13th March 2018

2.4 – Wilfred Owen

In the texts “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by the author Wilfred Owen, I will be analysing language techniques from both poems. These features are used by Wilfred Owen to portray that it is not sweet and fitting to die for ones country in the poem “Dulce et Decorum est”, and in the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth” he uses language features to express the idea of young soldiers going off to war and the affect it has on their families they leave behind.

A language technique used was a simile in the line “like old beggars” out of the text “Dulce et Decorum est”. This technique was used to show the characteristics of an old beggar and compare them to the soldiers. Characteristics of an “old beggar” include a hunched over, older person who is extremely tired and desperate, almost helpless. Comparing these qualities to soldiers suggests to the reader and makes them visualise the soldiers to be hunched and tired, possibly injured permanently and struggling to get by. Soldiers are growing old, part of the war, very desperate for it to come to a long due end. Which makes the reader sympathise about the time they have had away from their family and the horrible conditions that are starting to become normal to the soldiers. Another characteristic that is shared is the idea of being helpless, which is shown in a soldier because war was compulsory for a fit man, some young boys even signed up lying about their age, thinking war was only glamorous and heroic. However they were yet to discover the challenges and grimness of what world war one had to offer which in some sense left them helpless at the front.  In “Anthem for Doomed”, young soldiers are also seen to be helpless when a simile is used yet again by the author in the line ” these who die as cattle”. Owen uses a simile to connect the characteristics of a group of cattle to an army of young soldiers to portray the severity of their and also their families helplessness once they are committed to their duties. This makes the reader think of how cows walk one after the other, represented by a number rather than a name. A reader can easily relate these traits to a soldier when the two are used part of a simile. The reader can imagine young soldiers one after the other marching with pride as they leave for war but then as time goes on, the reader may imagine soldiers plainly walking one after another obeying the enforcements of conscription and their leader as its gone past the point of any soldier wanting to be at the front or seeing the experience of war as a thrilling opportunity.Soldiers being compared to cattle may also spark the reader to question whether Wilfred Owen is suggesting soldiers are slowly losing sight of their human rights. Cows are represented by a number, live outside through any kind of weather and have no say due to being an animal. In a way the reader could also compare this to a soldier, soldiers become nothing but a body at war, an extra arm to kill and remain a body at their death bed with no recognition of who they are. They live in horrible conditions for long periods of time with no break, they have very limited food and at times their clothes dont meet the warm requirements. This is a strong comparison which questions the reader to wonder whether the soldiers of the country are just becoming the governments animals on the battlefield. Therefore the soldiers are being seen by the reader as helpless, they have signed up to explore the world representing their family and country but have been given everything but what they imagined it to be like. Which makes the soldiers helpless because they committed to a horrible experience they failed to know the truth about which has left them trapped at the front as they have no way out.

Another technique used in “Dulce et Decorum est” that portrays it is not sweet and fitting to die for ones country, is when Owen uses symbolism in the line “innocent tongues”. He uses symbolism to allow the reader to understand the idea associated with the symbol. In this case the symbol is the tongue of a soldier being associated with the idea of innocence. With symbolism being used in this line it makes the reader connect the idea and symbol and think of soldiers to have innocent tongues. The reader may wonder whether Owen is using this technique to prove soldiers went to war with innocent intentions, because it was apparently sweet and fitting to die for ones country. However the definition of innocence was challenged in the war, the reader may question whether a soldier was innocent as he was obeying the government or whether their innocence was taken away from them by the war. The reader may also tie this idea in with the “Old Lie”, “that it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country”, which soldiers may of been told since a young age which forces them to not know any better. The enforcement of fighting and conscription forces these young innocent children that have been told the “Old Lie” for as long as they can remember to have their innocence taken away from them at the cost of surviving the war. If the reader chooses to wonder how this can be prevented, the reader might connect the symbol of the tongue to being a powerful object, it has the opportunity to communicate the message of the “Old Lie”, and once the tongue expresses its opinion with reason and experience, the “Old Lie” can be passed along from one person to the next. The tongue also has the power to spread bad news to a soldiers family members which can cause a world to come tumbling down inside someone. The affect of a soldiers death on their family is shown in “Anthem for Doomed Youth”. Owen uses emotive language when he uses the word “goodbyes” in his poem. Emotive language is used to makes the reader feel specific emotions and think about the ideas presented. When Owen uses “goodbyes” this may spark the reader to think of the last time they saw someone they loved, or the feeling of loss and sadness seeing someone go for short term or forever. The reader can connect these feelings to a soldier and their family, the feelings a soldiers family may have as they farewell their young son off to war, saying goodbye to a person they put so much time, effort and love into possibly sacrificing so much for their son. Their feelings may involve uncertainty, lurching stomachs and nothing but hope for their sons safe return. In some cases a son wont arrive home, just like Wilfred Owen never did, the reader will instantly sympathise for a soldiers family who have loss their son. The word goodbye was a precious word that sparked emotions from a soldier and his family, and now here they are treasuring the last moment they saw their son, the moment they felt sick to their stomachs, the moment they hugged him so tight breathing in his scent to treasure, the moment they prayed and hoped with all their heart he would return, the moment they said goodbye.






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