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Wilfred Owen

Oct 08, 1999 1016 Words
Does Owens poetry do more than offer the reader an insight into the horrors of war? Discuss with reference to at least two poems. <br>
<br>Wilfred Owen is arguable the greatest of the world war one poets. This is a man who through personal experience offers us not only insight into the astrocities of war but also illustrates the struggle of nature and the mental state these men cross into on the battle field. In ‘Spring Offensive', Owen mixes the ideas of war and nature in a conversational tone unlike ‘Futility' in which Owen questions the pointlessness of war and religion in this compact poem. Owen shows us the physical horrors of war very effectively yet his poems stretch beyond that and delve into the unspoken shames where life itself is questioned. <br>

<br>Owen's poem the Spring Offensive explores the unnatural offensive of war against spring or nature. Opening with ‘Halted against the shade of a last hill' Owen suggests both the calmness of the ‘shade' and the deadly implication of ‘last'. The horror of war is not only the ‘hot blast and fury of Hells upsurge' of stanza 6 but also ‘the sun, like a friend with whom their love is done' of stanza 4. <br>

<br>Written in a conversational tone, Spring Offensive illustrates the physical horrors of the men experienced in war as they ‘leapt to swift unseen bullets…….or plunged and fell away past the world verge.' The oxymoron in stanza 7 ‘superhuman inhumanities' , the fantastic acts of horror, implies in war that hero and the devil are one and the same. Yet although Owen gives us insight into such horrors he does much more in his questioning of god and his imagery of nature in projecting the feelings of men at war. As it is said ‘nothing concentrates a mans mind more than his own execution' <br>

<br>‘to face the stark blank sky beyond the ridge' suggests the questionable future namely the heavens and god. This imagery is continued in stanza 5 with the double meaning of ‘earth set sudden cups in thousands for their blood which implies not only the literal meaning of the craters but the cup of Christ or religion. Owen suggests that god and nature had set a trap, for just as the soldiers had turned their back on nature and religion so too had god and nature rejected the soldiers. <br>

<br>Owen's imagery of nature is particually imminent in ‘Spring Offensive'. ‘long grass swirled…….murmurous with wasp and midge' shows his attention to detail and portrays the uneasy patience of the soldiers as they ‘face the stark blank sky beyond the ridge' awaiting their fate. Owen creates a quiet, soft atmosphere in his use of nature but with daunting implications as shown in the rhyming couplet of stanza 3; <br>

<br>‘And the far valley behind, where the buttercup
<br>Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up'
<br>
<br>And the line ‘But clutched to them like sorrowing hands' implies in a peaceful tone that nature is trying to stop the soldiers from going to the battlefield. The poem is a progressive story in which nature pleads with the soldiers then slowely becomes their enemy. <br>

<br>Owen, when presenting his theme that war is unnatural, does as if it were a progressive story. The beginning, middle and finally after the battle where the men crawl ‘slowly back' He also delves into the shame experienced by the soldiers, ‘Why speak not they of comrades that went under?' As it is said these men were ‘wartime heroes yet a peacetime mess'

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<br>Owen offers us the insight into god and natures involvement in war not only through ‘Spring Offensive' but also Futility which portrays the pity of war in a calm and questioning way. <br>

<br>‘Futility' best describes that Owens poetry offers so much more to the reader than the insight into the horrors of war. The death of the soldier in this poem is just a starting point for Owens universal questioning of the pointlessness of war and humanity in general. Owen in this condensed poem does not use visual images of horror as he is known for. He conjures feelings within the reader that often are more horrific. <br>

<br>This poem deals with the death of the speakers friend ironically from the cold despite the terrible destruction of war. The ‘kind old sun' is personified in the first stanza. The speaker has placed full faith in the sun to ‘rouse him now' yet as the poem develops he realises that not only has mankind turned against himself but also nature has rejected him. ‘Always it woke him, even in France' shows his confidence yet the next line ‘until this morning and this snow' suggests that the speaker already knows this daunting consequence of war yet disreguards his inhabition until the second stanza. The ‘kind old sun' is now the ‘fatuous sunbeams' With this he has in turn rejected nature. <br>

<br>There is a contrast between the two stanza's where the speakers attitude develops from hope to despair and helplessness. The personification of the sun allows the reader to share in the hope that the sun ‘might rouse him now'. The reader becomes not involved in the horror of war but is caught up in the struggle between nature and humanity. <br>

<br>It is in this last stanza that the speaker realises that nothing will save his comrade from death and questions ‘Was it for this the clay grew tall?' <br>
<br>Simply, in war there is the horror and there is the pity. Owen offers the reader so much more than the insight into the horrors of war by showing the pity. With this the reader empathises with the speaker therefore becoming involved. Owens poetry questions so much more than the visual atrocities which enable his poems to be relevant today. As Wilfred Owen said ‘My topic is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity'

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