Analyse the relationship between language techniques and the writer’s purpose in at least TWO poems/lyrics you have studied.
Text Type: Poetry Title: DULCE ET DECORUM EST / DISABLED
Author(s): WILFRED OWEN At the beginning of world War One, many young men thought it would be a true and honourable deed to go to war to show their love of their country and how superior England was. Many poets wrote about the romantic and patriotic aspects of dying for your country before any understanding about the true nature of war was gained. Wilfred Owen, however, experienced the combat first hand and this gave him the authority to discuss the true horrors of war through his poetry. Owen has incorporated the language techniques of figurative language and symbolism within his two poems, “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Disabled” to clearly discuss his negative viewpoints of the “great” world war. The purpose of Owen’s poems is to show the reader that the war was not an honourable and majestic event but rather, stripped young, naïve men of their innocence and keft them both physically and emotionally scarred.
One technique Wilfred Owen successfully incorporated into “Dulce et Decorum est” to show his hatred towards the war is visually descriptive figurative language. Owen’s tone of depression and hopelessness is made clear from the first line which reads, “bent double, like old beggars under sacks”. He begins his poem by telling the reader of how the war has dehumanised the young men and left them as dark shadows of their former selves. By incorporating a visual of the effects the battle has had on the young soldiers we know that the purpose of Wilfred Owen’s poem is to tell the people who weren’t involved in the war what a dreadful and disheartening situation it was to be in. He strengthens his personal opinion by reinforcing his opening line with the second quote to further develop our comprehension about the soldiers physical state, “knock-kneed, coughing like hags”. This is an illustration of elderly women who are physically lack-lustre and provides a contrast to what the soldiers physical well being was before enrolment. Before the war they were fit, young, able-bodied males and the author’s purpose is to describe to the reader that men have now been left physically and emotionally weary.
The reader gains the understanding through the strong visual images created that the war was neither glorious or ideal; it was a disheartening event that left all those involved negatively affected by the horrors of the battle.
Another language technique that encouraged the author’s purpose to portray the war as a terrible and life diminishing event is symbolism. The symbol of ‘sleep’ has been used as an extended metaphor through Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” to show that the horrors of war not only occurred when the events took place, but that they were haunting experiences which left the young soldiers emotionally scarred and tormented by the daily happenings. The line, “in all my dreams, before my helpless, he plunged at me, guttering, choking, drowning” describes visually the way a young soldier felt during sleep. We understand that the man is sleeping due to the incorporation of the word ‘dreams’ and also gain the comprehension that because he is in a state of slumber he is unable to control what he visualises. The occurrences that the man experienced in his daily time at war continue to haunt his thought and we know that the events were not just one-off horrors, they were happenings which emotionally scarred the men and left them weary. Further understanding about the effects of these events is developed by the line, “till on the haunting flares we turned our backs”. This line is written from the perspective of a young soldier as he tells that although they can turn their backs to the event, it will haunt them for long after it has occurred. Owen extends this use of symbolism to describe the physical state the war left the soldiers in. “Men marched asleep” illustrates that the men were so weary that they were left in a state of exhaustion and that the once healthy young males were physically weary. The purpose of Owen’s use of symbolism is to make a clear description of the toll the war had on the soldier’s emotional and physical well-being. He wants the audience to understand that the negative effects of combat were long-lasting and haunting.
The use of ‘sleep’ as symbolism is also incorporated into “Disabled”, however, rather than sleep serving as a reminder of the war it is a representation of refuge for the soldier. Wilfred Owen’s “Disabled” is a story of a man who served at war and returned home with “shirts sewn short at elbow”, not only limbless, but also hopeless and dependent on the state. “Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him” shows that for this man, sleep is an escape from his reality. His service at war has left him with missing limbs and the only time he is not reminded of his grim truth is during slumber. Owen’s purpose of incorporating this symbolism is to show the pity of war so that the reader comprehends that it stole so much life and energy from the men who served as well as others directly or indirectly affected. This purpose is developed further with the conclusion of this poem which reads “How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come and out him to bed? Why don’t they come?” The reader sees how dependent he has become – once, before the war, he was a young athlete who was capable and able-bodied. However, the war left his body handicapped, incapable of self dependency, hopeless, and requiring caregivers. The author shares the reality if this soldier as one of depression and hopelessness. Sleep serves as his only escape, the one way he can isolate his mind from his destroyed body, and fee free again.
In Wilfred Owen’s preface to his unpublished book of poems he wrote, “this book is not about heroes. Nor it is about honour, glory, might, majesty, dominion or power. It is about war and the pity of war”. In Owen’s “Disabled” he illustrates the pity of war strongly through the use of descriptive and vivid figurative language. Wilfred Owen talks of “the old times, before he threw away his knees” in a way that portrays an act of carelessness. This makes the implication that he believes the decision to go to war was one of thoughtlessness as the battle left the soldiers aged and battered. He shows that the war had negative consequences and wants the reader to understand that the event was not majestic and beautiful like it was portrayed. “All of them touch him like some queer disease” is written in reference to the female attraction towards the young soldier who lost his limbs at war. He has returned from battle with emotional scarring and in need of comforting but because of his limbless state has lost his attractiveness. Owen uses this comparison to show how pitiful the young man’s situation is and so the reader creates an emotional connections with the man and so they feel a sense of sadness and loss for him. Through the incorporation of symbolism and figurative language in Wilfred Owen’s poems we understand that his purpose is to describe the horrors of war and the negative implications it had on all those affected. His first hand perspective gives him authority and makes the reader think differently about the war, and that it was not a glorious and honourable event, it stole the life of the young men involved, left them guilty by association, emotionally and [physically scarred, and dark shadows of their former selves.