“Distinctive ideas are at the heart of all poetry”

In your view, what is a distinctive view explored in Wilfred Owen’s poetry? Explain how this idea is developed in at least two poems you have studied. Wilfred Owen exposed the distinctive theme of unnecessary suffering of young men at war through his poems ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘Mental cases’, from his first-hand experience. He utilizes structure, rhyme and figurative language to convey the traumatic sights and sounds of the battlefield and to evoke moral outrage at the dehumanizing act of war.Wilfred Owen conveys the “Old lie” through the title of his poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”. It translates to mean it is “sweet and honorable to die for one’s country”. This ironic contrast incorporates sarcasm to further establish the distinctive idea that war was certainly more horrific and destructive rather than courageous. He manages to challenge the perception that war is a glorious place to be through the use of visual representations to portray the mental and physical effects of the soldiers going through the punishment of war.The harshness of the simile “Bent double like old beggars” emphasizes the soldiers’ pure state of exhaustion. In addition the evocative language “An ecstasy of fumbling” communicates the urgent need for the salvation of ones life. The soldiers are now beyond exhaustion, reinforced by the use of emotive verbs such as “Stumbling” and “Limped”. Some have lost their lives; others have lost their sanity. The poet uses short sharp sentences, exclamation marks and capital letters to effectively change the exhausted tone to a more urgent pace as the attack quickly begins “Gas! GAS! Quick boys! This transformation back into “Boys” portrays the soldiers’ response to the attack as fast panic-panic stricken, in contrast with the “Old Beggars” in the first stanza. Owen incorporates the use of vivid visual imagery to recreate the nightmarish scene for those unaware back at home. The “green light” and “Misty panes” help to effectively reinforce the reality of the soldiers’ pointless suffering and allow the audience to change their perception of the war from glorious to futile. Guttural consonants are utilized in the poem through the verbs “guttering”, “choking” and “Drowning” to recapture the agony experienced by soldier during the attack. The use of harsh consonants emphasize the horror and devastation witnessed by those who survived the war. These cruel words describe how a soldier dies at war; there is nothing smooth and flowing about the death of a soldier and certainly nothing “sweet”. Here the use of a personal pronoun “I saw him drowning” conveys the poet’s perspective, reinforcing a more personal realistic experience for the audience, forcing them to respond with compassion. Owen further displays the soldiers’ pointless suffering through the use of a water metaphor.The “sea” of pain adds to the water imagery created to further establish the soldier’s inhumane endurance. He portrays their suffering not only through those who were killed but also the “lucky” one’s who survived. In the final stanza Owen confronts the audience with ironic affection “My friend”, directly placing the reader in the scene and forcing them to feel included. Here he utilizes biting sarcasm to address the idea that if only they knew what traumatic experiences the soldiers had endured, they would not tell the story with “Such high zest”.Owen Stresses his distinctive anti-war sentiment not only through the title but also through the final line, repeating the “Old lie” in an attempt to contrast the reality of the war with the glorified lie. Throughout Owen’s poem “Mental Cases” he also manages to communicate the initial idea of unnecessary suffering in the war. He depicts the physical and mental agonies of the soldiers, both during the battles and long after. He effectively communicates that the consequences of war are long term He describes the soldiers’ psychological damage through the bitter rhetorical questions portrayed in the opening line “Why sit they here in twilight? This confronting question suggests the idea of young men caught in a world from which there is no escape. The subjects of the poem are represented by the pronoun “They” and objectified to effectively represent all those whose mental capacity was shattered as a result of the war. Owen manages to graphically represent the shattering of men’s minds as well as their bodies through the use of negative realistic imagery “Drooping tongues” and “Baring teeth”. These explicit images enable the audience to visualize their dehumanized appearance.It is made to appear that throughout the poem death and misery are personified as the ravishers of their minds “whose minds the Dead have ravished”, and image suggesting that the destruction of the battlefield robbed them of their innocence and mental stability. The soldiers’ cruel futile suffering has caused them to lose the ability to comprehend the reality of the world around them, instead living inside a metaphorical “hell” that replays the war daily, reinforcing this with the graphic simile, “Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh”.Neither “sunlight” nor “night” provides them with any sort of redemption or repair. Owen furthermore reinforces idea of the soldiers’ metaphorical “hellish” existence through the repetition of the word hell and the strong use of negative connotations “incomparable”, “tormented”. The thought of death and blood penetrate their every thought, “blood-black” and “blood-smear”, here the impact of their helplessness is successfully created by the ‘b’ alliteration.The soldiers’ mental anguish is exposed to the audience and stressed through the oxymoron of “slow panic” and the extended metaphor of these patients as living corpses “set-smiling corpses”. The soft sounding alliteration creates a harsh contrast to brutal battle scene portrayed in stanza two. In addition Owen utilizes the structure and rhythmic features throughout the poem “Batter” and “shatter” to confront the reader with a destructive image of the guns. The onomatopoeia used develops a sense of empathy towards the “helpless” soldiers who ironically reach out desperately for contact and affection.The reader is forced to be confronted of the “Multitudinous murders” witnessed by the soldiers, through the inclusive use of the pronouns “we” and “us”. The interrogatory tone stresses the idea that we are to blame for their unbearable suffering emphasized in the final line “Pawing us who dealt them war and madness”. In conclusion Wilfred Owen challenges the public’s perception of war and communicates his distinctive Anti-war sentiment throughout each of his poems, condemning war as nothing more than a futile, merciless event.

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