World War 1 Poetry Essay

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Focusing on two World War One poems, explore how the poet expresses their feelings.

Dulce et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen
Suicide in the Trenches - Siegfried Sassoon

In the poem, Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen we can understand Owen's feelings toward the war, in the form of strong sarcasm and empathy. Poems were often used by many people, as a way to vent their feelings, and find a voice. Strong empathy is felt as Owen himself was a soldier in the army and military hero until he got admitted to a hospital with shellshock, where he then met Siegfried Sassoon, the poet of the next poem I will be analysing. Sassoon showed Owen a more pacifist view on the war. Despite Owen having this view he returned to the war again in 1918, and sadly, was killed in 1918 when shot only 7 days before the "The Great War" ended. The poem itself gives us an inside view into the life of soldiers, and the horror they go through. Many feelings are expressed throughout the poem, which highlight his opinions and feeling toward the whole concept of war.

In the first stanza, we get a powerful feeling of sympathy toward all soldiers, as Owen conveys the experiences that soldiers endure. For example "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, But limped on, blood-shod." This quote gives us an understanding of how life was for soldiers. It shows us that it was extremely hard for them, that they were immensely tired, and they all had problems/injuries; but they just had to get on with it, as they had no way out and could not give up. By using the word limped portrays the the soldier being spoken about it so injured that he can't actually walk, once again proving the hardship soldiers had to go through. This could be a way of Owen giving a subtle approach to showing us how he felt when he was a solider himself, making the reader feel sorry and sympathise for him. These feelings of empathy from the audience along with progressive anger toward the government and guilt for being involved altogether will create a very angry, and opinionated atmosphere for the rest of the poem.

Guilt is also a very significant emotion from the poet, as in the third stanza Owen says "In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning" from this we can understand that someone has come to Owen for help as they cannot find/put on/fix their gas mask (we know from the second stanza). It is obvious that considering the situation, Owen would be feeling guilty that he could not help the person "plunging" at him, and the way he says "before my helpless sight" concludes that overall he was incapable, there was nothing he could do, and he was desperate. But despite him being fully unable to help there is still a cloud of guilt hanging over him because he never got to help. We can tell this because he says "in all my dreams" telling us that he has frequent, constant dreams of this, and he cannot get it out of his head.

Another strong emotion from Owen is disgust, and him trying to show the reader/audience just how disgusting the concept of war is. The fourth and last stanza shows this well. The war is described as "Obscene as cancer" this simile really shows us Owens true feelings, as cancer is such a vile and unpleasant thing to talk about; and to use cancer as a simile really confirms the view that the poet has. Another way we can demonstrate Owens disgust is when he says "My friend you would not tell with such high zest […] The old lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori." In this he is directly talking to the reader, almost accusing and wanting to punish them for talking about war in high "zest" meaning in a good way, being fond of it. He also takes a slightly sarcastic approach by calling the reader his "friend". By calling "Dolce et Decorum set Pro patria mori" (meaning: it is sweet and honourable to die for your country) an "old lie" again he is directly telling the reader that it is not sweet and honourable to...
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