremony with the horror of death on the frontline.

This is shown through the quote ‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns.’ The use of personification details that these men don’t pass away like any other person, but they get fatally killed by weapons that are too loud and have fellow soldiers dying next to them. The repetition of ‘no’ and ‘nor’ emphasise the way that the soldiers have been denied a respectful death. The metaphor shown in the quote ‘And each slow dusk drawing-down of blinds’ in the last line represents the lives that have ended in the tragic war. Hence, through Owen’s use of various quotes and techniques, sacrifice and suffering is shown in the poem ‘Anthem’.

The destructive nature of war involves the sacrifice of many lives resulting in death and suffering. The two poems by Owen (Dulce) and (Anthem) explored the horror of war and how it impacts to not only the surviving soldiers with their physical and mental suffering but also to those who suffered the loss of people they loved.

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The Brutality of War. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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