Wilfred Owen was a soldier in World War One, and died in conflict. He wrote poems during his time at war, which have since become incredibly famous and influential. In The Letter, Owen describes a soldier writing home to his wife, and his conversations with the other soldiers, during which he is tragically killed. In The Letter, he describes a soldier with a mental injury such as shell shock, who is unable to control his mind and body, and has a flashback into an experience in the trenches.
In The Letter, the soldier is presented to be lying to his wife, saying ‘I’m in the pink at present, dear’ which the reader knows is a lie as it is a cliché and this makes it unrealistic and unbelievable. This shows how the soldier’s mind is broken as it is not honest, even to loved ones. This sense of a broken mind is also shown in Conscious, as the soldier cannot focus his mind on one thing, as is shown in the line ‘What a smooth floor the ward has! What a rug!’ This lack of focus is emphasised by the exclamation marks, as they show that the soldier’s thoughts jump from one thing to another. In both poems, the soldiers are presented to have no, or limited control over their minds. In Conscious, the soldier has a hallucination in the second stanza, saying ‘but sudden evening blurs and fogs the air’. This shows lack of control as he cannot focus on the present, but keeps flashing back to the past. The choice of the words ‘blurs’ and ‘fogs’ also show the lack of control as they show his mind to be confused and lacking in clarity. In The Letter, the soldier is in more control over his thoughts, however he is not allowed to write them down due to the censorship that the soldiers had in World War One. This shows that the soldier may not want to lie to his wife, but cannot control it. Both poems present soldiers that aren’t in control of their bodies. The soldier in The Letter is killed at the end, and also mentions a foot injury in the line ‘my feet’s improvin’ as I told you of’, showing that the soldiers couldn’t control whether or not they were in safety or prevent themselves from being injured. The soldier’s lack of physical control is also shown in his surprise at being shot or bombed in the line ‘Guh! Christ! I’m hit.’ as Owen uses exclamation marks and short sentences. In Conscious, the soldier’s ‘fingers wake, and flutter; up the bed’ showing that he cannot control his fingers as they move. The choice of the word ‘flutter’ has a non-human connotation, making the fingers seem very delicate and light, like birds or butterflies. As it is unnatural for a body part to be so delicate, the soldier seems as if he is drifting around, which shows his lack of bodily control. In both poems, time is a key theme, and this is presented in both cases by a lack of control in the soldiers’ fate. In Conscious, Owen presents this by repeating the word ‘time’ several times, as well as using words like ‘evening’ and ‘dark’ to show that the soldier is running out of time. Owen also mentions necessities such as ‘water’ and ‘air’, but describes the soldier as not having time to need them, or being unable to need them, and this is reminiscent of death as the soldier no longer has the basic things he needs to live. In The Letter, however, the soldier completely runs out of time, as he is killed at the end. Owen also uses the idea of it being too dark for the soldier to see the light in the line ‘Jim? ‘Ere’, as the soldier cannot see