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On the first days of August 1914 uproars of cheer could be heard throughout Britain as a mark of great enthusiasm of the newly-declared war campaign. This uproar of pleasure of war is greatly challenged by Wilfred Owen’s poems Dulce Et Decorum Est and Mental Cases, as he presents harrowing imagery of warfare of the era and too challenges the reader’s view of the glorification of war.
Firstly, Owen illustrates the true side of war in Dulce Et Decorum Est by stating an action of a soldier nearby as “[plunging] at me, guttering, choking, drowning” as to appeal to the reader by emotive language helping to influence the reader in opinion of hardships of battle, in this case how desperate the soldiers are made to be and how Owen states no great attempt on his part to save the soldier, as if this event being illustrated as becoming an average day for the men. By this developing emotional response of the reader. Furthermore enhances Owen increases the value of the harrowing imagery by questioning the reader “if [he] could hear every jolt, the blood came gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.” By this use of direct vocative language Owen allows the reader to feel an attack of his own opinion, having been predicted by Owen to be the tethered to the side of celebration of war which Owen sees as a form of indoctrination by the state.
Furthermore, in Mental Cases Owen demonstrates the absence of emotion and life by acknowledgment of the soldiers behaving as “purgatorial shadows,” strengthening the idea of the loss of purpose. As a result of this use of symbolism, there is contribution to the idea of the conflict within the soldiers’ minds. Owen in addition stresses this idea by the description of the “gouged chasms round their fretted sockets,” emphasizing the idea of the displacement of emotion and purpose.”Gouged” is critical in this instance as it is powerful modifier adjective which enhances the atmosphere by implying restlessness but in addition indirectly refers to the wounds of the soldiers described assumed to be deep in form, further emphasizing the atrocities of war. “Gouged” may also be referring to the loss of consciousness and intellect as if they have been robbed of them, as a result portraying the loss of sanity.
In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Owen also exhibits death by the use of euphemism, describing the soldiers as beginning to “trudge towards [their] distant rest,” this euphemism is effective in that it creates discrete contradiction to the expectation of warfare in persevering in the avoidance of your death. By this an atmosphere of temptation is implied in that the soldiers are so distraught and physically and mentally fatigued that they are almost welcoming death. Another reason to note for their behaviour is the idea where the average time expectation of being alive was a few days. This extract is also useful as it emphasizes too how just the wait for death of the soldiers is more terrifying than death itself as Owen describes the wait for death as a “trudge” and how “distant” the “rest” is. Furthermore Owen is shown to be as a representative of the soldiers in the poem in that he speaks of the horrors he himself has seen and how they have interacted with him. This idea is supported as he mentions of a man “under the sea of; drowning.” This metaphor is effect as it supports the setting in that is shows the horror of the soldiers chocking in their own blood and the gas which the enemy has introduced upon. By these extract Owen vividly describes the process of death in battle, reinforcing the reader in true consequences of war.
Owen communicates in an impactful manner the idea of social pressures and expectations in Mental Cases. This is achieved as Owen describes the “awful falseness of [the] set-smiling corpses,” so that he may further support the horrific atmosphere of the battlefield. This mention of the soldiers is symbolic in that it is also effective as it incorporates how the soldiers presented themselves as ones who truly supported the idea of dying for their country. Although this is the case a far deeper meaning can be filtered from his literature, that being the falsehood of the very emotions the soldiers portray, as having been forced into war by peers, social expectations and the state-led propaganda itself. This conflict is supported as Owen stresses how the soldiers “[paw at us, the ones to deal them war and madness].” This is vital as there is a creation of an atmosphere of guilt in the poem which as Owen wants, to impact the reader. This instance of the poem is also impacting as Owen describes the soldiers as with animal-like behaviour, as if illustrating the idea of the loss of social expectations once they have joined the battlefield. The idea of propaganda is key here as Owen attempts consistently in these two poems to state his concern of the impact of propaganda on the juveniles at the time, the juveniles known for departing off to war in search of adventure and glory only to find the horrific confrontation of death, having been kept and altered with bias by propaganda issued by the state.
Overall Owen forces consistent provocation towards the reader by incorporating vivid harrowing events happening around him in which he is a part of in order that he may influence the reader’s opinions. Owen’s didactic nature is also supported by the way he points out the truthful side of propaganda through these two poems, by using direct vocative and interrogative language towards the reader as if too induce an atmosphere of critical thinking and as to cumulatively encourage the act of overcoming the indoctrination of war being enforced by the state.
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