At the start of the First World War, war was portrayed as a glorious and credible cause. Fighting in a war on behalf of your country was deemed as the duty of any credible man. The ability to represent one’s country on the battlefield was one of the greatest honours a man could have. Through the interference of war there was an outcry of patriotism. Men were overwhelmed with ideas of being able to fight for their country’s prosperity.
Men flocked to sign up and fight for their country. Women forced their husbands and sons to go and carry out what was believed as their duty.
The newspapers and the pro-war journalists who wrote in them played a very influential part in convincing men to recruit. One such journalist for the Daily Mail was Jessie Pope who composed unsophisticated war poetry encouraging men to enlist in the army. The patriotic ideals and the concept of war were all dismantled when soldiers returned from war and spoke of the horrors of war leading to a change in people’s attitudes towards war.
Wilfred Owen was a soldier who experienced war and showed his hatred of it through his poetry.
But before joining the British army, Wilfred Owen was an English teacher who visited hospitals during the First World War and subsequently became acquainted with many of the wars wounded. These visits deeply affected him and consequently led him to enlist in the British army. He said that he joined the army to witness the suffering and to be able to speak out against it.
Wilfred Owen felt enormous pity and sympathy for his fellow soldiers. His famous poetry was written to show his horrifying experience of war and also to bring people out of the disillusionment that they were under.
He also wanted to obliterate the image of war created by war propaganda. Wilfred Owen particularly hated Jessie Pope because of her lighthearted attitude towards war portrayed in her poems. Wilfred Owen was finally machine-gunned to death a week before the armistice was signed. ‘Who’s for the Game? ‘ was a poem written by Jessie Pope used as a piece of propaganda telling men to recruit. It exploits the fact that it was every man’s duty to fight on behalf of his country. It is a lyrical poem with a strong, yet simple, rhyming scheme, similar to that of a nursery rhyme.
This simple rhyming indicates that Jessie Pope was trying to get her message across clearly to the common man rather than making it more sophisticated. She makes it apparent that the image she has of war is that it is just a big game. The strong rhyming scheme helps her to get this point across because it makes the audience feel as if they really are in a game. “Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played, The red crashing game of a fight? ” Right from the beginning of the poem she mentions war as a ‘game’ and repeats it in the second verse as well showing that she is comparing war to a game.
In the second verse she uses the word ‘fight’ which plays down the significance of war and it makes war seem as trivial as a fight. “Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid? And who thinks he’d rather sit tight? ” In these verses she glorifies the men who fight in the war while she infers that those who do not, are cowards. This is a very insinuating way to put pressure on men who aren’t fighting in the war. Once again she bears reference to a game by using the phrase ‘grip and tackle’. Anyone who wasn’t fighting in war would feel intimidated when they read these two verses.
Who’ll toe the line for the signal to ‘Go! ‘? Who’ll give his country a hand? ” She is asking the audience who is always ready and waiting to fight for their country. By using the word ‘his’ she makes the reader feel personal about their country, and if it is their country they should help it. Many people were very patriotic during the war and this one line would make them feel like joining. “Who wants a turn to himself in the show? And who wants a seat in the stand? ” She is feeding peoples self-esteem with these verses because she refers to war as a performance and a chance for soldiers to parade their skills.
She portrays it as a chance for people to show off their talent. The second line says that those who do not fight in the war will only be onlookers of the performance. She compares the men that don’t fight in the war to the fans in the stands at a match (war like a game). “Who knows it won’t be a picnic-not much- Yet eagerly shoulders a gun? ” An understatement of the hardship faced during war is made during the first verse which shows that she really hasn’t had any experience of war and that she is trying not to put people off going to war.
It also tells us that the knowledge she has about war is incorrect. In the second line she is motivating men to join the army because she knows that the opportunity to hold a gun and be able to use it will attract many men (boys with their toys). “Who would much rather come back with a crutch Than lie low and be out of the fun? ” The message Jessie Pope is telling us in these verses is that if a soldier goes to fight in the war and in the process attains an injury, they are better off than someone who didn’t fight in the war, as they missed out on the so called ‘fun’.
She is saying that an injury incurred during the war is like a souvenir, which these soldiers will have of war, which is a very relaxed way of looking at an injury considering that a soldier could die because of a wound that wasn’t properly treated. “Come along, lads – but you’ll come on all right – For there’s only one course to pursue,” She is prompting the men and telling them that there is really only one path that they should follow and that is fighting for their country. She infers that these men have no choice but to recruit.
She uses colloquial language (lads) so that she appeals to the common man, who will be the majority of the readers of this poem. This sort of language makes men think that she is conversing on a more personal level with them. “Your country is up to her neck in a fight, And she’s looking and calling for you. ” She crudely uses the stereotype of men being the protectors of women in these verses. She personifies the country as being feminine by using words like ‘her’ and ‘she’. She uses more colloquial language when she uses the phrase ‘up to her neck in a fight’.
The stereotypical view being used here is that there is a woman in trouble and that every man should try to help her because that is what they are supposed to do. Throughout the poem Jessie Pope repeatedly uses the word ‘Who? ‘ because she is questioning the audience to see who is willing enough to fight for their country. In the final two lines of the poem Jessie Pope tells us exactly who this ‘Who? ‘ she refers to is, and it’s ‘You. ‘ the readers. She uses the word ‘You’ to clearly emphasise who she is talking to. As the poem was published in the Daily Mail it would have been read by tens of thousands of people.
Throughout the poem she uses simple language so that everyone can understand it and therefore it will have a widespread effect on the people. The image Jessie Pope is trying to portray in this poem is that war is like a game. The atmosphere of the poem is cosy which is totally opposite to war. The poem is not threatening at all and is inviting men to go to war. The poem continuously praises men who fight in wars while it calls those who don’t, cowards. This is part of the way in which she wanted to appeal to the people because she knew that men who read this poem would feel intimidated enough to join the army.
I feel that Jessie Pope was misinformed about war and felt she could explain war without experiencing it. As war progressed the feeling of patriotism demised and this happened as the death toll was escalating. People came out of the idea war is all things great and glorious and began to take in the realities of war. When soldiers returned they spoke from experience and therefore the reality of war. Poetry was written to explain war and how it is. One of the soldiers who became a poet was Wilfred Owen.
Wilfred Owen wrote the poem ‘Disabled’ about a young man who enlisted in the army for all the wrong reasons, lost his limbs and now leads a pitiful and bitter life thinking of his past. These wrong reasons are the various influences Owen sees this man as a victim of. It is a narrative poem with a sophisticated structure. The structure is such that it reflects the sincerity and the seriousness of the poet’s message. The poem starts with the man sitting in his wheelchair, longing for the dark, which is the only thing he is capable of doing.
The darkness helps him escape his pathetic life. He is fed up with life and is waiting to die. And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,” His face has gone grey showing how he is in between life and death (black=death, white=life) because his soul is dead but his body is living. The next verse says how he is legless and how the happy voices of children are saddening to him, which is the opposite of a reaction you would expect from a normal person. He is sad because he knows he can no longer be a part of it even if he wanted to. When night finally comes, sleep is like a mother to him because it the only thing that provides relief for him from this hell of a life. “About this time Town used to swing so gay”
It is evening and he remembers the atmosphere and the fun he used to have dancing with girls. But this was all before he threw his legs away in the war and he knows that none of it is ever going to come back. Now no one comes to him and everybody treats him like a disease. He used to enjoy life and girls but now the girls don’t like him and this makes him miserable. “Now, he is old; his back will never brace;” “And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race” He used to be good looking but in the time span of a year it looks like half of his life has gone. His back has become weak and he has lost the colour from his face.
It looks like it drained while the blood was draining from his legs on the battlefields. He has become aged. “One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, After the matches, carried shoulder-high. ” He was a football star and had got cut once on his leg. He had enjoyed it because of all the attention he got. This contrasts to show that he has lost his legs now, but this time no one takes note of him. This shows that Jessie Pope was wrong to compare war to a football game because war can destroy people’s lives while a football game can’t. If you lose a football match the consequences are insignificant in contrast to when you lose a war.
He was drunk when he signed to join the army. He joined because a girl had said he would look good in the uniform (vanity) and also to please his girlfriend. These are the influences that Owen said this man was a victim of. “Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;” Owen uses various styles of writing but in the above line he imitates everyday Northern speech. He was too young to join the army but when he asked to join the army the recruiting generals enlisted him despite knowing that he was lying because they needed men.
This person had joined the army for the wrong reasons and wasn’t interested in why the war was going on. He rarely thought of the Germans or the Austrians. The thoughts he had were of the weaponry and uniform he would receive and making smart salutes. He thinks of the ‘Esprit de corps’ (army spirit) and pride in his unit. He hadn’t bothered to think about the hardship that he would face during the war. He had always got a buzz when he was cheered for in a game and when they sent him off to war with all these cheers he felt very important like a hero. All this left him very optimistic about the war.
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal. ” The reception he gets when he comes back from war is in stark contrast to what he had imagined. Only a few people are cheering and this is ironic to him. The only one person that inquires about him is the priest. This makes him feel bitter and betrayed that they only cheered him when he was of use, but now that he is no use to them they disregard him. He now has to stay in an institute where the liberty for him to make his own choices has been taken from him. He will have to do what people at the institute tell him to do and pathetically take any sympathy that he may get.
He noticed how all the women took no notice of him and paid all the attention to men who were complete. This is mental torture to him because he is used to being so popular and getting all the attention. “How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come And put him into bed? Why don’t they come? ” His final thoughts of the poem are of total depression. He has become so dependent on others that it is becoming intolerable. All he looks forward to is being put into bed. This point was mentioned at the beginning of the poem emphasising how pitiful his life is. He feels like his life isn’t worth living.
The verse “why don’t they come? ” is used twice to accentuate how dependant he has become. In Jessie Pope’s ‘Who’s For The Game? ‘ she mentions that it is better to take part in a war and attain a crutch rather than take no part. In ‘Disabled’ Wilfred Owen replies to this statement by showing a man who went to the war and came back with a crutch. He describes all the physical and mental hardships this person goes through and disproves Jessie Pope’s statement. Wilfred Owens main message in ‘Disabled’ is that people aren’t joining the army for the right reasons because of poems like Jessie Pope’s.
Dulce et Decorum est’ is another excellent war poem written by Owen describing his personal experience at war. It is structured such that it appeals to the audience and informs the readers of the realities of war. He depicts a first hand account of the harshness and also the hardships faced at war. This is vividly portrayed in the opening lines: “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,” He uses very dramatic words to describe the soldiers. Words such as “old beggars” and “hags” wouldn’t usually be associated with the glory of soldiers.
The use of the word “cursed” also suggests that the soldiers are unhappy. Owen goes on to talk about how committed men were and also how brave they had to be to survive this horrific predicament. He says that the men were so tired that they could barely stand up and he mentions that they have none of their reactions to such an extent that they hardly realise the gas shells exploding. “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. ” He speaks of how everybody is stumbling to put their gas masks on and how one of the soldiers didn’t have his mask on in time.
He uses the word ‘floundering’ to describe this scene. The word floundering is usually used to describe the state of panic a fish is when it is out of water. “Dim, through the misty panes and the thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. He describes how he can hardly see anything as everything has a tinge of green because of the gas all around and this gives him the feeling that they are under a green sea. The use of the word ‘drowning’ to describe the man contradicts his first description of the man ‘floundering’.
In this section of the poem Owen uses his sensory style of writing to make us visualize the situation that he was in, and the images that come into our minds are striking as well as ghastly. He speaks of how helpless he was as the man was falling towards him. He uses three powerful words ‘guttering, choking, drowning’ successively to emphasise the grotesque experience. As he remembers how they placed the man into a wagon he communicates with the reader on a more personal basis using the word ‘you’. “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the forth-corrupted lungs. Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud” These four lines portray the man who had just died using very forceful and hideous words that make the reader cringe. He uses words such as ‘devil’s sick of sin’ to compare the mans face to something unimaginable. These lines enlighten the audience of what soldiers have to go through and that not everything a soldier does is glorious, as it may seem. “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. ”
In these final lines Owen assumes a relationship of friendship with Pope to get his message across in a polite manner. He makes her seem ignorant for promoting the message that war is all things glorious, without personally experiencing it. He makes it apparent to the readers and to Pope as well that the glory of war is a lie and that no one that would have experienced the situation Owen was in, would encourage anyone to go to war. In the final stanza Owen’s main message in the poem is evident and that is: people are joining the army for the wrong reasons because of poems like Pope’s.
He concludes his poem by stating that the old Latin saying about war is a lie. “The old Lie: It is sweet and fitting to die for ones country. ” In conclusion it can be noted that mass propaganda took place at the beginning of the First World War because of the need to recruit men into the army. Jessie Pope’s views towards war were light hearted and she exploited patriotism, which is why she contrasted so much with Wilfred Owens views. This led him to write truthful poem through personal experience because of how much he hated Pope’s fickle views.