Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen’s poetry effectively conveys his perspectives on human conflict through his experiences during The Great War. Poems such as ‘Futility’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ portray these perceptions through the use of poetic techniques, emphasising such conflicts involving himself, other people and nature. These themes are examined in extreme detail, attempting to shape meaning in relation to Owen’s first-hand encounters whilst fighting on the battlefield. Wilfred Owen experiences many inner conflicts during his time in the war.

The harsh notions of war constantly challenge his personal morals and beliefs. Futility’ explores Owen’s emotions involving the pointlessness of human sacrifice. In the poem, Owen and his comrades lay a dying man into the sun in an attempt to revive him. ‘Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields unsown. ’ Within this quote, Owen juxtaposes the blooming tranquillity of the English countryside with the unforgiving French battlefield. He questions the nobility of dying for one’s country, as the man that just passed had a superior life before the war. In response to the futile attempt to save his fellow comrade, Owen continues the poem with a different approach.

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The alliteration in ‘the clays of a cold star’ highlights this change due to the repetition of the letter ‘C’. The cutting tone demonstrates emotions of frustration and anger towards the war and, once again, challenges the idea of dying for one’s country. Through such techniques portrayed in the poem, ‘Futility’, Owen conveys his perspectives on human conflict during the Great War. ‘Futility’ also conveys several human conflicts involving nature. Owen sees the sun as a powerful resource that has the vigour to potentially bring war-torn soles back to life: ‘move him into the sun’.

The first stanza reflects Owen’s positive perspectives of the sun superbly. ‘If anything might rouse him now / The kind old sun will know’. He uses personification to show his affection to the sun and the power it has to revive the dead friend. But, the segment also shows an underlying sense of desperation, as he is relying on the sun to bring his fallen companion back to life. Owen’s inner beliefs and perspectives tell himself to believe that the sun will rejuvenate the young soldier, despite the futility of the miracle occurring. This is a great example of Owen’s perspectives on human conflict.

Owen continues the second stanza with thoughts questioning the sun’s creation of life in the first place: ‘Think how it wakes the seeds, – Woke once the clays of a cold star’. The repetition of ‘W’ symbolises the confusion of Owen and leaves him questioning why the sun has the potential to create life, but is unable to resurrect the fallen. Throughout the poem of ‘Futility’, Owen contrasts his opinions on the sun. He moves from acknowledging his affection to the ‘kind old sun’ in the first stanza, to finding the sun’s beams ‘fatuous’ and meaningless in the second.

These techniques Owen uses convey his perspectives on human conflict extremely well. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is another of Wilfred Owen’s poems that conveys inner human conflict, in terms of past doings in World War I. The poem was written in 1917 at Craiglockhart (Owen’s first battle after his rehabilitation due to ‘shellshock’). It portrays an inner change in his approach to war and it’s gruesome environment: Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, This opening stanza to ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a direct reference to Owen’s changed perspective in terms of human conflict.

He uses a heartless tone and metaphors, describing himself and his allies as ‘old beggars’ and ‘hags’. These harsh words have been placed in the poem so that readers back in suburban England can understand and relate to the soldiers’ living conditions and circumstances endured throughout the war. As the poem continues, it describes the alterations of the young soldiers – ‘Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots / But limped on, blood-shod…’. The alliteration in ‘Men marched asleep’ signifies the control the war has over the young soldiers.

It is as if the war has brainwashed them as they continue to march, even while they sleep. This conveys Owen’s changed perspectives on human conflict, as he shows no remorse to the suffering soldiers. Human conflict was a major contributing factor to World War I. Owen demonstrates this human conflict throughout ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, Boys! – an ecstasy of fumbling, / fitting the clumsy helmets just in time’. The repetition, oxymoron and an intense tone in this segment are used to emphasise the frenzied gas attacks experienced by Owen and his comrades.

As it is the start of the third stanza, it sets the tempo for what is to come. The reader instantly feels the intensity and surprise of the situation and with it comes the unexpectedness of human conflict. As the stanza continues, the pace slowly decreases as Owen conveys his perspectives on the end result of human conflict – ‘Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, / as under a green sea, I saw him drowning’. The imagery of the ‘green sea’ slows the pulse of the poem, as the sea is calm and mysterious. The dying soldier is ‘drowning’, which furthermore creates the oceanic imagery.

Between such frantic attacks, Owen slows down the situation to thoroughly convey his perspectives on human conflict. Through the discussion of Wilfred Owen’s poems, ‘Futility’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, perceptions on human conflict are illustrated. Owen’s unique use of poetic techniques effectively conveys his perceptions of human conflicts within himself, nature and other humans. Through the depiction of the poems’ distinctive qualities, we are able to shape meaning to Owen’s perceptions on his experiences throughout World War I, and human conflict in general.