2.4 Willfred Owen Essay task


“And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell” This quote spoken by Wilfred Owen shows his true thoughts on the war that it is a tough experience and scars men for life. In the texts “Anthem for doomed youth” and “Exposure” written by Wilfred Owen language features are presented to us relating back to the tough experiences that the men have and the scars that are left from war. Rhetorical questions are used in both the poems which showing that the soldiers are resistant to the experiences of war.  Personification portrays the idea that the men experienced mental and physical toughness.

The two poems “Exposure” and “Anthem for doomed youth” use rhetorical questions to portray the idea that the soldiers are resistant to the experiences of war. In Exposure the rhetorical question used to show the soldiers resistance is the question” What are we doing here?” helping us to understand the way the soldiers are feeling as they live through the exposure and cold of the war. They are asking themselves why did they join the army and for what reason are they putting themselves through this. Giving a sense of depression that the men feel as they struggle to survive through each night. Making us feel bad for the men and their hardship through war. As the reader I understood the idea of resistance when the Wilfred questioned why he joined the war and  considered the other places he would much rather be for example at home with his family.  Reading the poem gave me a sense of sorrow towards the soldiers knowing how easy my life has been in comparison to them. As a 21st century teenager I have the luxuries of warm food, a family, education, the chance to compete in sports and my own house which is warm. The soldiers only had each other and a small amount of food and clothing to keep them warm. Our life in comparison is very easy compared to the hardships of being a solider.

A rhetorical question used in the poem “Anthem for doomed youth” is “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” After reading this line it gave the impression of resistance from the soldiers because the men feel reluctant to fight for their country as they are being treated as no more than beasts. Wilfred is open to how he feels about the way the men are treated once they die as their bravery and life is shown by the ringing of a bell which he believes is not enough to represent a life. The constant ringing of a bell every time a soldier dies is treating them like a number/cattle in which they all just die and then a small amount of respect is paid by a bell and then they are forgotten. When reading the poem author’s personal experience in war is portrayed as he is upset that so many of his friends and fellow war mates bravery is not respected enough. He believes it cannot be supported by the ringing of a church bell as the cycle will continue to happen as one dies they are replaced by another soldier only to have the same fate.  Showing the events taken place, as the men die a bell is rung out even if they are left where they fell unknown to their families who can’t have their bodies returned. The men can’t see the point in trying so hard and putting themselves through the torture if all they receive is a bell for their bravery describing the feeling of resistance that they have to the experiences of war.

These two language techniques that Wilfred Owen has used interrelate to show the idea of the writers resistance in the war. It presents the question that the men ask themselves what use they are in this war. One question is asking the reader as to why they are fighting in the war (Exposure), and the other is questioning their existence and how they are being treated like cattle as they are flung aside (Anthem for doomed youth).  Wilfred Owen is trying to tell us about the way the soldiers have been treated in the war and how the author personally feels as if he is just treated as a number. He portrays to the reader that when the soldiers are alive they are questioning what they are doing and for what purpose must they push themselves through this torture of war as shown in the rhetorical question “What are we doing here”.  In the Rhetorical question “what passing bells for these who die as cattle” Wilfred Owen tells us that after all that the men have been through and questioning their worth in the war once they are killed they are treated like cattle as a number only to be replaced by another man who will receive the same fate and then to be forgotten. This helps me to realise Wilfred Owen didn’t feel respected enough for his efforts in the war as well as the men around him which caused him to have resistance in his mind when giving his all if it was not worth much. Even though he showed resistance in his mind he still continued to battle for his country.  This helped me to feel inspired and respect these men as even though they felt as in the end they were fighting for nothing as they knew they were going to die and be forgotten they continued to fight for their country. This also helped to shape my opinion of the war as I can relate to trying really hard in sports myself and when I do well I want to get the recognition I deserve but these men were putting their heart and soul into the war only to die be flung aside and then replaced. Also as the reader I could relate to the feeling of resistance as sometimes I feel resistant to have to go to sports practice but force myself to do so. I could understand how easy our life choices are as I am lucky to have the decision if I want to go to sports practice or not where as the soldiers didn’t have a choice to go to war or not. Going to a practice will never be life threatening to me and will never be as mentally, physically and emotionally taxing as war was on the soldiers. As a student in the 21st century these rhetorical questions  made me question how easy our lives are in comparison to the torture and struggle these men pushed themselves through and that we should all respect and remember them as the people who shaped the amazing lives we live today.


Another idea that Wilfred Owen tried to show in his poems through the experience of war was mental and physical toughness. He shows this in the two poems “Exposure” and “Anthem for doomed youth” using personification. Personification gives human qualities to non living things to help give a vivid description which makes the comparison relatable to humans.

In the “Anthem for doomed youth ”

“Choir of wailing shells” The personification is comparing human singing qualities to the sound of bomb shells. This language technique has been chosen to show that the sound of bomb shells ring out around the soldiers as they fight at war. Firstly it helps us as readers to understand that there is a constant noise to the soldiers ears as they fight. It gives off the idea that because a choir is normally loud when singing with a band it compares the bomb shells that are very loud to the soldiers and represent the only noises that they can really hear. It is a contradiction to  itself as a choir is something we usually go to watch for enjoyment and pleasure whereas in war it is compared to the bombs and gun shells that are constantly exploding around the soldiers which is not a good experience and is likely to make the men go deaf. This is not something the men are enjoying and more likely trying to get away from. Helping the reader to understand what it must be like to have something so loud constantly around them.

In exposure ” Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces” This language technique refers to the snow flakes which are falling from the cold sky are falling onto the men’s faces. The writer gives human qualities of snowflakes surprising the soldiers as they fall onto their faces which gives a sharp cold. Giving the reader a sense of how cold the atmosphere is for the men as it has to be below 0 degrees for snow flakes to be produced and the men have no shelter from the flakes which fall on their bare skin. It develops the image of something crawling and feeling ones face which helps us to also get the same sense of feeling the men have. As the reader it made me feel sorry for the men at war because not only are the suffering the battle between the enemy at war they are also exposed to the freezing elements which are brutally cold. Exposure could cause them to get hypothermia and even die as it is so extreme. The idea of toughness is shown as the men continue to fight through the terrible weather for the freedom of their country and the people.

These two Language techniques interrelate to one another as they both use personification to show the idea of how tough the war is on the men both physically and mentally. The Personification in the poem exposure develops an understanding of what the soldiers are experiencing physically as it’s so cold that snowflakes are falling all around them. The personification in the poem Anthem for doomed youth the sound of bomb shells and guns is affecting the men mentally as it is so loud that they can’t hear one another and is constantly going in their minds. As the reader these portray the theme that war is very tough for the men battling as it is damaging them as people. It is causing many of them to die due to the extreme cold and dangerous situations that they are put in but also is causing them to develop mental problems such as depression and anxiety due to the constant sounds and deaths happening around them. It made me develop the opinion that war is a terrible experience that all men should not have had to go through. Wilfred Owen helped the reader to understand that not only were the men being physically damaged in the war, but they are being mentally damaged by the constant deafening sounds and deaths around them.  This gives a sense of guilt because the soldiers had to go through such pain to give us the easy life we take for granted today.

In Conclusion the poems “Anthem for doomed youth” and “Exposure” written by Wilfred Owen use language techniques such as Rhetorical questions to portray the idea of the soldiers resistance to the experiences of war. Wilfred Owen uses personification to show the readers the idea that the soldiers experienced mental and physical toughness. Through the use of these language techniques as the reader it helped me to understand that war was a horrible experience for all the men involved as well as the families. Peoples experience left the scarred for life and we should appreciate the easy lives we have today as these men fought the wars for us.


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