Wilfred Owen Paper

Topics: Poetry, World War I, World War II Pages: 9 (3655 words) Published: July 5, 2014
Tamara Karapandzic
Faculty of Foreign Languages
Alfa University


Abstract: This paper will deal with some of Wilfred Owen’s poems by analyzing them from the stylistic aspect and showing the importance of stylistic elements for Owen’s overall thematic focus on the experience of World War One. The greatest of war poets, Owen was famous for his work which was characterized by his portrayal of the terrifying images of war; the loss, sacrifice, pity and hopelessness, everything that he ended up facing the moment he enlisted in the Great War. His intense personal experience as a soldier influenced his writing greatly, particularly the recovery from the shell shock. Through his dramatic, horrific and memorable poems he attempted to hurl the pain of war in the faces of readers to illustrate how vile, distorted and inhumane war really was, uncovering the brutal truth. The poems chosen to illustrate the use and effect of stylistic tools such as alliteration and pararhyme are "Exposure" and "Strange Meeting". Owen predominantly used alliteration throughout his poem "Exposure", while in the poem "Strange Meeting" pararhymes prevail. Alliteration is defined as the repetition of identical or similar consonant sounds, while pararhyme is defined by Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman as the subtle and effective mixture of vowel dissonance and consonant assonance, most often effectively employed at the end of a line. Bearing these definitions in mind, this paper will analyze the manner in which alliteration and pararhyme are used in the two mentioned poems, and also try to provide reasons which will explain their use in the broader context of Owen’s poetics and, more specifically, his preoccupations with the war. As in the following lines:"Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence" from "Exposure", alliteration is abundantly used in that poem to convey, replicate or mimic the sounds heard by the soldiers at the front lines. This contributes to a great extent to the dramatic effect of the poem. On the other hand, lines such as "And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall; by his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell" from "Strange Meeting" represent famous examples of pararhyme, which Owen was among the first English poets to use in order to express the fragmented and incomplete experience of humanity faced with a brutal war. The analysis of the chosen poems should prove that alliteration in Owen's poems is used to produce a dramatic effect, painting the picture of the war not merely on the thematic level, but stylistic as well, while pararhyme is used to give an overall distorted feeling of one’s helplessness in a world where nothing lasts forever or stays the same and everything is undergoing a continued stress of peace and destruction. Owen used these stylistic devices in an attempt to transfer the chaos of the war more effectively into his art and to his reader.

Key words: Wilfred Owen, war poetry, alliteration, pararhyme.


The curtains drew and the Great War began, letters spilled from the pen forming poetry which highly praised the virtue of sacrifice and ignited the thought that fighting and dying for one’s country served a righteous purpose. As the horror started to unravel with battles of trench warfare, the soldiers’ attitudes toward war began to change. There was no purposeful activity with a clear goal anymore, just confusion and chaos, and taking cover in the muddy trenches trying to avoid the unpleasant death lurking around the battlefield. This grim reality of war was to be portrayed in the poetry of the leading English poet of the Great War, Wilfred Owen. As the soldiers' realization of useless bloodshed became a turning point, in that vary same way the stay at Craiglockhart hospital presented a turning point for Owen’s poetry. It was at this hospital where he was sent...

Bibliography: Cash, Peter. (2010). Wilfred Owen. Leicester: English Association Bookmarks.
Costenoble, Flore. (2013). The language of Sassoon, Owen & Rosenberg,
The Great War Poets Entrenched. (pp. 39-48). Gent.
Roberts, David.,Wilfred Owen. The War Poetry Website. Retrieved on 03/04/2014 from http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/index.html
Owen, Peter., Owen the Poet. The Wilfred Owen Association. Retrieved on 3/04/2014 from http://www.wilfredowen.org.uk/owen-the-poet
Trueman, Chris.,Wilfred Owen. History Learning Site. Retrieved on 10/04/2014 from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/wlfred_owen.htm
Cuthbertson, Guy., Wilfred Owen: The Peter Pan of the trenches. NewStatesman. Retrieved on 10/04/2014 from http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/02/wilfred-owen-peter-pan-trenches
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