2.4 Wilfred Owen Essay

2.4 Wilfred Owen Essay

In the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth and Exposure by the author Wilfred Owen language techniques are used to help me understand the main theme of how war is an unneeded exercise. I am going to talk about the similes and personification used in these two poems.

Anthem For Doomed Youth

A simile is used in the sentence “these who die as cattle”. Similes are used to compare two things, in this example it is used to compare the soldiers dying as how cattle die by attaching the characteristics of one thing to another. I believe the author used this example as we all know how stock cattle die. All at once, in the hundreds, tail to tail, following their leader to walk up the path to their already decided fate. The link between the soldiers and cattle is easily depicted by the reader and paints the picture I’ve described above, it sends a message to people about how these men dont need to follow in the footsteps of one another, they dont need to act as cattle do, they dont need to die. War is pointless and unwanted, unlike these brave soldiers who have a life at home and who’s families are waiting for their return.

Personification is the language techniques that allows an inanimate object to obtain a human quality. We are shown and example of this in the poem where its written “monstrous anger of the guns”. Guns are unable to be angry but the author has given them the human quality to help the reader connect to the sentence as humans can understand how it feels to be angry. Thanks to the author we as the reader are able to imagine what it’d would have been like to be the mind behind a gun. To me I think about how the gun has been portrayed as angry and how it scares the rivals,  even though the man behind it is emotionless due to the things they’ve seen. Wilfred Owen once said “all poets can do today is warn,” for me this quote alongside the personification used in the poem conveys the messages of how war is an unneeded exercise that turns people and their weapons evil.


The idea of “exposure” (being dangerously exposed to the natural elements / weather) is represented throughout the poem. We first see it in the title with the word “Exposure”, from this we dont know if the weather is extremely hot or extremely cold but we have been introduced to the idea of exposure within the war. “Winds that knife us” is the next example of exposure in the poem. The sentence uses personification by allowing the wind to have stabbing abilities. We are able to understand how the wind is so cold or so strong that it is like painful stabs as the soldiers walk through it. As these soldiers are being put through treacherous  conditions we are once again shown the idea of how war forces the men to face activities that are completely unneeded, war is pointless.

The weather has been presented as an enemy in the poem. We see this all through the poem when for example the author uses the simile “like twitching agonies of men amongst its brambles.” It shows us how the strong winds are tangling the men up in the barbed wire, capturing them in these harsh conditions. As the enemy it is telling us that the weather is in some situations more deadly than a bullet. Hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers are caught in a vicious cycle of fighting off their countries enemies and attempting fight off the enemy of weather.

In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen uses yet another simile to continue developing his message of how war is pointless.  Coughing like hags” is used  to compare the soldiers coughing, to a hag. This was used to show that even though the soldiers are young, their bodies having been put through so much trauma that they become older inside than they are outside, leaving them “coughing like hags”. This is disturbing as the youth should be able to enjoy their young lungs by taking deep breaths without struggling to breathe or gasping through their muffled lungs. Along with this disturbing insight into the war that Wilfred Owen allows us to see, the reader becomes moved as the more they read the more they are able to understand the true horrors of war. They are able to see the effects on the young, healthy men that are supposed to have long fulfilled lives but instead are robbed of there homes and families. Most of these men joined a lost cause, most never made it home. Thus showing the reader once again how war was an unneeded activity.
The last example of personification that links these poems together, comes in the phrase “haunting flares”. This language technique has effected how the reader see the “flare” by giving it a human quality. The word “haunting” creates a looming feeling of darkness and a shadow of terror as the flare destructs everything in its way. The sentence is unsettling to the reader because it teaches us that these flares, shells or bombs that were dropping had become inescapable, leaving the men to be swallowed into the darkness that is death itself. The sentence “haunting flares” also leads me as the reader to believe that these bombs will not be forgotten, the will always be there, floating around. We will not here the screams, we will not see the bodies, but we will remember what they did to our soldiers as they continue to haunt us many years later. With this example we are once again proven how these soldiers were unrightfully striped of their lives and families. War was an unneeded exercise.
After reading the three poems above all by Wilfred Owen, I am able to make a clear link between the similes and personification used to portray the idea of how war was pointless, war was unneeded and how war unfairly took away the lives of many young soldiers who left behind their homes, families and unfinished legacies.

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