War in Poetry
War is a gruesome, horrid thing that has been around ever since people have disagreed. So it is no wonder why war has always had its place in poetry. Thomas Hardy and Wilfred Owen have distinct views on the effects of war on the people involved. They also came from different backgrounds, values, beliefs, and life experiences that shaped their views on war. Even though the poets came from contrasting backgrounds, they were able to personalize war to make it hit a chord with the reader and display the bleak reality of war that regular citizens may not have realized, Hardy, through emotional pain and Owen, through imagery.
In “Dulce et Decorum Est”, Owen successfully illustrates the physical punishment that war deals out to its soldiers. Throughout the first stanza, there is a great deal of imagery that gives the reader a good look at what war is like for soldiers who are, “knock-kneed, coughing like hags” (line 2) which shows visual and auditory imagery. The line continues with “we cursed through sludge” (line 2) with both auditory and kinesthetic imagery and ends with the soldiers “ limp[ing] on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind” (line 6). Owen follows with more auditory imagery, “deaf even to the hoots/ Of gas-shells dropping softly behind” (line 7-8). The reader feels like he or she is actually in the war with all of the noises Owen projects in the poem. Owen uses all senses in the first stanza to put the reader into the shoes of the soldiers that were risking their lives. The second stanza is about a chaotic gas attack that the soldier went through, and Owen successfully creates the scene so the reader can feel what it would be like to be in a gas attack. The reader feels like he or she is in the gas attack by the way Owen writes with auditory imagery, “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!” (line 9). The “anonymous panic of the gas attack” strikes the reader as if he or she is there (Hughes 165). Owen uses more visual imagery to describe what it looks like looking through the lethal gas, “dim through the misty panes and thick green light/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning” (line 13-14). The third stanza is where the “sense of the innermost horror of the poem can be detected” (Hughes 166). Owen outlines the terror in the war when he wrote, “he plung[ed] at me, guttering, choking, drowning” (line 16). Then in the last stanza, Owen ends the poem with “The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori” (line 27-28), which is certainly ironic, seeing that the poem is about terrible acts of wars through the eyes of a soldier and that Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means, it is sweet and seemly to die for one's country in Latin (Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori). Owen used imagery as a tool to implement the terror that soldiers experienced during war.
In Thomas Hardy’s “The Man He Killed”, Hardy does not use any literary elements to demonstrate what soldiers psychological go through in war, unlike Owen, instead he makes the...