Contrast is an element used frequently in the poems “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Disabled” and “Dulce Et Decorum Est”. “Dulce Et Decorum Est” first uses contrast in the title which means half of the Latin saying, “It’s sweet and proper to die for your country”. This title is sarcastic and ironic as the reader knows it is not glorious to die for your country and Owen does hold the strong opinion of war being a terrible cause of the loss of many innocent lives.
Owen wrote this poem, particularly to address those who thought war was good and right, such as poet- Jessie Pope who wrote poems encouraging young men to sign up for the war.
Throughout the poem, there are many lines, which contrast and contradict the title. The third stanza contains a very effective list of three, harsh words, “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”.
Owen also writes in the fourth stanza, a very visual picture in words which creates very extreme images, which he is describing from previous nightmares that he recalls.
“White eyes writhing in his face”.
The most descriptive stanza in the poem is the fourth, as harsh words are used in descriptions and metaphors. The metaphor of “his hanging face like a devil sick of sin”, gives a strong image as the devil is supposed to be the highest form of sin and evil, making this a strong metaphor. Owen uses cancer in a simile, which emphasises the obscenity of the situation as, in those days especially, as cancer, was almost certainly fatal. Owen calls the “men” as addressed in other authors poems “children”, and I think that he calls them this because he is addressing the vulnerability and innocence of the young men who signed up without being fully aware of the consequences or severity of war.
The ending of “Dulce Et Decorum Est” is very powerful as he completes the juxtaposition between the title of the poem and the true meaning of the poem which creates contrast. He does this by calling the saying a lie;
“The old lie: Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori”.
In my second poem, “Anthem For Doomed Youth”, contrast is used between the sounds introduced in the first line of the first verse;
“What passing bells…” and then the contrast as there are no passing bells for those who die at war, but images of “the monstrous anger of the guns”, and “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”. The two lines that follow from the first lines rhetorical question are answers which contrast to the first line immensely. The alliteration in;
“Rifles’ Rapid Rattle” also adds to the technique in the poem.
“No prayers nor bells” gives direct contrast to the first line, as the soldiers who died at war had no bells for them when they died, and no grievance.
The title of this poem uses the word “Doomed” to emphasise the opinion of the author in that the youth who sign- up for the war effort are doomed for death and disabilities.
Each verse of the sonnet starts with a rhetorical question, which the author answers, throughout the verse with contrast.
The author wrote this poem with the intent to get across his opinion of the atrocities of war, and even calls the religious idea of war a mockery of god;
“No mockeries now for them”.
In the first stanza a harsh build up in noise is used, to appeal to our sense of sound, to imagine the huge amount of noise in the;
“The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires”.
This is then anti- climaxed by the first line of the second stanza where the subject of mourning is approached,
“What candles may be held to speed them all?”. Contrast is then made when the boys who died receive no candles and receive no respectful mourning. The tone of the second stanza in comparison to the first stanza is far less harsh and does not give visual images of noise and fighting in war, but to the more personal level of the soldiers leaving their loved ones. The second stanza is intended to apply to the readers compassionate side, to show how there were no candles or bells to mourn the death of soldiers.
The last line of the poem is very effective;
“Each slow dusk a drawing- down of blinds”, which symbolises a mark of respect as a black curtain is running over the universe, as though the whole universe is mourning. All the way through the poem, Owen uses the irony of the differences between the treatments of those who die in battle in terms of prayers, “no prayers nor bells” candles “not in the hands of boys”, and mourning “Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs”, in contrast to all this for those who die normally at home.
In the poem “Disabled” the main contrast is of how the man used to live, in contrast to his physical and mental state currently. The rhyming pattern is very simple, in contrast to the subject of the poem which is very detailed and serious.
The poem is written as a narrative, and describes how the man lives his life now in contrast to how he lived his life before he became disabled. As well as contrast, this poem contains irony. In the fourth stanza he says how he signed up for the war to please women;
“That’s why; and may be, too, to please his Meg”, which is ironic as now women definitely do not wish to have anything to do with him, from the consequences of him fighting;
“…He noticed how women’s eyes, passed from him to the strong men that were whole”.
In the first stanza an ambiguous word is used in the sentence;
“Legless, sewn short at elbow”. This is ambiguous as, he is now literally legless, but when he signed up he was drunk, therefore not knowing what he was doing;
“It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg”. Owen gets across the point of him being upset as he reminisces in the first stanza, how life used to be like for him;
“Voices of boys voices rang like a saddening hymn”. It is saddening for him because he was once those boys and for something he did out of drunkenness he now can not do. The man knows that he was foolish as he says how he threw away his legs,
“In the old times, before he threw away his legs”.
An exaggerated metaphorical expression is used in the third stanza, which is very effective, as it implies that all his blood had been poured down shell holes until it ran dry, which of course cannot happen;
“Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry”. Also by using the metaphor of the war being a “hot race”.
A direct contrast is used in the fourth stanza when he says how there was a time when he would have enjoyed being carried with a blood- smear down his leg, and would have been proud. The contrast is now that he is carried for a different reason, not for being a hero;
“One time he liked a blood smear down his leg…carried shoulder high”.
Owen gets his resent across in the poem, as he says how the people smiled at other peoples expenses;
“Smiling they wrote his lie”. The people who signed him up knew that he was not old enough, but they had no reason to care about him, as smiling they wrote his “lie”. There is again another direct contrast at the end of the fourth stanza, as his expectations of returning from war are very high, as he goes into expecting jewellery, salutes, drums and cheers, large pay arrears. Then this is severely anti-climaxed in the fifth stanza when only some cheered him home, and people were quick to thank him but did not care about his mental state and the state of his soul;
“ONLY a solemn man who brought him fruits, Thanked him, and THEN inquired about his soul”.
In the final stanza, it starts with “now”, telling us what the man is now doing. He has to spend some sick years in institutes, and is not even allowed to think for himself. It took him a long time to realise why women no longer come to him, he finally realises this towards the end of the poem, but does not want to believe it, so he asks himself rhetorical questions which provide a very effective ending to the poem;
“Why don’t they come?…Why don’t they come?”.