Compare and Contrast Poems by Sassoon and by Owen, how they bring out their treatment of war Paper
The horror of war influenced these two great poets to express their disgust in poems. They both, however use contrasting styles: Owen chooses to express his disgust and anger through poems that give the reader a precise picture of what the war was really like; whereas Sassoon was an officer who protested against the way that war was being portrayed at the time. Like Owen, he wrote poems that scorned people like Jessie Pope, who glorified war.
Sassoon, who came from a privileged background, showed that after going to fight and getting an award for bravery, he hated war. He didn’t like the attitudes that the other offers had upon the war and thought that they were unnecessarily prolonging it. After writing a public protest, he wrote poems that had a cutting sarcasm, which were intended to attack the officers with pejorative language. In ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ he uses sarcasm to great effect, mimicking the voice used by people when a soldier perhaps doesn’t want to fight and they are trying to persuade him.
The line “There’s such splendid work for the blind;” is particularly hard-hitting because it is fiercely telling the reader in a heavily laden sarcastic tone, that it is fine to have one’s eyes taken away because there is good care for the blind, of course he actually means that it is not fine to have your eyes taken in war because of the pain and misery that will be suffered; Owen on the other hand, in ‘Disabled’ chooses to show the harsh reality upfront. “legless, sewn short at the elbow” tells us exactly how the man is. This is where the two poets are different.
Owen tends to give us the full brutality of what happens at war, raising the awareness of the public that it is not a game “the biggest that’s played” but a bloody mess. Sassoon likes to target the officers that thought that is was a game, and sliced into their conscience and accused them of, in ‘Suicide in the Trenches’, driving someone to suicide, he makes them feel guilty. There are many similarities between Sassoon and Owen as well as differences. When their paths crossed at Craiglockhart Hospital, where Owen was sent for shell shock, and Sassoon for punishment because of his open protest.
Owen who presented some of his poems greeted Sassoon, because he was well known as an author and poet. Sassoon helped Owen write some poems but Owen kept his style of creating, what can only be described as, brilliant, truthful and vivid imagery. This was most evident in ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ when Sassoon helped Owen out. The similarities between them are that they both attack people who make war seem pleasant and fun, and some of the poems like ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ where Sassoon helped Owen with rhythm and structure of the poems.
If poems from Sassoon and Owen are compared, there are certain elements of their poems which have the same aim but do it in a different way: look at ‘Does it Matter’ and ‘Disabled’ and the two poets are trying to show the injuries suffered by soldiers and the way that they are victimised. Owen uses the sad tragedy of a young man with everything going for him loose all that he is: a fit footballer, a ladies man, independent, turned to “legless” and “in a wheeled chair”, to highlight the horror of war. He seems to be showing that even the innocent can be attacked by the dreadfulness of battle.
He is very sombre in this poem and finds word which will make a reader screw their face up in the thought of what he has written, “leap of purple spurted from his thigh”. He enriches the poem with thick, sour and ghastly imagery, for example “He’s lost his colour very far from here, Poured it down shell holes till the veins ran dry” Sassoon’s approach to the same subject is coated with glossy sarcasm and heavy accusations towards his readers, making them feel guilty that people who get pushed out to fight without the slightest feeling that they might return with horrendous injuries.
After all, “does it matter? – Losing your legs?… For people will always be kind,” Sassoon’s main targets are his fellow officers who had this kind of disgusting attitude, which Siegfried hated. He said once that he particularly wanted to upset “blood-thirsty civilians and those who falsely glorified the war”. Other poems that they wrote also dealt with the same kind of subject.
Owen once again writes passionately in ‘Exposure’ which is the poem that he uses most to show the conditions that soldiers had to go through, for example Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces – ” using the personal “we” to tell his reader that he has been there and seen this, he is not making it up. Sassoon, on the other hand, uses the idea of an innocent, “simple soldier boy” very much like in ‘Disabled’ and takes him into the “winter trenches, cowed and glum” and shows as Owen does in ‘Exposure’ “the hell where youth and laughter go”. This ending line is completely contradictory. Youth and laughter are good things which should be sent to heaven, but instead they are sent to hell, which can only happen in war.
The poor boy who committed suicide “put a bullet through his brain” because of the constant “crumps and lice and lack of rum”. It seems that he has gone mad. I personally think that if I was an officer reading Sassoon’s work, I would feel extremely guilty because I would probably be one of those who glorified war thinking that it didn’t matter if people lost legs, because people will always be kind. But if I was a sixteen year old wanting to join the army to impress my girlfriend, and I read Owen’s accounts of the trenches, I would most certainly reconsider joining up.