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January 29, 2022, 07:22:19 am

Author Topic: The War Poems - Practice SAC  (Read 1838 times)  Share 

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The War Poems - Practice SAC
« on: March 04, 2014, 09:19:12 pm »
hey, this is a practice essay i handwrote (and just now typed up) in class for the war poems, and i was wondering if i could please get some extra feedback or a mark for it from anyone. it was under timed conditions so my expression is pretty... not great in certain parts tbh :P
thanks heaps in advance! :)

Owen's poems reveal tenderness and compassion towards those whose lives have been destroyed by the war". Discuss.

"My subject is War, and the pity of War". In his anthology, 'The War Poems', Wilfred Owen accentuates a profound sympathy towards those affected by war, taking pity upon the soldiers and their families who have suffered loss in its name. Reflecting on his own experiences as a soldier in World War One, Owen highlights the abject misery and terror suffered by men in war, using his poetry to demonstrate the devastation caused not only to society as a whole, but to the mental and physical wellbeing of the soldiers themselves. However, while Owen affords sympathy towards the plight of soldiers, he is, at times, particularly scathing in his depiction of their families as naive and highly idealistic in their perception of war.

Owen's poetry acts as a vehicle through which he conveys the trauma faced by soldiers as a result of their experiences in war. Throughout 'The War Poems', Owen embroils readers in the atrocities of war through his bleak and grotesque imagery of the battlefield, illustrating the corrosive effects it has on the sanity of soldiers. In 'Mental Cases', soldiers are depicted as 'purgatorial shadows' who 'sit here in twilight' as a result of their experiences in war; unrecognisable shells of their former selves who exist in a void between life and death. Their teeth 'leer like skulls' teeth wicked', symbolising how they have been reduced to the most basic form of being human - although they superficially appear so, their humanity has been stripped away, leaving behind 'set-smiling corpses' whose past selves have effectively died. This motif is compounded in the poem 'Disabled', which uses colour as a metaphor to juxtapose the 'light blue' brightness of his life before war with the 'grey' darkness that results from his enlistment. Owen's considered word choice in the phrase 'Esprit de corps' further portrays this imagery of emptiness - its aesthetic similarity to the English 'spirit' and 'corpse' represents how the essence of who the soldiers once were has effectively died. It is through this brutal depiction of the psychological toll exerted by war on soldiers that Owen attempts to elicit pity from his audience, particularly as the audience of the period would have been unaware of the true horrors of war.

Similarly, Owen attempts to evoke compassion through his portrayal of the physical effects exercised upon soldiers as a result of their participation in war. The young protagonist of 'Disabled' has become 'legless, sewn short at elbow' due to the events of war, unable to 'feel again how slim/Girls' waists are'. He is depicted as having been aged by his experiences in war, having 'lost his colour', a metaphor for his youth, in wartime. This echoes a similar sentiment presented in 'Dulce Et Decorum Est', in which soldiers are characterised as 'knock-kneed, coughing like hags', contrasting with the youthful exuberance normally exhibited by soldiers. Owen alludes to the consequences even outside of battle, portraying soldiers as 'like old beggars under sacks', implying that the hardships of war have caused the soldiers to lose so much weight that their clothes now hang off them 'like [...] sacks'. The audience is encouraged to place their sympathies upon these young men who have effectively been aged by their experiences, having had their youth and innocence stolen by the horrors of war.

In addition, Owen extends a level of compassion to families who have been torn apart by war. He recognises the grieving of lost soldiers by their families in the 'pallor of girls' brows' and the 'tenderness' of their 'patient minds', lamenting the lack of closure for families as they are unable to properly mourn those who they have lost. The mourning of soldiers is indicative of the close bond between men in war and their families, evidenced in 'The Last Laugh' as a soldier regresses to childhood in his final moments, sighing his need for his 'Mother' and Dad!' This portrayal of the closeness of familial bonds is used to elicit an sympathetic response from the audience towards families who have been destroyed as a result of warfare.

Conversely, however, Owen is often harshly critical of the families of soldiers, depicting them as ignorant proponents of pro-war sentiments despite their own lack of experience on the battlefield. It is the pressure resulting from the quixotic views held of war as 'brave' and 'proud' by his family that eventually leads the protagonist of 'S.I.W.' to kill himself. The mounting expectations of his family manifests in Owen's use of iambic pentameter, which remains almost constant throughout the first stanza of the poem until his courage is shattered and he is unable to continue, with the change in meter reflecting this. The poem first hints towards cracks beginning to appear in his resolve as both lines in the Prologue which name his father deviate from the set standard of ten syllables per line. This illustrates that it is his father's zealous and proud assertion that he would 'sooner him dead than in disgrace' which ultimately overwhelms the soldier and drives him to suicide. Owen characterises family members in such an unflattering light as a form of social commentary, reflecting the common perception of war at the time as glorious and just, and illustrating the inherent dangers of glorifying war rather than focusing on the 'Pity' of it.

While Wilfred Owen's body of work in 'The War Poems' is largely sympathetic towards those who have been affected by war, it is prudent to consider that his poetry also condemns those who perpetuate war and present it as something 'sweet and right', and can be particularly vitriolic towards families of soldiers who have died in war. However, Owen's work ultimately shows compassion to those whose lives have been torn apart by war, recognising the immense toll exercised on the sanity and physicality of men in war and pondering the way in which death can tear a family apart.
2015-2017: Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) at University of Melbourne.