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How does Wilfred Owen convey the pity of war in two of his

poems?
Wilfred Owens war poetry is used to shed light on the atrocities of war
and reveal how war is not noble and glorious as patriotic propaganda
portrayed it to be. In his biography, Owen stated, Above all, I am not
concerned with Poetry .My subject is War and the pity of War. The poetry is
in the pity.", this helps us to see that whilst he has acclaimed himself as a
poet and a brilliant one at that, he is using his poetry as a way to expose
the suffering soldiers endured and share his viewpoints on the war.
Through gruesome description, rich imagery, and rhythm, Owen
successfully conveys his feelings of war and exposes the deep pity that
accompanies it.
Firstly, looking at Anthem for Doomed Youth, an elegiac sonnet, we see
the traumatic experiences soldiers endure and the horrific reality
surrounding war. The poem is set during The Great War and employs
various techniques to convey the lasting effect on the families of the
soldiers after their deaths, but most importantly, it conveys the true
nature of war, where soldiers, who are risking their lives for their
countries, dont receive a proper burial and whose lives are treated so
cheaply.
Starting with the very title: Anthem for Doomed Youth, Owen uses
juxtaposition between Anthem and Doomed to create an irony. As
anthems are associated with praise and triumph, and doomed means
certain demise, Owen creates an irony that helps draw attention to the
sarcastic bitter tone underlying the poem as he makes mockery of
religious funeral services. This irony is continued further through the
poems structure, whereby Owen uses a patrician sonnet to express his
feelings of war. This introduces irony, as sonnets are associated with love
as they are usually lyrical, smooth flowing, therefore, as this poem is
about death and suffering, it seems ironic to construct his poem in this
way, thus adding ironic elements and emphasising the twistedness of war
and war propaganda
In the opening octet Owen introduces a rhetorical question What passingbells for these who die as cattle, which he then proceeds to answer. By
describing the soldiers as cattle, Owen dehumanises the soldiers and
introduces zoomorphism, conjuring the image of a slaughterhouse and
foreshadowing the soldiers inevitable butchery. This simile not only
suggests that the soldiers are pointlessly massacred in an undignified
manner, but also evokes sympathy from the reader as it shows the naivety
of the soldiers sucked in by the patriotic jingoism encouraged by war
propaganda at the time.
Whilst Owen dehumanises the soldiers, he personifies weaponry to
intensify its power and show how the soldiers only commemoration or
anthem of their lives is through armaments of war. We see this in the

quotation only the monstrous anger of the gun, where Owen personifies
the gun as an angry entity to heighten its danger and power over the
soldiers. This personification along with his unorthodox linking of war noise
with religious imagery successfully shows that in the place of a normal
funeral, these men who die as cattle, receive a parody of funeral rites,
enacted by the noises of guns, rifles and wailing shells, rather than the
holy service they deserve. Owen achieves this through alliteration and
onomatopoeia, whereby his words and rhythm mimic the sounds of battle
to make us feel a part of the action and hear the demented choirs that
are sending the youth off. Through the onomatopoeia of stuttering rifles
and alliteration of rifles rapid rattle, Owen impersonators the sound of
gun shots and adds a rhythmic quality to his poem. He further emphasises
this with the consonant t sound in stuttering, rattle, and patter.
As well as using rhythm to achieve this comparison of war noises with
religious funeral rites, Owen uses juxtaposition to exaggerate the contrast
between what is right and wrong. For example, Owen describes the
'demented choirs of the shells to make the reader feel uncomfortable and
understand the true pity of war. As choirs are associated with peace,
calmness and holiness and demented associated with negative
connotations, this phrase takes on a completely new meaning, suggesting
disorder, chaos and maniacal thus causing the reader to feel negatively
towards war.
Owen also uses juxtaposition when describing the 'hasty orisons'. An
orison should be taken time over, not rushed, and then dismissed, , this
use of juxtaposition causes the reader to feel sympathy and sorrow for the
soldiers, as rather than hasty and demented the soldiers orisons should
be reverent but also this quotation suggests that like their orisons, the
soldiers deaths were quickly dismissed.
Closing the octet, Owen uses personification and bugles calling for them
from sad shires, to both slow the pace and soften the tone: from bitter
and rueful to sombre, preparing us for the transition to the sestet. Whilst
the octet is full of techniques to highlight the devilish clamour of trench
warfare, set against the subdued atmosphere of the church to reveal his
feels of the pity of war, his sestet holds more appropriate and authentic
rites of mourning - supplied by the grief of family and friends at home.
Using strong religious motifs, Owen concentrates on what will happen after
the war with the suffering of the friends and family left behind.
The sestet similarly to the octet opens with a rhetorical question What
candles may be held to speed them all? and has sound manipulation of
the words to create a rhythmic quality. In particular, the sestet is filled with
sibilance, which almost creates a steam like sound, as though the
narrators life is slowly dissipating into the atmosphere, and slowly coming
to a halt, phonetically sounding similar to the way a steam train would

have sounded whilst stopping at a station. We see this in the quotation


their flowers the tenderness of silent minds.
Finishing the poem, Owen installs a metaphor and each slow dusk a
drawing-down of blinds, This metaphor rounds of the piece nicely
because although in literal terms it is talking of the end of the day, we can
also see that pragmatically it represents the end in the life of the narrator.
For this reason, this metaphor is evocative and ties in to the suffering and
pity of war.
Another poem that Wilfred Owen uses to expose the truths and pity of war
is his famous piece Dulce Et Decorum Est. In this poem, Owen
emphasises the dehumanisation and horrendous circumstances
experienced by soldiers in the First World War, refuting the message
espoused by many that war is glorious and it is an honour to die for ones
country. Owen achieves this using the gruesome imagery of a gas attack,
accompanied by irony and rhythm.
Starting with the very first line, Owen introduces a simile comparing the
soldiers to old beggars, in the attempt to show that war prematurely
ages the men, and isnt as glorious as propaganda portrayed it to be. He
adds further emphasis to this through the simile Knock-kneed, coughing
like hags. As the men are compared to hags, this quotation shows their
loss of masculinity and therefore undermines the patriotic stereotypes of
the time that war was heroic and masculine. Whilst at the same time by
describing the men as knock kneed, Owen is revealing the decrepit state
that the exhaustion and violence of war has caused these youthful
soldiers, thus evoking pity and sympathy from the reader.
To evoke our pity further about the extreme and unnecessary suffering in
war, Owen uses first person to make us feel a part of the action, using
we and all, but also through his visual and sound imagery Owen
depicts the physical and mental agonies of the soldiers, conveying the
exhaustion, misery, pain and futility of war. For example, he uses
alliteration of m in men, march and many, to allow us to hear the
marching of the soldiers, as well as conjuring up images of missiles hitting
the ground. In addition to this he uses onomatopoeia when describing the
dying man who is guttering, choking, drowning, which has the effect of
making the poem more chilling and shocking, as it is as if we are there
experiencing the scenario ourselves.

As well as describing the debilitating effects that the war has had on the
men, Owen uses the graphic descriptions of an unexpected gas attack to
demonstrate the tragedy and traumatic experiences of trench warfare.
The change of pace in Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! is a stark contrast to the
slow, laborious pace of the march as reflected in the long sentences of the
first verse. The punchy one syllable words encapsulates the panic and

urgency felt by the men, and the exclamation marks mirror their alarm as
a way to reflect on the unexpected and abrupt nature of the attack. From
this moment on the imagery becomes gruesome and nightmarish and the
horrific consequences of this attack are made painfully clear as Owen
conveys the suffering of an individual soldier who failed to get his gas
mask on in time.
After failing to fit his clumsy helmet on in time, a soldier is described
as floundering like a man in fire or lime, this simile is extremely poignant
and highlights the extent of the soldiers distress and suffering. By likening
the soldiers suffering to being in fire or lime, Owen allows us to
understand and comprehend the extreme agony the soldier is
experiencing, but also through the vivid imagery of the two, Owen allows
the reader to glimpse at the traumatic situation. Also through the
description of the mans white eyes writhing in his face and his frothcorrupted lungs/obscene as cancer, Owen paints horrific images in our
head and emphasises further just how atrocious and terrible war really
was, hidden behind patriotic jingoism.
The poet strengthens his message of the pity and horrors of war in the last
verse by emphasising the suffering of the soldier by referring to the
wagon that we flung him in. The use of the word flung, not only creates
a profound emotional response as it suggests a dismissive and violent
action of the soldiers even in their most silent times, the word also
indicates that death and tragedy is commonplace to the men, and just
another part of their lives. This shows how desensitised the men have
become due to the nature of their experiences and the horror that occurs
in their day-to-day lives.
Like Anthem for Doomed Youth, Dulce Et Decorum Est has a bitter irony
underlying it, as seen in the last lines when he attacks those promoting
war patriotism my friend, you would not tell with such high zest. Here
Owen is referring to propagandists who were exhorting young men to join
the war effort, and sucking them in to their inevitable deaths. The use of
my friend is deeply ironic and emphasises his anger as he holds these
people accountable for what he and so many others had to endure,
claiming that if only they were to witness the atrocities of war then they
would realise the extent of the old Lie.
Furthermore, irony lies in the title, which Owen alludes to in the final line
of his poem Dulce et Decorum Est pro Patria Mori. Instead of being a
rousing and patriotic call to war, the poem is in fact the exact opposite.
The use of Dulce et Decorum Est in the title (translated as it is sweet
and proper to die for ones country) is contrasted to the description of the
appalling death from mustard gas. This is done in the attempt to reveal to
his audience that war is not at all a great and glorious thing to die for

ones country, like Horace and other propagandists were portraying.


Instead, Owen implies that this Lie only brings pain and suffering.
Therefore, through his works such as Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem
for Doomed Youth, Owen successfully conveys his attitude towards war
and reveals the true pity of war hidden behind propaganda at the time.
Through his use of imagery, rhythm and other effective techniques, Owen
successfully conveys the true nature of war and allows us to experience
the suffering and horrors that he and his fellow comrades alike endured in
World War 1.