Compare and Contrast the Way Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen Approach the Subject of War

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  • Topic: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Poetry, World War II
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  • Published : January 21, 2011
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The title of this poem is very powerful. It tells the reader that this is a very sad poem and that by going to war death is almost certain. Sassoon has done this to give the reader an idea of war, and, as the reader reads the poem their insight into the brutality and the sorrow of war increases. The first paragraph of this poem tells of the slow death of a soldier as the sun rises. Sassoon has skilfully manipulated language and his choice of words in order to create a visual image that is slowly sculptured as the first four lines are read. “Dark clouds are smouldering into red while down the craters morning burns the dying soldier shifts his head
  To watch the glory that returns” The first half of the second paragraph speaks of the patriotism of soldiers for their countries and how they “want” to die for their land. This can be observed in the line “Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses”. The final half of the second paragraph tells of how the soldier faces his destiny with courage.

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Writing has always been a tool for reflecting and commenting on society. During the 20th century many poets reacted to problems in the world with highly emotionally charged poems. The horror of war and the spiritual degradation it inflicts is evident in the work of the World War I poets. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) were both soldiers and poets. Their poems reflect the loss of innocence and the horrible mental and physical toll World War I inflicted on the world. 
Both Sassoon and Owen wrote war poetry to inform people of the realities of war. Sassoon's efforts to publicly decry the war were stunted when the military announced he suffered from shell-shock and sent him to a hospital to recover. His poetry became the means of sharing his opinion that the war had "become a war of aggression and conquest," (Norton 1832). He wanted to share with the public the true cost of war. His poem "They" reflects the common assumptions of the people at home about what the soldiers will be like when they come home. He wipes away all the illusions and shows that "you'll not find/A chap who's served that hasn't found some change" (lines 9-10). In the poem, the soldiers don't return better and brighter. Instead, Sassoon shows how they return less whole by describing their injuries.
Sassoon met Owen while both were in the hospital recovering. Both men's greatest achievements as poets dealt with the war. Sassoon's poems about the war were, "deliberately written to disturb complacency," (Poets 855). He called them "trench-sketches" and wrote about what he witnessed while fighting with detail and honesty. Many of his war poems are highly satirical. While at home during the war, he was disturbed by the public's opinion of the war. Poems such as "Blighters" show his anger toward the civilian world:
I'd like to see a Tank com down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or "Home, sweet Home."
And there'd be no more jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume. (5-8)
While Sassoon wrote war poetry to express his anger about the war, Owen's main influence on his writing was not just a desire to show what war was actually like, but also an expression of the horrors he saw in many aspects of life. His poetry was heavily influenced by nightmares he experienced since his childhood which were only worsened by his experiences in battle. While in the hospital, Sassoon helped Owen with his writing. At first, Owen used many of the same "shock tactics" used by Sassoon, but he eventually found his own voice. After helping Owen with final editing process of "Anthem for Doomed Youth," Sassoon wrote that he, "realized that his verse, with its sumptuous epithets and large-scale imagery, its noble naturalness and the depth of meaning, had impressive affinities with Keats, whom he took as his supreme expemplar. This new sonnet was a...
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