Wilfred Owen: Techniques Used In Poetry
Wilfred Owen’s writes an intensely intimidating poem that consist of various techniques. The Latin title is translated, “it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.” Ironically ‘mori’ in means death, implying predictable finish for the soldiers. Reflecting the rich, suggests Owen’s target audience are well educated. He portrays war as a degrading experience using graphic imageries. He illustrates this tragedy of deceived soldiers in surrendering their lives for their country.
Owen’s formal manner exposures realities through accounts of militaries returning from war, contextually, Owen tries convey a controversial message. The militaries try to escape, but their health conditions terminate them from quick actions. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, unexpectedly army cadets are solid men, however Owen removes this fake portrayal of a robust fighter substituted as” beggar” and “hag”, implying war had caused soldiers to cultivate hastily. Owen sees himself, “towards our distant rest begun to trudge”, “trudge” connotes being wobbled, slackening the pace in which they were almost dragged themselves in these terrible circumstances towards a “distant.” Owen’s message is clear, the monstrosity of war was apparent due to the soldier’s treatment.
Owen’s choice of words creates a dramatic atmosphere. He uses subject specific nouns like, “flares” and “gas shells” to recognise the military context. Using the noun, “men” instead of ‘soldiers’ emphasises ordinary individuals. “Lame”, “blind”, “deaf”, these emotive modifiers build up a disturbing picture of men due to these adjectives, suggesting these men are isolated from realism, all their awareness have been overwhelmed by horrendous experiences of war. The verb modifiers, “bent double”, “Knock Kneed” and “coughing” develop t awareness of the men’s physical condition. Their state of health does not reflect the stereotypical strength of soldiers. “Haunting” becomes symbolic of the involvement they are retreating from but cannot escape mentally. The dynamic verb “marched” used in conjunction of the adverbial “asleep”, is admittedly disturbing.
Other verbs describing their movements are more emotive and less expected, “trudge” and “limped” imply the physical and emotional weariness of the men as “cursed” conveying the oaths literally and metaphorically the way their movements are hindered by mud. “If in some smothering dreams you too could pace”, verb ‘smother’ suggests Owen’s memories are slowly killing him, also referring to how the soldier died by fumes, suffocating. We as readers cannot entirely relate to Owen about this matter, we can only envisage this. The separation from “you” suggests that we cannot know about war unless if we were present, we should not “dream.” The verb ‘flung’ desensitises soldiers, connoting a heartless nature. Further accentuating the many deaths, they encountered throughout their battles and for them to not expressively devote themselves of the pointlessness occurred in war.
Past tense is used throughout, made up of reminiscences of one of the soldiers. “We” this plural pronoun reveals he was part of the soldier’s group. This inclusive pronoun references makes them sound more dreadful, “we cursed through sledge.” The soil of the battlefield was heavily cut by shells and the rain turned it to mud cursing through the unpleasant mud. The slow pace of this phrase, with its consonant clusters and long vowels, imitate their slow pace. “Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time”, epithet “in time” shows they find it challenging to put on gas masks. Owen uses first person singular and the second person plural, shows how Owen experienced his journey. For example, “we’, “I”, “my” and “me.” The second person singular make the reader think of the nasty reality of wars, for example, ‘if you could hear.’
The sentence structures are varied, Owen uses a mixture of simple, complex and compound sentences appropriate to the poem’s shape; he is recounting his personal experiences using descriptive narrative styles. “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;” through stern physical line length shows they are distraught in the routine. The simple, “men marched asleep” and compound sentence, “many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shood” feels forceful, stating facts unemotionally of what is being interpreted as cruel. The coordination linker, “but” makes this appearance feel worse than expected. Parallelism is then used, “All went lame, all blind”, the vivid image of the troops marching is moderately powerful minor than what Owen provided. Parallelism suggests desolation as a holistic state in that no one escapes from. Owen’s vicious tone makes the message sound harsh, he uses this in dark ironic manner to picture the deceit of idealised representations of war. He abides on specific details of misery to exaggerate the impression he wishes to have on those who tell the “old lie”, he uses the mode of address, “my friend” which post modifies the ironic statement.
l, m, and b these alliterative consonants have a fuller mellow sound, slowing the reading, displaying exhaustion. The plosive b sound repetition has a vibrating effect to the contrasting between sounds is illustrative of the group’s slow hike punctuated by the pain. Owen uses a complex sentence which includes many adverbials to provide facts. “Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs and towards our distant rest began to trudge”, omitting grammatical function words leaves the reader emotional, “turned our backs.” “Haunting flares” effectively hang in the air like ghosts, reminding armed forces that those flares may lead to deaths. “Haunting” begins with the consonant ‘h’ followed by the long diphthong ‘au’, this has a lasting impact.
Metaphorically, Owen graphically demonstrating war’s gruesome details. “Drunk with fatigue” and “deaf even to the hoots” display men’s physical states as so tired their minds are numbed. Owen uses many similes, “to old beggars”, disadvantaged of good health like the elderly begging for life, “obscene as cancer”, the killer is cancer, “coughing like hags”, comparing men to mature women. These are shocking comparisons; they are far from being heroic but are instead mentally and physically drained. “Like devil’s sick of sin”, Owen is explaining a demon’s face which is slanted by the dishonesties of sin and that hell also is sick of the constant occurring deaths because of war. He intentionally alliterates this to strengthen the reader to hiss, almost ironically replicating a snake, representing Satan. Furthermore, Owen’s neologisms “blood-shod”, the reader gets confused of the pararhyme ‘bloodshed’. “Knock-kneed” is quite disturbing, their feet are covered with blood, this is expressed graphically. The triplet verbs, “guttering, choking, drowning” accentuate how much the dying man suffered in his last stage. The parataxis at the end stress these verbs forcing us to pause and absorb the meaning.
Owen’s rhetorical patterning is effective in understanding the juxtaposition of the horrors and order of the structure as dramatic. He uses marked themes, “bent double” and list “all went lame; all blind”, “drunk (…) deaf” focuses thought on the soldier’s condition. “Deaf” is used as hyperbole to develop how these soldiers appear to be oblivious to everything around them and cut them off from normal life. The antithesis reinforces this sense of diverse worlds, “turned our backs” and “distant” are juxtaposed, modifying “haunting” signifying they cannot forget their experience by walking away towards “rest”. “Ecstasy of fumbling”, the noun ‘ecstasy’ refers to heightened emotions which imply comfort and is an oxymoron of getting the gas mask on in terrible states. It connotes religious power, suggesting the high amount of fear of the men as the gas starts to envelop them.
Phonologically, the rhyme scheme links alternate rhyme, the phonemes in “sacks” and “backs”, “sludge” and “trudge”, “boots” and “hoots”, “blind and “behind”.“Yelling”, “stumbling” and “flound’ring” are rhymed, the pace fastens creating panic. The ellipses at the end imply a pause of the man “flound’ring” in the chaos as though he is “in fire or lime” producing an intense image of saving himself in the time he has left. While the ellipsis could mean that the events are quite private or abysmal for Owen to mention. “Like a man in fire”, this simile explains the dying man’s troubles. The man is out of his own control and his actions could be compared to “a man in fire.” This is a form of pathos; the reader feel pity towards the man due to his expressive language. “Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori”, Owen’s discussion has led to an unpleasant conclusion. “Lie” is written as a capital L to improve the power of the phrase to impart that the patriotic lie stimuluses wars as part of human history.
Written in an iambic pentameter, Owen expresses the solid beat made by the march. The enjambment and parataxis reverses the rhythm; irregular punctuation makes words to be read at an uneven pace, which imitate the tired soldiers who have tripped and thrown themselves in the mud to uphold a well-ordered pace. Most lines have 10 syllables, the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables is not constantly the same, but every long and short line has 5 or 6 stresses. This draws attention to the key essentials used to build up the atmosphere. Owen structures the poem of four stanzas in uneven length, there is a regular ABAB CDCD EFEF rhyme scheme creating a natural flow that imitates human speech. The third stanza comprise of two lines compared to the latter, conveying his helplessness in communicating his never-ending nightmare. Owen has used an effective example of imagery, “in all my dreams, before my helpless sight”, we feel apologetic for Owen accepting his fate to be like it is, therefore cultivating our feelings of compassion. This creates a paradoxical portrayal “helpless sight”, he can see the men dying yet he is powerless, “sight” purposes as a synecdoche, stepping in as Owen’s voice.
The shuffling movement of the men over the ‘sludge’ is portrayed by the caesura in line 5 to 7. From line 8, the poet changes this metre to a trochaic, declining this activity, as the shells would interrupt the trudge. “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!” emphasise the words they use, starting off the rhythm’s interruption, due to the four, short stressed syllables and the interruption of the voice, like an alarm preparing the reader of this distressing condition. Almost an action burst matching the battleground through the change of pace. Juxtaposing the submissive stride of the march reflected in the first stanza, capturing their suffering. Capitalisation shows urgency by repetition and exclamation marks compared to the last verse “ardent for some desperate glory”. “Incurable sores on innocent tongues, my friend “, the dash after ‘tongues’ creates a dramatic peak. This acts as a caesura, so the reader pauses to take that in, of the present tense and address the second person ‘you’.
Due to Owen’s opposing viewpoints of war, we discover dehumanising truths of war. He fights against the original views of war and manipulates us to question the thought of war by writing of actual reality. Owen gains a deeper knowledge than just reciting war experiences, amplifying the mind of the reader whilst reading his poem.