First World War Poets
The First World War poets were able to affect the emotions of their
readers. Choose two or more poems that have affected you in some way,
and analyse how the poets have achieved this affect.
The subject of war is a delicate one to write about. However, Wilfred
Owen expertly describes the horrors of conflict to his readers in a
way few are able to. He conveys images and uses language in ways that
can move the reader. In this essay I will look at two of his poems,
written during and after the war, and aim to discuss the methods Owen
uses in order to successfully influence the readers’ emotions.
After reading each of the poems, I felt I was able to recognize more
fully the suffering that the men on the front line endured. Although
the full extent of the terror of the trenches should never be seen
again, Owen’s writing gives a good idea of what war was like 90 years
ago. The poems moved me and sadden me, and also opened my eyes to the
horror of war.
The poems I will be studying are ‘Spring Offensive’ and ‘Futility’;
they differ from each other in a variety of ways but each communicates
a feeling of compassion for those who died in 1918. While one will use
perhaps horrific detail, another will use a milder and gentler method.
In answer to the essay title, I will show which techniques Owen uses
in each poem and how they move the reader.
The first poem I will look at is ‘Spring Offensive’. We can see from
the title that Owen may talk about conflict as ‘offensive’ suggests.
The opening line is one of sadness and imminent death, ‘Halted against
the shade of a last hill’. The use of ‘last’ implies that the men are
nearing the end of their lives and that the hill is that last one they
will encounter before death. Here Owen is using sorrow to stir the
reader. The feeling of nearing death is further strengthened at the
end of the stanza, as the men ‘Know their feet have come to the end of
the world’. This dramatic way of phrasing the soldier’s situation is
an effective use of language as the end of the world is the most
desperate situation and maybe this is how the soldiers are feeling.
Owen switches tone immediately at the start of the next stanza, as he
describes the men ‘Marvelling’. In these circumstances, marvel is one
of the last emotions you would expect the men to be feeling. After
fighting for so long, surely the men have nothing to marvel at?
Perhaps it is because of the horrors they have witnessed that the
‘summer oozed into their veins, like an injected drug for their
bodies’ pains’. They have been injured and damaged so severely that
even the smallest ray of sunlight is well received. The sun acts as a
drug would on their minds, possibly because they have had little to
escape the pains of war in the previous months.
Owen then brings the reader back to the brutal and violent reality of
war, as ‘sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass’. The