In this essay I am going to compare and contrast how Owen presents the horror of war. We are going to be looking at two of Wilfred Owen’s poems “Dulce et decorum est” and “Anthem for doomed youth” Two very dark poems laced with the horror of war, Both poems are dark and disturbing and use persuasive language such as metaphors, rhetorical questions and alliteration to get their point across, that war isn’t great and glamorous like all young men were told at that time. In “Dulce et decorum est” there is no structure to the stanza’s, as if Wilfred Owen is describing how there is no structure to war, no need for it. In the first stanza the pace is very slow and a painstaking rhythm is established through Owen’s use of heavy, long words. This illustrates how painstaking and slow the war was, Whereas in “Anthem for Doomed Youth” it is written in a sonnet formation, love poems are usually written in a sonnet formation, so it is quite ironic that a poem about war, funerals and dehumanising conditions was written in a sonnet formation. In “Dulce et decorum est” Wilfred uses emotive language to describe how bad the conditions are in the trenches at that point of time.
He uses the painfully blunt verb ‘Writhing’ to highlight how their friend appeared as he was dying, eyes rolling in the back of his head. In “Anthem for doomed youth” Owen uses the gruesome rhetorical question ‘what passing bells for those who die as cattle?’ to highlight how inhumane war is, like men being sent to a slaughter house to die, and then just being left on the ground for the next huddle of naïve men to trod on. In “Dulce et Decorum est” Owen describes in graphic detail how the physical look of the soldier had changed, obviously trying to shock the reader and get through to them how war is such a devastating business. ‘Watch the white eyes writhing in his face,’ uses alliteration to emphasise how grotesque the scenario was. Following this, the image that is portrayed is that the soldier’s face had dropped and was now exceedingly unsightly. ‘His face hanging like a devil’s sick of sin,’ is a simile that highlights this point. This comparison implies that his face was corrupted and baneful. The image created in the reader’s mind is that the face has suddenly been transformed from a young, youthful face to a very old and aged face. Now the face is hideously ugly and revolting. You can imagine the face appearing twisted and very stretched.
In “Anthem for Doomed Youth” ‘Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle can patter out their hasty orisons,’ are two very effective lines that imply that instead of prayers, the soldiers received the firing of bullets. ‘Stuttering’ is onomatopoeia to add the sound into the image that is formed in the reader’s mind. It also implies that the sound was not fluent. Alliteration is used on the ‘r’ sounds to emphasise the sounds of destruction that were occurring. In “Dulce et Decorum est” Wilfred Owen uses a metaphor ‘Drunk with fatigue,’ to suggest that the men are mentally vacant and are staggering along. To be ‘Drunk with fatigue,’ these men must be so tired that they are no longer sane and can barely even think for themselves. You can almost imagine large numbers of people dragging their boots through the mud, tripping over their own shadow. ‘Like beggars under sacks’ is a simile that illustrates that the men have no dignity left.
It conjures the image of very dirty, disgustingly vile tramps, who have a nauseating stench. In “Anthem for Doomed Youth” Owen uses Personification in this quote ‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns’ is the answer to this question, describing what the soldiers received. Through personification the guns responsible for taking so much human life are made out to be evil. Owen uses the idea of irony in war in both of the poems that I have studied, as he saw misery, destruction, and pain and wanted people to be more aware of the cruelty of war and hopefully to stop it from happening again. Both poems have an alternate line rhyming scheme. ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ uses the form of a sonnet to portray a distressing message that flows slowly as you would imagine a funeral march. ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ also has a distressing message but is portrayed in contradiction to its title. The idea of nationalism is explored. Both poems make the reader feel helplessness. There was no way of helping the gas victim in ‘Dulce est Decorum est’ and the ‘doomed youth’ didn’t know their fate making them helpless victims and the reader too is a helpless victim of the poem.