Imagine being a young soldier who was forced to go to war and witnessed the death of his fellow soldiers each and every day? Wilfred Owen was an English poet and soldier who discussed the horrors of war through each of his poems in the 20th century. In Wilfred Owen’s poem Futility and Dulce et Decorum Est empathy is encouraged from the readers due to the soldier’s experiences throughout the war. His poems are extremely influential and relevant to today’s society as they discuss the hardships of war and relate to the loss of family which is still commonly experienced today. Futility is about moving a dead soldier’s body into the sun and wondering why he can no longer be saved which evokes the pointlessness and helplessness of war. On the other hand, Dulce et Decorum Est discusses how war is not sweet and honourable as it seems, due to the traumatic events that occurred which we now empathise with. Empathy is seen towards the soldiers in both Wilfred’s poems Futility and Dulce et Decorum Est through various poetic devices.
In the poem Futility, empathy is encouraged from the readers due to the soldier’s experiences throughout war and how we can relate to loss of family. Futility discusses the pointlessness of war and the helplessness of soldiers. It also questions religious beliefs of God referring to the sun. This is seen in the first line of the poem “Move him into the sun”, the personification of the sun shows that the sun has a sense of care for the soldier and wants to keep the body warm to preserve it. This allows the readers to feel a sense of empathy due to a helpless soldier trying to stay alive from the traumatic impacts of war. It also shows the relevancy of keeping a person alive and well before they can no longer live which is experienced in everyday life. “Until this morning and this snow” the use of the word snow symbolises death and cold imagery which contrasts the happiness and brightness of the sun in the previous lines. This shows the harshness of war and how it isn’t as great as it seems and is usually a sign of death for the soldiers. This line emphasises the true impacts of war and how many soldiers’ lives can be lost while fighting for their country, allowing us as readers to understand what they went through during the war. In the second stanza there is much more questioning which shifts from the previous calmness in the first stanza. “too hard to stir? Was it for this the clay grew tall?” the repetition of rhetorical questions shows the constant sense of confusion as the soldiers are seen as extremely vulnerable and can no longer be saved. The rhetorical questions state is it so hard to resurrect a person and is this why we are alive, just to die for war. This shows the sense of frustration and futility of war as it is a time of death and suffering for soldiers which allows us to empathise with them.
In comparison, Dulce et Decorum Est discusses the false sense of glory and the vulnerability of the soldiers due to the physical suffering that was experienced. This allows the readers to empathise with the soldiers while reading Wilfred Owens extremely influential poems. The first stanza starts off quite slow and is seen in the first line “like old beggars under sacks” the use of simile compares the soldiers to beggars, this contradicts with how soldiers were seen at the time which was strong, well presented and keen to fight for their country. However, this was not how war was actually like as many young men faced the struggles of war due to the physical suffering that was experienced by gas attacks. We empathise with the soldiers are they were degraded and very tired of daily tasks such as fighting. In the next quote there is a change of pace compared to the first stanza and in the previous poem Futility. “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys” Owen emphasises the impact of gas through the use of alliteration and capitalisation of the word gas which highlights the sense of urgency due to poisonous gas being exposed. This allows the readers to feel the true horrors of war as well as the hardships experienced by the soldiers. In comparison to Futility, Dulce uses more vivid imagery which highlights the physical impact of the soldier, “Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues” the use of juxtaposition between incurable and innocent shows us that the soldier is innocent but still has to experience all of these horrible things. Imagery is also emphasised through incurable sores on innocent tongues as it shows how they cannot be cured for the pain they had to endure. It once again allows us as the readers to emphasise the pain that they are feeling and how it cannot always be cured which happens in everyday life. This also shows the relevancy of the poem as we can relate to pain from horrible illness.
In conclusion both poems Futility and Dulce et Decorum Est portray the pointlessness and helplessness of war and also the false sense of glory due to the physical suffering of many soldiers. This encourages the readers to empathise with the soldiers due to what they went through and shows us how it is still very much relevant to today’s society through loss and pain.
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