Wilfred Owen was an officer in the British Army during the times of World War One whereby he deeply opposed the intervention of one nation into another as he believed that sufferings and pain would be set upon the innocent and the helpless ones of both countries. The harsh and negative-to-the-extreme language used may also be due to he being angry at the moment when he was writing the poem. This poem sparks off at the scene where soldiers are brutally killed by gas bombs in the night as they walk towards their " distant rest". It is said that Owen composed this poem during his World War I experience, however there is not enough information in the poem to support this. He wrote this anti-war poem to convey his idea or opinion of the horrors of war and death and that war is not worth it, as he speaks against the old lie perpetuated across the world: Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country, exposing the shallowness of the assumption behind this Latin phrase. Owen's main target audience is Jessie Pope, a popular children's writer who glorified the dying for your country in war as a patriotic and honourable act.
His poem explains how the British press and public also comforted themselves with the fact that, terrible that this was, all the young men dying in the war were dying noble, heroic deaths. Therefore he also wishes to target this poem at the na " ive British civilians at home and everybody else in the world, hoping to bring public awareness that war is hell, not a haven for honour and patriotism. Emotion-wise, the predominant mood of the poem is negative. Pessimistic, solemn, morbid, grim and angry are some of the major moods present. There is also a change in mood throughout the poem whereby the words used become stronger and harsher from the beginning of the poem to the end of it whereby rhythm movement plays a part too (dealt later on).
Through dehumanization and desensitization, the mood changes metaphorically, from white to red, white symbolizing grim and red as in anger. The feelings the poet wishes the readers to have are disgust, shock, horror, a sense of revulsion and sick. Owen wanted to throw the war in the face of the reader to illustrate how vile and inhumane war really is. He achieved this through vivid imagery and compelling metaphors that I would later deal with.
Another one of the main emotions that a reader would have is sympathy for the soldiers who are suffering in agony and pain. At first glance, one would probably think that the poem is a bit too exaggerated but upon looking deeper, one would actually realize that it is not the slightest bit exaggerated at all. Moving on to the craftsmanship of the poem, the poet utilizes a irregular structure in this inverted Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnet (8 and 6 scheme in the first two stanzas and a 2 and 12 scheme in the last two stanzas), whereby the A BAB structure of the rhyme scheme supports the sonnet like the structure. Sonnets have been well-known to be used for poets to express love however this sonnet here is shocking and offending to readers. This clearly shows that the poet's deliberate and ironic use of a sonnet to convey the shock and horror of war and death is highly effective.
The intent fracturing of the sonnet structure mirrors the shattering of the "old lie". Before moving on to language, I would like to add another point, which is diction. Owen uses words like "cursed" in "we cursed through sludge". Now, he could have said, "walked" instead of "cursed" but by using "cursed", we know that the advancing was hard and that the soldiers were struggling at their wits' end, desperately unhappy and exhausted. Another obvious evidence of victims being "flung" into the wagon reveals the urgency and occupation with fighting. The only thing they can do is, toss him into a wagon.
The fact one word can add to the meaning of the poem so much shows how the diction of this poem greatly affects its effectiveness. Language-wise, it is not appropriate to the readers as it is offending and harsh to the readers but it is highly effective in serving its purpose. Owen capitalizes greatly on the language by using strong metaphors and similes like "old beggars under sacks", describing the soldiers being so tired they have been brought down to the level of beggars who have not slept in a bed for weeks. These comparisons illustrate the point so vividly that they increase the effectiveness of the poem.
Imagery plays a major role in the effectiveness of bringing out the main meaning of the poem as it evokes the emotions of a person to cause him to feel sick. The phrase "Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs" can be disturbing and offending to think about as it vividly describes the soldier on the verge of death". Drunk with fatigue" graphically portrays the picture of these exhausted soldiers, so tired that they ignore the sounds of dropping shells. The movement of the poem ranges from each stanza with stanza one bring slow thus mirroring the fatigue of the soldiers, stanza two being fast with very short syllables to mirror the ecstasy of fumbling as the soldiers tried to put on their masks in time. The third stanza is slow with long syllables and the fourth stanza is slow too, resembling reflections and warnings made by the poet to the reader.
Onomatopoeia like "gargling", alliteration and assonance are also used to bring out the feeling the poet wants. These are some of the sound types used in the poem. In summary, the poem is very successful as a work of art, being unsophisticated and crude, extremely effective as an anti-war poem, making war seem absolutely horrid and revolting, just as the author wanted it to. Owen's use of exact diction and vivid figurative language emphasizes his point, showing that war is terrible and devastating. Furthermore, the utilization of extremely graphic imagery adds even more to his argument against the old lie that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country and that in reality the soldiers were dying obscene and terrifying deaths. (1000 words).