Wilfred Owen The Sentry

The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Wilfred Owen The Sentry. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.

Wilfred Owen’s poetry is not about grandeur, dominion or altruism. It is about war and the grotesque horrors that it represents to the former nation, the nation of today and the nation of tomorrow. Owen did not write in self-pity but in the pity of war. His poems The Sentry and Dulce et Decorum Est are resonant, portentous and multi-layered works characterised by poignant honesty and profound compassion whilst embodying both differences and similarities to each other.

Wilfred Owen’s Dulce and The Sentry are both presented as a vignette from the front lines of the First World War.

In Dulce, Owen describes British soldiers being attacked with gas, however, in The Sentry he depicts the shelling of his sentry. He employs sibilance to imitate the sound of the gas when he states, “Dim, through the misty panes…” as Owen sets eyes open the soldier who had been gassed.

Caesura has been exploited after ‘dim’, fracturing the line to illustrate the horror that Owen experienced to the reader. He also uses the same technique in The Sentry when he sees the soldier falling down the steps of their dugout after a shell attack.

Owen states, “The sentry’s body; then his rifle. ” Again, he is conveying the dismay and incredulity of what he is witnessing. He also writes in the present continuous tense at both times in the poem, implying that the sufferings of these soldiers are resulting in recurring nightmares.

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Moreover, Owen goes on to use sibilance again in Dulce: “gas-shells dropping softly behind. ” This gives the poem more depth to the imagery and instigates the reader to relive the gas attack with him.

When Was Dulce Et Decorum Est Written

The use of the sinister ‘s’ sound throughout the poem also represents his attitudes and emotions of war. In the quotation, Owen also utilises irony through the adverb ‘softly’ to assert the soldiers unawareness of the shells and the fact that they have become accustom to the deafening sound and are not able to hear anything anymore. This is reinforced by the quotation “Deaf even to the hoots. ” In the first of the four stanzas, Owen is purposefully creating a death-like although rather composed feeling before the surprise of the gas attack in the second stanza to highlight the chaos.

Consequently, Owen creates a sense of pathos and the reader can emphasise with the soldiers. He also achieves the chaotic feeling through transitioning from a regular rhyming scheme to an irregular one. Regular suggests routine and organisation, however, irregular implies that the gas attack disrupted this and was a shock to the soldiers. In contrast, to creating a composed feeling in the first stanza in Dulce, in The Sentry, Wilfred Owen the reader instantaneously is given an insight into the continuous violence from the irregular rhythm.

The quotation “hell, for shell on frantic shell” reveals that the attack on the dugout was incessant whilst the use consonance mimics the noise of the shells to add to the effect. The repetition shows the abundance of shells that were falling. Furthermore, Owen uses the preposition ‘on’ to indicate that each shell was overshadowing the last and the situation is getting worse and worse. The verb “hammered” reinforces that the shells falling on the soldiers rapidly whilst elucidating that they are breaking the soldier’s spirits as caesura follows.

Similarly, in Dulce, the war is compared to the devil: “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin. ” This simile is iron as sin to a devil is his reason for existence and if he becomes “sick of sin” he is essentially inquiring everything that has been of significance to him. His face expressed this extent of the supposed disillusion that his entire life had been for nothing. It could be interpreted that Owen is suggesting that the dying soldier is questioning everything that he has been told about the honour of patriotism, the glory and the sweetness of dying for war.

On the hand, the soldier could also be questioning the sin that is war itself. Owen goes on to state “guttering down in waterfalls of slime” The noun ‘waterfall’ is an example of euphemistic device meiosis, understating the conditions of the dugout as waterfalls generally connote beauty and purity. He is using contradictory language because he then contrasts with the unpleasant word “slime” and immediately conjuring repulsive images. Owen’s use of the noun “guttering” in addition to “choking” and “drowning” shows the extreme pain and desolation and are examples of cacophony, giving the line harsh discordant sounds.

This reflects the harshness of the war and the discord that is created from the gas attack. “Guttering” could be a reference to the tallow of a candle as it is burning out, reflecting the effects the gas is having and the fact the gas is killing the soldier and the last of his spirits. It could also be a use of animorphism as tallow is extracted from cows to make candles. The animorphism illustrates the inferiority of the soldiers as cows are stereotypically considered compliant, brainless and easy to slaughter for their meat which is one of their only uses.

This is reinforced in the phrase: “the wagon we flung him in”, where the dying soldier is being treated more like an animal carcase and not like a human being. The animorphism also echoes The Sentry in which Owen writes, “We herded from blast…” Again, cows are herded and the dehumanisation of the soldiers by those in a higher rank is demonstrated. “Bitter as the cud” further reinforces this as chewing the cud is what a cow does when it regurgitates grass it has eaten and chews it again to extract more nutrients.

This is a metaphor for the soldiers ‘retasting’ their ‘bitter’ memories that the survivors and Owen himself will have. The simile that on the surface seems to be ordinary is in actuality tainted and warped, symbolising the breakdown of society and propaganda that shows a romantically valiant war. The quotation ‘“I see your lights’ – But ours had long gone out…” displays Owen’s haunting recollection is of the sentry’s voice, shouting through the calamity caused by the exploding shells that he is insisting he can see to reassure both his fellow soldiers and himself.

Owen combines a dialogue and a description to achieve a dramatic effect; in the last couplet, the compassion for the sentry lies in the poetic juxtaposition of his direct and optimistic speech. The compassion proceeds from the dramatic irony at the sentry’s disadvantage. The sentry, being blind does not know unlike his fellow shoulders that the lights “had long gone out. ” As they can see for themselves, his boldness has an unintended consequence: it revealed his honourable pretence that he can see too. Furthermore, the quotation could not only be referring to the blind sentry but also acting as a symbol.

The notion of ‘lights going out’ indicates and death and could possibly be foreshadowing the effects and consequence of the war and reflecting the hopelessness they endured. In Dulce et Decorum Est, the simile “bent double like old beggars under sacks” illustrates the premature aging that the war is causing and connotes a filthy and feeble image of the soldiers which contrasts with strong, heroic one that was portrayed in propaganda at the time.

In addition, Owen injects realism into the poem by using the everyday phrase “bent double. He permits the reader to empathise with soldiers whilst employing hyperbole as someone would not literally be bent in two. The everyday phrase also conveys that the soldiers are everyday people. However, it conveys the feelings of exhaustion. Owen also employs alliteration with the use of the ‘b’ sound which reads harshly and echoes the severity of the war whilst adding an insistent tone to the poem. “Those other wretches” and “knock-kneed” also reinforces the reality that soldiers were growing old before their time, contrasting with the idealistic and heroic way in which soldiers and war was presented, showing the poem’s irony.

However, the reader is also reminded of the youth of the soldiers although only subtly in Dulce. Owen states, “Incurable sores on innocent tongues…” which begets a myriad of horrific images and the contemptibility of warfare. The quotation also indicates the naivety of the soldiers and how almost childlike they are. As it is written in the last stanza and poem is written in the style of a French ballad, the quotation is part of the reflection on the events.

Owen is highlighting the truth that the men who are fighting and suffering from the likes of a gas attack are innocent, young men. In The Sentry, the youth of the soldiers is much more apparent. For instance, “Until he whined…” lacks any masculinity as whining is usually associated with small children. Owen goes onto “coax” the sentry; underlining his youth again as he is needed to be pacified like a child. Owen also used juxtaposition when he writes; “Ecstasy of fumbling. ” Owen would have been feeling anything but ecstatic and therefore highlighting what would have been misery.

It also described the controlled panic and shows how he was awakened with heightened awareness and how he had to find helmet in a matter of seconds. The juxtaposition makes the reader realise that the soldiers were in a panic-ridden state in which their minds only occupied with the one thought of escaping the gas. Wilfred Owen utilises holophrastic phrases in the quotation, “GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! ” The capital letters and exclamation marks fracture the metrical structure that has been built through iambic pentameter and a regular rhyme scheme in the first stanza.

This results in an impression of urgency, helplessness and alarm. Similarly, in the Sentry onomatopoeia has been employed in the quotation, “Thud! flump! thud! ” exclamation marks also follow the holophrastic phrases to imitate the sound with the phonological device of assonance. In the last stanza, Owen becomes more uses iambic pentameter on most lines providing a steady rhythmic beat. Ironically, iambic pentameter is usually reserved for love and in this stanza he was initially addressing Jessie Pope who did not like her propagandistic poetry and what she stood for.

Furthermore, in Dulce Owen describes the gruesome effects the gas has on a man. He says, “If in some smothering dreams you too could pace behind the wagon…” The word ‘dreams’ is use of litotes because they are in fact nightmares and this therefore normalises the way he lives life in the war. It also suggests that if his audience were to experience his nightmares which were in fact reality, they may no longer believe the mendacious ode: Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. Prior to this line, Owen capitalises the word ‘lie.

This could be interpreted to be because pro-war propaganda was so imposing and dominating in Britain at the time and it was many peoples belief that it was fact. Ironically, Owen is arguing the opposite. The last rhyming couplet ‘glory’ and ‘mori’ makes the poem’s meaning and purpose ambiguous depending on the pronunciation, determining whether the structure is irregular or regular. Regular would suggest routine and that he wants the war to continue and irregular would suggest that he wants all wars to come to a halt.

It could be interpreted that the last line does not rhyme as the metrical structure represents society and when Owen leaves iambic pentameter he is representing the breaking down of society like he feels it is not worth the effort to place the words within the proper metrical structure of his poem. Owen’s poem was aimed at individuals high in society who had the power to make a difference which is why it was written in Latin. The Latin phrase can also be changed and rearranged to make sense and mean exactly same like war itself. War can be changed but it will always be futile.

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Wilfred Owen The Sentry. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-comparing-wilfred-owens-the-sentry-and-dulce-et-decorum-est/

Wilfred Owen The Sentry
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