Beautifully Crafted Poetry For Ugly Moments In Time

1600 words - 6 pages

Whether there is a soldier fighting in the heart of war or a city dweller observing the death of civilians, poetry that describes a period of war often portrays it as damaging and destructive. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," Wilfred Owen takes a soldier through trench warfare that ends in the death of a fellow fighter. In "Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of 1941," Sharon Olds has her narrator recount memories of a civilian urban centre during World War II. While both poets use similar techniques to convey the pain and anguish felt during times of war, Wilfred Owen is successful at constructing a more effective poem.

An important aspect of literature is the position of the narrator. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," Wilfred Owen uses the first person--point of view of a soldier fighting in the war. I believe that by doing so, he makes it easier to represent war as gruesome and horrifying. The poem is able to communicate ideas about war while maintaining a level of believability because the main character is someone who has experienced the thoughts and ideas being conveyed. Even though, as a reader, it is important to question the narrator, Wilfred Owen's experience, having fought during World War I, adds validity to the poem. The soldier in the poem suggests that it is easy for people who have not experienced war to believe that fighting for your country is proper and honorable. He feels, however that these people are in no place to do so because they have never been subjected to the pain and suffering that soldiers have experienced. When he says things like "If in some smothering dreams you to could pace/ Behind the wagon" (17-18) or "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood" (21) and "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest" (25) the soldier addresses the reader and blatantly separates those who have experienced war from those who have not. He makes it clear though that if you have experience in combat, the experience would make it hard to argue that it is romantic and noble to die for your country.

Owen's use of punctuation and his cacophonic word choices serve to enforce distressing feeling of war. War itself, with random explosions, gunfire, gas attacks and so on, is unpredictable. The way Owen crafts "Dulce et Decorum Est," parallels this feeling. He uses commas in the middle of the lines, dashes, hyphens, exclamation points and periods to emphasize certain ideas and images. He also makes use of enjambment, having several ideas flow from one line to the next. By doing this, he also makes his own poem unpredictable. It does not allow for a peaceful rhythmic read. "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling" (line 9) is one example of punctuation used to emphasize the unpredictable and brutal nature of battle. The staccato feeling from the exclamation points captures the fear and panic felt by the soldiers. "He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning" (16) is an example of comma use with carefully chosen words. Owen...

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