The choices made by Wilfred Owen are used to depict the scene laid out in front of him and to create a realistic image of the experiences he goes through on the battlefield. While it describes the events taking place through a soldier’s eyes, it also shows the different stages of Owen’s psychological wellbeing whilst writing the poem.
The poem is composed of two sonnets, although Owen disrupts the pattern in the second verse with a couplet, and 12 consecutive lines following. The use of the formal poetic form and then the changing of patterns and rhymes, accentuates the disruption and chaos throughout the events that occur in the war. Owen uses the formal poetic styles to help draw attention to the broken verse and creates an unsettling poem from the deliberate change of verse pattern.
In the first half of the poem, past tense is used as Owen describes the exhaustion of the soldiers as they march away from the battlefront and towards rest. All senses have been dulled, and Owen uses lengthy lines to help create the image of tedium and difficulty of movement, “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge”. By using past tense, Owen describes the experience as if looking back on it, and how he will constantly be reminded of the war and forever be haunted by the experience. Owen helps the reader to imagine how he is constantly haunted by the events that took place, and to help the audience understand the effects of conflict.
In the second half of the poem, Owen uses present tense as he describes the gassing of a fellow soldier, but it is unclear to the readers whether he is describing the event as it happens or whether reliving it in a dream, which helps to increase the effect of the poem further. With no difference between reality and nightmare, Owen uses brutal diction to shock the reader and make clear just how traumatic the experiences were, that he is constantly reliving them, and it is as if it is still happening. “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.”
Owen uses present participles to give a description of the death of his fellow soldier. He changes his writing style from describing what is happening around him using visual impressions of his experience, to visceral sounds produced by the dying soldier. By doing this, he is cruelly mimicking the sounds of the body caused by the gas as it corrodes the soldier’s body from the inside, “guttering, choking, gargling”. This