war poems

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Question:
Wilfred Owen’s poetry is shaped by an intense focus on extraordinary human experiences.
Select TWO poems set for study and explore Owen’s portrayal of suffering and pity.
Prescribed text: War Poems and Others, Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen wrote about the suffering and pity of war from his first -hand experience at the Somme. He was appalled by the overwhelming and senseless waste of life, the “human squander” and detailed its devastating effects on young men. In both ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Mental Cases’ he writes with intense focus on war as anextraordinary human experience. The poems also document other experiences, the living hell of shell-shock in ‘Mental Cases’ and a cruel and grotesque death from mustard gas in
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The use of the continuous present participle form in “smothering” and “choking, drowning” suggests the continuity of the actions which will replay in the soldiers’ minds long after the event. ‘Mental Cases’ also evokes pain and suffering through visual and aural imagery. On the battle-field the soldiers are “treading blood”. They see the “shatter of flying muscles” and “human squander / Rucked too thick”. In the hospital ward, these same men’s “eyeballs shrink tormented / Back into their brains”. The physical pain of the battlefield is now the mental pain of shell-shock. They have waded through so much blood, flesh and carnage they cannot free their minds from the horror of it.

Owen reminds us that we have treated our soldiers shamefully and are complicit in their misery and suffering. This is the final point in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. The title itself works ironically, playing with the expectations of the audience who would have known the phrase, ‘It is a sweet and fitting thing to die for one’s country,’ and would have expected a poem about the greatness of war. Having described the appalling death from mustard gas, he addresses his audience directly to state that it is not at all a great and glorious thing to die for one’s country. He likens the deadsoldier to a child, an innocent doing an adult’s bidding and implies that his death is based on propaganda and deceit, perpetuated for

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