Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

In his poems, Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen creates unsettling poetry through the use of subject matter and sensory imagery. He effectively conveys his anti-war message through the perspectives and experiences of the soldiers, their families and himself to explore the unsettling sense of war. The tone and word choice in both of the poems are used to heighten the expressions of the poems in the ways they are read. Through his use of techniques, specifically imagery and metaphor, Owen is able make his poetry unsettling.

Wilfred Owen effectively conveys his anti-war message through the perspectives and experiences of the soldiers, their families and himself to explore the unsettling sense of war. Owen’s subject matter is war, thus making his main purpose in writing poetry to convey the ideas of its brutality and horrors, and the experiences of many back home including the soldier’s families. Owen opens Dulce Et Decorum Est with a powerful simile that compares the soldiers to old beggars, “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”. This simile is unpleasant as it creates an image of the soldiers being deprived of dignity and health like the elderly who are reduced to begging for a living. Anthem for Doomed Youth explores the experiences of the families back at home to further explore the unsettling sense of war. An example of this would be “And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds”. The double meaning in this line aids the reader in understanding the emotion that war gave the families back home. The literal meaning shows the people back home in darkened mourning, while it is also a metaphor for the eyes of the young soldiers dying. Therefore, Owen uses the experiences of the soldiers and families to make his poetry unsettling and to convey his anti-war message.

The tone and word choice in both of the poems are used to heighten the expressions of the poems in the ways they are read. This can be seen in Dulce Et Decorum Est through the use of repetition and exclamation marks in the first line of the second stanza. “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!”, portrays a panicking tone and a sense of rushing. The imagery is engaging as it creates an image emphasising the fast pace of war showing how quickly the soldiers had to work. Other words including “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning” not only convey images of a man suffering from the gas, but also creates an unsettling sense of breathlessness and chaos. As seen in Anthem for Doomed Youth, the use of alliteration and onomatopoeia simultaneously in the line, “Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”, creates imagery of the battlefield and mimics the sounds of machine guns. This alliteration creates an unsettling image that allows the reader to clearly see what the soldiers went through. Therefore, the sensory imagery from these detailed descriptions enable the audience to experience the brutality of war.

Through his use of techniques, specifically imagery and metaphor, Owen is able make his poetry unsettling. Both of the poems use these devices in order to convey these ideas to his audience.

Dulce

An example of this shown in Dulce Et Decorum Est through the line, “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots”. The use of this metaphor highlights a way of showing the men’s physical state

Anthem

In conclusion, Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce Et Decorum Est are poems written by Wilfred Owen that use sensory imagery to create an unsettling sense of war. By noting in his poems the experiences of the soldiers, families and himself, it conveys an unsettling and realistic image of war. With the effective use of poetic techniques, along with his context, purpose and subject matter, Wilfred Owen has successfully been able to make his poetry unsettling.

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