Readers engage with literature and experience conflict, inducing an emotional and psychological response, without truly experiencing the matter themselves. This allows the responder to perceive the impact of war on individuals. Wilfred Owens’ poetry on war can be described as a passionate expression of Owen’s outrage over the horror of war and pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in it. In his poems ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, he indicates this context when highlighting the honest cruelty and waste of war and the calamitous effect it has on humans. The reader encounters the pure misuse of human life and the hardships of conflict in the military.
There are many contributing factors to the loss of life for soldiers. In the poem, Anthem For Doomed Youth, Owen expresses how the soldier’s lives were unnecessarily lost and wasted. Ironically, Owen weakens the concept of an anthem by accentuating that there is nothing to celebrate but ‘Doomed Youth’. This poem was set during the First World War and describes the conditions of the millions of soldiers who died fighting for their countries. Owen establishes the theme of his sonnet with the rhetorical question ‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ referring to the funeral bells that should be rung for those who have died and been treated like cattle. This quote solemnly discusses death in war and shows how those who die in war do not receive the normal ceremonies that are used to honour the dead. Further on he has personified guns ‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns’ where he says that the battle field is insane. He also shows the likely damage of the weapons and the soldiers in at the pity of a violent range. In the last stanza, ‘but in their eyes shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes. The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall’, Owen illustrates the families reactions to finding that their loved ones have died. This makes an effective comparison that the readers can relate to. Readers recognise that death is not glorious and that the real ‘enemies’ are those who arranged the soldiers’ daily confrontation with it.
Humans endure consequences through emotional and physical suffering. Dulce Et Decorum Est another poem by Wilfred Owen explores the hardships that were given to soldiers in WW1. In the poem, you are immersed in the atmosphere of war. These are the trenches of World War 1, full of mud, death, and misery. The first stanza describes the opening scene of the battlefield. Conveying the tiring, sickening, haunting conditions of war to the responder Owen uses similes. The opening sentence is very powerful in its illustration of the trauma of the soldiers ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags’. This phrase is a description of how the soldiers are feeling and looking. This creates an image for us. Referring to himself, Owen conveys the war having an impact on those who remain alive. His hatred in the war is reinforced through the metaphors ‘Deaf even to the hoots’ and ‘gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs’. These metaphors express the vivid images of blood and the soldier’s physical state. Additionally, the urgency from this state is seen in the repetition of ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!’ which allows us to really grasp the apprehension and concern in the moment. Furthermore, war will only shatter innocent lives and influence further on those who survive from war.
War is a dreadful sight and whose benefits are not more than the loss of lives. Owen paints the horror of war in a sensational manner that gets his message across. War is just a source of mass destruction for useless matters and many lives have been wasted because of it. Through Owens poems, he stirs up the heart and greatly influences the reader’s thoughts on war and those who fight in it. Painting a mournful, realistic, human picture of life at the frontline, he leaves us in no doubt about his feelings. In conclusion, sharing the emotions and experiences through these texts creates a relationship with the reader and the composer, where the reader can perceive what life was like for the soldiers and the honest cruelty of the war.