Wilfred Owen exploits both poems, “The Send Off” and “Arms and the Boy” to convey his thoughts towards war and weapons. Throughout the poems, Owen continuously portrays negative imagery to further accentuate his pessimistic opinions on the use of weaponries and war. Both of these poems are written from a third person perspective.
Initially, the title “The Send Off” directly represents Wilfred Owen’s views on war. He suggests that the soldiers are depicted as nothing more than used pawns being sent off to their own deaths. Adding on, negative imageries are presented in the first stanza: ” Down the close, darkening lanes”. This phrase demonstrates that the further the soldiers walk down the path the closer they are getting to experience hell. Also, the use of a visual description such as ‘darkening’ suggests that the soldiers’ emotions are suppressed within themselves. Also, the soldiers’ facial expressions are described as ‘grimly gay’. This alliteration and oxymoron presents a negative picture by suggesting that the soldiers were concealing their fears and replacing it with a phony smile to act courageous as well as tenacious. The strained smile is also reinforced by the stress in the g sound.
Throughout the poem the only personal pronoun used is ‘they’. For instance, the line ” they went. They were not ours,” indicates that the soldiers were not recognized as human beings but dehumanized and treated unjustly compared to other individuals. Additionally, the possessive pronoun, ‘our’, insinuates that the soldiers were in a different world compared to the normal citizens. This idea is further reinforced by the non-verbal interactions from a tramp and the porters: “Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp stood staring hard”. The word ‘dull’ implies that the porters have potentially seen numerous soldiers leave to the frontline. As a consequence, they lack interest and motive towards the soldiers. Moreover, the use of a ‘casual tramp’ is ironic because it denotes that the tramp is unconcerned about the well being of the soldiers and possibly feels safer than them. This presents a dreary imagery since the soldiers are portrayed to be in a poorer condition than a vagrant.
Owen describes how they travelled to the frontlines surreptitiously. This is indicated from the line ” So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went”. The simile highlights that nobody else realizes what a war can do to your body physically and mentally. Therefore, the terrors of the wars as to be kept ‘hushed up’. The sibilance of ‘so secretly’ accumulates to the negative imagery because it emphasizes the mysterious send off of the soldiers. Further to the point, it foreshadows the soldiers’ ending; whether they return back alive or die in the war. The last line, “up half-known roads’, strengthens the idea of a war since survivors of the war feel guilty that they survived and that their comrades did not. As a result, they do not share their terrifying experience; the phrase “creep back, silent, to still village wells” reiterates the men’s devotion not to reveal their memories of the war.
On the other hand, ‘Arms and the Boy’ encapsulates Wilfred Owen’s disapproval and animosity towards using weapons as a young soldier. At the beginning of this poem, sinister imagery is interpreted by the line “Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade”. Owen mentions many lethal objects such as blades, antlers and ‘zinc teeth’, which are capable to killing or wounding people. These perilous weapons symbolize the extremes of war and the bloodshed a war can lead to. Moreover, the use of the word ‘boy’ is effective since it illustrates him as young, vulnerable, innocent and inexperienced individual towards the weapons. The personification “keen with hunger of blood” pictures a menacing imagery because the figurative language demonstrates that the bayonet has a will of its own just like a human being. The poet continues to give commands to an unknown person to assist the boy: “Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads”. Owen is subtly suggesting that the bullets are ‘blind’ and go wherever people aim to. There is a contrast in description between the ‘sharp bayonet’ and the ‘blunt bullet-heads’. Despite the contrast, Owen offers the same idea; that the weapons are treacherous. However, the poet declares that the boy is not a violent and bloodthirsty creature but it is the weapons that are fierce and malicious. The line “there lurk no claws behind his fingers supple” proves this by suggesting he is not harmful but weapons are controlling human beings. Similarly, the phrase “Sharp with the sharpness of grief an death” renders some form of malicious imagery. It essentially states that that the indication of ‘grief’ and ‘death’ is their motive to slaughter mankind. Ultimately, both of Wilfred Owen’s poems are punitive and unsympathetic reminders of what mankind are proficient to do with the utilization of weaponries and the overall destruction a war can do. The poems are all seen through the faces of innocent soldiers having to suffer from humanities mistake of introducing conflict and weapons. The range of poetic devices used accumulates to the variations of negative imageries portrayed in the poems.
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