Focus: In what ways does Wilfred Owen portray unnatural situations in natural surroundings within his collection of World War 1 poetry?

Wilfred Owen, a renowned world war one poet delivers his own personal thoughts and feelings about war throughout his poetry, particularly specifying in his disbelief and resentment at the consequences of war, namely the mass killing of thousands of young soldiers.

    Owens famous poem ‘Futility’ bases his attitudes on the disbelief that the sun, synonymous with power and creation cannot wake the wounded soldier, the rhetorical questions present are used as a common technique by Owen and emphasis his confusion at the suns lack of help in rousing the soldier, and show not only disillusion at war but at creation as a whole. The unnatural scene of death as the main theme within this poem, conjures up the thoughts that wars should not be fought if the sun – founder of life – cannot assist the young, wounded soldiers.  Similarly it can be noted that ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ emphasises the unnatural scene of war with the use of vivid imagery at how the landscape has been destroyed through artillery fire. Specific phrases such as “cursed through sludge”, “misty panes” and “thick green light” all emphasis not only the misplacement of young soldiers, that this is not a scene in which they should be witnessing but also the idea that war has totally unsettled the landscape around to a horrific unnatural setting. ‘Exposure’ is another distinctive poem in which elaborates the effects of the landscape due to war, a particular technique used is repetition “But nothing happens” this emphasises the fact there is seemingly no escape from war, that no real changes will be suddenly made for not only the men to be relieved from the torture of the constant fire of bullets but also that the landscape will be relieved from the mutation imposed upon it by the constant bombardment of men and weaponry. Significant quotations referenced are “rain soaks” “deep into grassier ditches” these quotations are used to literally expose the effects upon the landscape and how damaged it presently is. All three of these poems, I feel demonstrate a portrayal that Owen is discontented with the destruction not only of the landscape but of humanity and the consequences that follow due to human misunderstanding.

        Another key theme which is demonstrated throughout Owens poems is that of the innocence of youth that they do not belong in a war torn environment. Youth is particularly important and is regularly referenced to due to Owen personally witnessing the destruction of young lives due to violent weaponry. ‘Arms and the boy’ is a typical representation of how “children were much in Wilfred Owens mind” during Easter 1918 when this poem was first written while I personally feel that although this poem signifies the effects of war upon young soldiers, the significance of this poem is the personal approach I feel Owen takes upon the prolific brutality of weaponry that was used. In contrast I feel that ‘Anthem for doomed Youth’ is a poem that Wilfred Owen uses to question the death of young soldiers that are slaughtered in battle, he then further questions the lack of ceremonies and celebrations of their deaths, this idea of celebration can be seen through the quotations “no prayers, nor bells” “save the choirs” “holy glimmers of goodbyes” these phrases portray the typical features of a church funeral. The poem is taken from and is used in reflection to the national anthem, and references to song and praises of conflict and is ironic that it should represent joy and celebrations but it actually used in reference to the youth and that they are ultimately doomed by war.  I personally feel that the significance of the specific reference to youth within ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is one of Wilfred most poignant poems when referring to personal loss particularly within the young. This poem, for me signifies the innocence of youth in the unnatural setting of war that they “die as cattle” emphasising in the slaughter of the soldiers and the inhumane deaths.

  The dehumanisation of soldiers at war is specifically discussed within Owens poem “Mental Cases” this poem, written in 1918 describes the physical and mental effects of war, in particular soldiers mental deterioration and physical disabilities. The tone of the poem is Owens critical views in war and his message is clear in the resentment of how monumental war was upon young lives. The language used is emotive and graphic and represents imagery as “hellish” examples of graphic imagery that not only show their physical decline but also their present insanity are “baring teeth that leer like skulls’ teeth wicked”. Similarly “Disabled” also exposes the suffering endured on a specific individual following the intensity of war. “He sat in a wheelchair, waiting for dark” this opening line introduces the simplicity of the language used throughout; the tone begins as sombre and reflective and begins the harrowing account of an invalid severely effected by war “legless, sewn short at elbow”. ‘Disabled’ and ‘Mental Cases’ both demonstrate the life changing effects of war on the casualties and how not only visible physical changes are present, but inner psychological effects show the all consuming, all destructing power of war.     

     In conclusion, Wilfred Owen demonstrates his frustration and absolute abhorrence at the cruelty inflicted by man, and its consequences ultimately leading to the death of many soldiers. My personal interpretation of Owens disturbing poetry evokes a sense of overwhelming desperation of the soldiers and their plight and the brutal consequences of war as an unnatural surrounding within natural and familiar setting.


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