War Poems Of Wilfred Owen Essay, Research Paper
ESSAY QUESTION:Wilfred Owen is known as a war poet, yet he does not often deal with the actual war. What are his concerns and what devices does he use to achieve them? Discuss in relation to two of Owen s poems that you have studied. It must first be acknowledged that the subject of war is a very broad matter, with scope for much further interpretation than simply the physical action of battle. The writer of the above essay statement suggests that, as Owen is classified a war poet, his writing is expected to be directed at the actual war , meaning the most obvious aspect of war the armies and battles. On the contrary, war spans over many aspects from the grief felt by those at home when informed of their loved one s death, to the mixed emotions of pride, excitement and apprehension felt by soldiers marching to war, the effect of the natural environment on the soldiers, to the guilt still felt by old diggers fifty years after the end of the war. Wilfred Owen deals with various aspects of the war in his poems. This is the reason he can certainly still be classified a war poet. His themes, if not all directly linked to the actual war, are all about some aspect of war. Poetic devices such as metaphors, personification, contrasts and rhyme are all used to assist the effective conveyance of Owen s messages. This essay will closely examine Owen s concerns and the devices he uses to achieve them, and will focus on two specific poems: Futility and The Send-Off . In Futility , Owen expresses the frustration and bitterness felt by the friend of a dead soldier because he cannot wake him. In his deep despair, the man questions the sun about why it does not help to revive the man like it had done the other times. The purpose of this poem is to show that once life has gone, nothing can be done to bring it back it is gone for good. The poem also presents an important question at the end: why did the sun even bother to take part in creation in the first place? Futility is made up of two stanzas of seven lines each. In the first stanza, Owen expresses hope by personifying the sun: The kind old sun will know . The mood of the second stanza is despairing with rhetorical questions such as O what made fatuous sunbeams toil to break earth s sleep at all? An intricate pattern of mixed rhyme can be identified in Futility . In the first stanza, sun is a pararhyme with unsown ; once is a half rhyme with France ; snow pararhymes with now and also rhymes with know , which creates a definite finish to the stanza. The exact same pattern of rhyme is also found in the second stanza. Stanza one of Futility uses local imagery, for example the image of the sun gently waking the man at home. The second stanza uses imagery that is notably different because it is to a universal scale, for example Owen s image of the earth as a cold star . The effect of this change in imagery from the first stanza to the second is to portray the progression of his friend s thoughts, going from his frustration in the first stanza of not being able to wake his dead friend, to the sheer despair in the second stanza of not understanding the significance of life. Futility makes excellent use of the readers senses, particularly those of touch and hearing. Ideas expressed in this poem through the sense of touch include Move him and its touch awoke him once , while quiet and gentle language and the phrase whispering of fields unsown appeal to the sense of hearing.
The Send-Off is concerned with the way in which soldiers are taken off to war like something improper that needs to be covered up. Owen observes the situation and writes with insight into what is inevitably going to happen to these young men. Instead of seeing the good-luck flowers given to the boys, Owen sees flowers that are meant for a funeral. This idea of good-luck flowers come funeral flowers is one of the several paradoxes used in the poem. The description of the mens faces as grimly gay shows the soldiers own emotions versus Owen s perception of war and what the men know war is really about. This knowledge lingers in the back of the soldiers minds and gives them a grim appearance despite their excitement. Another paradox can be found in the tramp who is casual yet stands staring hard . These seemingly contrasting descriptions, together with the personification of the signals which nodded and the lamp which winked suggest a conspiracy in the send-off for these men. The signals and lamp which are yet unmoved show the lack of emotion in this send-off. They just have to get on with their job. Owen uses alliteration and repetition in The Send-Off to enhance the ideas he wants to convey. An excellent example of his alliteration can be found in line 11: So secretly, like wrongs hushed up . The alliteration of s and sh sounds gives the reader a better idea of the whispering Owen is trying to portray. The repetition of A few, a few, too few greatly changes the emphasis from the positive thought that some would return, to the negative thought that not enough would return. The rhyming pattern in The Send-Off is as follows: abaab, repeated in each of the four stanzas. This pattern gives the poem a definite structure. Owen s musical ear is evident in the last stanza of this poem. It begins with a rhetorical question then goes ahead to answer itself in a very fitting end to the poem. Similes such as as mens are, dead and like wrongs hushed up stress the wickedness of the whole operation. Owen uses these similes to convey the message he has the sheer waste of young men being taken off to war. Owen uses dark and gloomy imagery throughout the poem to create the depressive mood. The adjectives close darkening and dull give the reader a dismal and almost claustrophobic feeling. Wilfred Owen makes effective use of poetic devices available. In particular, he uses similes, rhyme, personification and alliteration to enhance the poems. These devices make his concerns be communicated effectively through the poems to the reader. Owen s concerns in The Send-Off and Futility are both linked directly to the war, even though they are not about the actual war that the writer of the essay question suggested. The Send-Off is about the implications of young men being taken from their homes and send to war, while Futility is about the frustration and bitterness felt by the friend of a dead soldier killed in war. These two examples of Owen s poetry are certainly concerned with the war. Even though in these two poems he does not deal with the actual war , The Send-Off and Futility are proof of why Owen is classified a war poet.