Image of War in Wilfred Owen’s Poems
Wilfred Owen, it is the atrocities that imbued Owen with the purpose to recreate the horrors of war through a vivid recount of its reality. Owens poems are illustrations that shatter the illusion that war is glorious and reduces war into pity. These attitudes are furthered in his poems “Anthem for doomed youth”, “Strange meeting” and “insensibility” as they project the conditioning of inevitable suffering, death and desensitisation of war. The central concepts ‘the pity of war’ and ‘the glorification of war’ are illustrated through rich literary allusions, poetic devices and structure.
To die for one’s country there is immense death and sorrow that accompanies. Owen portrays the devastation of young soldiers as they are killed and thrown away through the poem “Anthem for doomed youth”. Owen’s ironic use of a romantic sonnet form enables him to satirize the romance of death during war, provoking feelings of disgust and derision. A sarcastic tone is set down in the poem in accordance to the title “An Anthem for doomed youth” by the juxtaposition between the words ‘anthem’ and ‘doomed’, it emphasises the sorrow of war and the pity that abides with it. Owen emphasizes the sheer pity towards the families who must face “A drawing down of blinds” of their beloved ones. The poem finishes with this verse thus, leaving a sombre ending to the poem that forces us to visualise the negativity of war rather than its glory. The diminishing respect and acknowledgement of human life is heightened by the dehumanizing simile in the rhetorical question “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle” the deaths of soldiers are disregarded like the slaughter of livestock. Owens impels the idea that the glorified views of war are misleading, as the death of a solider is inevitable and is insignificant.
Owens ‘strange meeting’ establishes that the experiences on the battlefield torment the mind of the solider and becomes inescapable. These experiences are made more realistic, through metrical variations in the poems form as it contains altered beats that echo battle, which brings texture and adds interest to the responders. The tittle ‘strange meeting’ foreshadows the coming encounter of two enemies, as it hints the meeting will not be ordinary. Responders envision an ironic picture where both enemies conversate “I am the enemy you killed my friend” By contrasting peace with the violent imagery of war, the poet effectively establishes the setting of hell. Owen places the persona and reader in hell to capture the literal image of how war is like on earth. Owen establishes the setting of hell through the allusion “tunnel” to contradict romantic poetry. We see an image of war being reduced to pity as the individual states in a regretful voice “I would have poured out my spirit without stint” the hyperbole indicates his inner torment driven by the governments propaganda. The patriot’s reflective thoughts communicate that war is futile and is regretful.
To accept the idea that war is glorious you must be willing to lose your humanity as well as your sanity. Owen furthers this concept by using an ode form, to ironically portray the absence of the beauty in war. To survive war soldier’s must desensitize themselves from emotion. As, Owen’s sarcastic tone claims “Happy are men who yet before they are killed” the word ‘happy’ is contrasted to ‘killed’ to illustrate the emotions soldiers won’t regain unless they flee from war, however propaganda is said to be the opposite. Soldiers voluntarily force themselves to render immune to the inevitable suffering “By choice they made themselves immune” otherwise they will succumb to psychological torture and it will be harder than living. Owen pities the dead because they are dead, and the living as they mourn for them “The eternal reciprocity of tears” the temporal phrase magnifies the continuous cycle of mourning by loved ones.
In essence the poems anthem for doomed youth, strange meeting and insensibility display a grim look on the truth about war and its effect on the young soldiers who participate in it. Owen recounts the reality of war through poetic devices and vivid imagery which all stimulate an imaginative effect on the reader. Once visualising the horrors of war, it will emotionally stir readers by the bloodshed and agony he re-created so vividly. The intention from Owen was to expose the reality in order for the readers to determine that war is far near glorious and has a misleading ‘noble’ font of it, it’s only the sheer pity that remains in battlefield. Through the themes the pity of war, and the glorification of war Owen could alter perceptions of readers and fixate their view on war to his candid perception that it is not glorious but piteous.
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