Smile Wilfred Owen Analysis

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The Ghosts of War
During his time as a lieutenant in World War 1 (WWI), Wilfred Owen wrote many poems revolving around the reality of war, usually focusing on the perspective of the war that many did not discuss due to a sense of nationalism. Specifically, Owen elaborates upon the bravery of these young men, the conditions they endured, and the pieces of their souls that remain. In his poems “Dulce et Decorum Est,” “Mental Cases,” and “Smile, Smile, Smile,” Wilfred Owen characterizes World War I soldiers as courageous, yet damaged, heroes in order to reveal the gruesome reality of war. In “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Smile, Smile, Smile,” Owen criticizes the propaganda that brought English youth to either death or trauma. In “Dulce,” Owen
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“Dulce” describes a gruesome gas attack and documents soldiers’ reactions. Most survived the attack; however, one man fumbled with his helmet, causing him a quick and excruciating death. Survivors then “flung” his body onto a wagon and acted as though nothing had happened (Owen 18). Through detailing this attack, Owen characterizes soldiers as valiant, yet damaged. Despite the day’s exhausting events and a loss of one of their own, troops still had to keep a stoic attitude. Although the mantra may suggest that soldiers are heroic and indestructible, “Dulce” shows that soldiers are simply young men struggling to defend their country and survive in war far too horrifying for them. Rather than immersing the reader in war, “Mental Cases” uses memories of war experiences to convey its reality. Intense language such as “sloughs of flesh” and “shatter of flying muscle” truly emphasize war’s carnage (13, 16) and furthermore, the damage done. Again, the diction shows the men’s bravery to sustain brutal experiences, yet reveals that war is not the glorious battle the government presented it as. The difference in each poem’s narration also supplements this message. The narrator of “Dulce” experiences the war first-hand, while the narrator of “Mental Cases” describes soldiers’ memories of…show more content…
Although most were young men when they joined the fighting forces, the agony of war aged them, rendering them as “set-smiling corpses” (24). Additionally, Owen elaborates his criticisms of how the English government forces young men to endure bloody war: “Snatching after us who smote them, brother, pawing us who dealt them war and madness” (27-28). War has left them haunted with memories of dead comrades and turns even the most beautiful phenomenons into “a blood-smear” (21). His diction and imagery of the mentally wounded men paint them as creatures. “Smile” discusses the general public’s views on the after-effect of war and contrasts them with soldiers’ perspective. While the Mail (a British newspaper) insists that men’s first instinct after the war will be to buy houses, soldiers “know their secret safe” and do not believe government propaganda (20). Their “secret” is their knowledge of the reality of war. Unlike what the government insists, they recognize that the war will either leave them dead or traumatized. Although their views may seem grim, Owen’s personal experiences give him the confidence to know that these are the only two outcomes; the events of a gruesome war do not simply
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