War is a futile, extravagant and an obscene waste of time according to Wilfred Owen and his poems. Three of Owens poems “Futility”, “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “The Next War” portray war as not the heroic and noble picture that the government and their propaganda place in the societies eye but as the horrible and indecent act it really was.
Owen grew was raised believing hat war is honorable and patriotic, however his experiences and personal suffering changed his thoughts and feelings towards war completely. Wilfred Owen believed it was his (and all other writers) duty to expose the truth about the war as a warning to others, particularly future generations so that the same atrocities are not constantly repeated.
In “Dulce et Decorum Est” Wilfred Owen dedicated his poems to writers and propagandists who spread the ‘Old lie’ of war being glorious and honorable. Owen utilises the famous line from the Roman poet Horace (that death in war is sweet and proper) to ironically express the exact opposite.’ To illustrate the lie about glorious death Owen takes us into the trenches to witness the horror of a poison gas attack. The poem is in three parts: firstly the exhausted men are reduced to coughing old hags as they head towards their rest from battle, then the realization of the presence.
Dulce et Decorum Est takes us into the trench and burdens us with death. “gas! GAS! gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling” in this 2nd stanza, the soldiers are suddenly awakened from the announcement of there being a gas attack, Owen uses punctuation as it creates a rapid rhythm, it accentuates the panic, the exclamation marks, make the reader of the poem incapable of reading it slowly and softy, Owen also places them there to show the sudden aroused of the soldiers needing to get their gas masks out and on before the gas starts to burn them from the inside out. An oxymoron “An ecstasy of fumbling’ reinforces the rapid panic felt by each and every individual involved in the war, they are trying not to be clumsy and get their masks on in time. the last stanza of this poem, which is where the real message is. Having shown us the tired, exhausted men, then the panic of the gas attack, Owen focuses his attention on the reader and the propagandists at home.
Using a long rhetorical challenge “if you too…” he confronts the reader with a series of explicit and horrific images conveying truthfully the sights, sounds and feelings, “but someone still was yelling out and stumbling and floundering like a man in fire or lime”,” if you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” these two quotes give you a sick feeling to the pit of your stomach, they make you want to try and be there for the dying young man, making the final point that anyone who had experienced what he and his men had gone through would never again repeat the ‘old Lie’ to young, impressionable people. His aim was to warn the public of the reality of the tragedy that was unfolding in France.
Another of Owen’s poems that seeks to expose the abject waste of young men’s lives is the haunting and poignant ‘Futility.’ the persona of the poem goes through the emotions of firstly hope and optimism such as in the quote “move him into the sun” the sun is depicted in positive terms as a gentle giver of life and heat, a possible savior and worker of miracles for this particular solider. The poem then shows despair “if anything might rouse him now, the kind old sun will know” a sense of desperation and futile hope that if anything can save this poor man, the sun, which has always been ‘kind’, will know and finally bitterness as Owen questions the point and worth of life at all if God’s creations are only going to needlessly destroy each other.
“O what made fatuous sunbeams toil” Owen highlights the idea, why did god put the effort in to make everything beautiful…