Different Approaches To War In Wilfred Owen's Mental Cases And Henry V's Speech

3976 words - 16 pages

Different Approaches to War in Wilfred Owen's Mental Cases and Henry V's Speech

The poem "Mental Cases" was written by Wilfred Owen during the First
World War and talks about the consequence and effects war has had on
the minds of the soldiers. The poem is also very graphic in its
descriptions and has an archaic feel. It shows the psychological and
physical damage that occurs to the "survivors" of the war. Wilfred
Owen talks as though he's observing them in a mental hospital,
compared to the home he is actually viewing them in, again stressing
the point that they are looked at as mental.

The title "Mental Cases" is very brutal, it shows the consequences of
war and that war is not a great thing to participate in unlike what
the propaganda surrounding the war said at the time. It also shows
that war does not just leave physical scars but also psychological
scars. The poet appears as though he wants to lock them away and call
them mental, it is as if he is trying to shift responsibility and not
accept it. Also, the way the poet uses the title makes him seem
patronising and insulting towards the men, as though he does not
respect what they have done. I think he feels this way as he disagrees
with war plus he can see the consequences of the war, feels that they
have brought this upon themselves and cannot sympathise with the men.

The first sentence has a cesaura, which slows down the poem
dramatically. The first line also contains two rhetorical questions,
which the reader cannot answer to due insufficient information that
has been given. The poet is proclaiming it to an audience, trying to
get them thinking about the poem rather than him just telling them the
information and not letting them get involved. Also, the questions,

"Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?" makes you think that
the poet does not recognise them. I think this is because the men have
aged so much due to premature ageing that the poet does not in fact
actually recognise them. These questions are also written with an
inversion of word order; this provides emphasis but also gives the
question an archaic feel as though it was written during the
Shakespearean period. The word "twilight" means that they are in
slight darkness but not totally visible, it also suggests that they
are in their own world and between life and death. Could it also be
suggesting that their minds are in the dark?

In the second line, the poet calls the men,

"purgatorial shadows", the shadow is basically a metaphor saying that
they are between life and death; they are on their way to death, but
not quite there as they are still paying for the sins that they have
committed. This makes the reader want to know why they are in between
life and death and what has made them so lifeless. The poem previously
makes them seem subhuman...

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