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A Comparison Between the Poems ‘No More Hiroshimas’ and ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’

By edscissorhands Dec 22, 2010 1473 Words
The two poems have a similar message: war doesn’t change over time, lives will always be lost, and whether you are experiencing or remembering the war, the horror, sadness and suffering will be present. The poem ‘No More Hiroshimas’ focuses on the reminders and memorials of the atomic bomb while ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ describes what war is like for an ordinary soldier. These poems have a lot in common, but at the same time they have their differences. The use of diction by both poets allows readers to understand that war is a terrible experience for people, and just as painful for people who are remembering it. In ‘No More Hiroshimas’, James Kirkup writes about how the memorials of the atomic bomb are filled with fake cheerfulness, and that they actually should be filled with sorrow and pain. It is clear that Kirkup believes that people are trying to forget and continue their lives in a happy manner. He writes “A kind of life goes on, in cinemas and hi-fi coffee bars.” This implies that the life people live isn’t real, that it is a “kind of life” and fake. He also goes on and writes that not only are the people pretending to be happy, but the memorials are just as false. The poet describes the “models of the bombed Industry Promotion Hall, memorial ruin tricked out with glitter-frost and artificial pearls.” This suggests that the memorials are “tricked”, with its decorations being positive, and the use of “artificial” further emphasizes that they are just pretending to be joyful. On the other hand, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ straightforwardly describes the negative aspects of war. Wilfred Owen writes about how terrible war is for ordinary soldiers to experience. He portrays the soldiers as “All went lame, all blind; drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots of gas-shells dropping softly behind.” This here shows that they are so exhausted that they are “blind”, and unable to see anything properly, this is accentuated by the word “drunk” which indicates that there has been an overwhelming amount of fatigue. In this quotation it is also clear that the poet is describing how dangerous and unexpected war is. One of the most deadly weapons used during World War One, which is when this poem was written, was gas. By depicting the gas as “dropping softly” it is like the gas is harmless and this gives the wrong impression because gas actually killed many soldiers. In both poems they similarly mention how the war can’t be forgotten, and how memories will always be there long after it is over. ‘No More Hiroshimas’ focuses more on how nature is scarred from war, and how it shows. The poet says “The river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation.” Here he is showing the readers that while the rest of the city is starting to recover, the river stays the same way, and won’t forget the atomic bomb. Also, a river is a source of life, and when one is described to be “sad” it suggests to readers that there isn’t a lot of life left. ‘As mentioned before, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ also acknowledges the fact that war is unforgettable, and haunts the soldiers for the rest of their lives. He says that “In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.” Here he is telling us that they are both “helpless”, with him being helpless because he is forced to watch it, and he can’t do anything. With the use of the “ing” at the end of three words, it emphasizes the movements of the soldier, and it also is a participial, which gives the impression that this is happening right now, and that it is continuous, showing us that this scene happens all the time during war, and that he is still disturbed by it. The strong use of imagery in both poems paints clear images in the minds of readers about war. Wilfred Owen uses imagery to unmistakably display to us how painful and disgusting war is, once again focusing mostly on the feelings and motions of the soldiers. The reader is shown that the conditions that all the soldiers are in are very dreadful. The poet illustrates the soldiers to readers as “Bend double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed coughing like hags.” Here the writer is allowing us to see how the soldiers unhealthy and weak, this contradicts the fact that soldiers are supposed to be powerful. The use of aural imagery, with the “c” and “ck” sounds make there two lines hard to say, which suggests how hard war is for people and how harsh it was for everyone. The reader also discovers that the death of a soldier is something disgusting and sick. The poet tells us that the soldier was “Obscene as cancer, bitter as the bud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues” This here indicates that the way the soldier looks like after the gas attack is so “obscene” and Owen uses these similes to describe to the reader just how bad it is. This could also be implying that the war is “incurable” and it will always be like a “sore” on the minds of soldiers, and with them forever. ‘No More Hiroshimas’ has equally as much vivid imagery, but instead of describing people, most of the imagery is depicting the poet’s surroundings. The majority of the imagery used is also more positive side, which contrasts with the harsh negativity of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. Although most of the imagery is used to express a lighthearted mood, the poem still is mainly about remembering the destruction of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which is actually is quite the opposite. The poet did this to show readers that no matter how carefree the people are, they will always remember the atomic bomb, which is why the poem constantly will have a section of positive imagery, and then immediately afterwards there is more depressing descriptions of things, which cancel out the happiness that could be felt before. He describes to readers the large amount of color and life there is in Hiroshima by writing “Shacks cascading lemons and persimmons, oranges and dark-red apples, shanties awash with rainbows of squid and octopus.” With the use of imagery, the readers can clearly imagine the “shacks” with large amounts of brightly colored fruit just overflowing out, suggesting how there is a lot of life and energy. The “rainbows” of seafood also further emphasize the fact that there are millions of colors, and how healthy everything is. There is also the use of contradicting something positive in one line, with Kirkup writing “A cheerfully shallow permanence” the use of this metaphor here has a slight sarcastic tone, and is very contrasting. There is one positive word, and then the word “shallow” suggests that this “cheerfulness” is unstable and superficial. The structures of ‘No More Hiroshimas’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ have a lot of similarities and differences, all which clearly link to the poets’ main messages. Both poems have an irregular structure, which could suggest to readers that war is unpredictable and can constantly surprise. They also both have a two line stanza in the poem that really summarizes the poems’ point. Wilfred Owen writes, “In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.” Additionally, James Kirkup tells us “Remember only these. They are the only memorials we need.” Because these two quotations are a stanza by itself, they both emphasize both poets’ words. The overall paces of the two poems are very different, but in some sections there are similarities. The pace of the first stanza of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ sounds staggered. This could suggest to readers the unorganized stumbling that the soldiers are marching like, showing how worn-out they might be. Alternatively, ‘No More Hiroshimas’ has a more flowing and dragged out pace, creating a sadder mood, with the whole poem written in full sentences. This contrast between the two show how being part of war is filled with exhaustion, and how remembering is sad and stretched over time. The use of both Wilson and Kirkup’s punctuation additionally create a mood. Wilson uses exclamation marks to emphasize the desperation of the soldiers, while Kirkup only uses mostly commas and periods throughout the poem, slowing the poem down. Both poems have their own separate messages, and are portrayed in different ways, but the underlying messages are the same. Although one was written during World War One, and the other twenty years after World War Two, both poets agree on the horrors of war, and of all the sadness that lingers on people and their surroundings.

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