The impact of war on participants and victims


Dulce et decorum est was written by Wilfred  Owen and published in 1920 and gives a whole perception and first hand experiences of the army in the first world war and was described as the best known poem of the first world war. Apology to the Wasps by Sara Littlecrow-Russell on the other hand is a metaphoric poem that uses wasps and human beings and how biochemical is used against a weak wasp that can only fight back by stinging.

Wilfred Owen was a soldier and a poet during the First World War and his poems are famously known for horrific description of gas and trench attacks during the ending of the war. He actually wrote the poems as a way of therapy. His poem, Dulce et decorum est is narrated in a first person point of view where he has used the terms ‘we’ and ‘I‘ to narrate events showing the much attachment needed and the close associations with the events of the war and his engagement in the war. Sara Littlecrow-Russell is a lawyer and a mediator and is famously known for advocating for social change. Her poem Apology to the Wasp is written to highlight how the  United States of America was wrong to unleash war on Iraqi yet all Iraqi wanted was to protect their own. The topic is quite controversial. It is narrated in a first person point of view, where she uses ‘I’ but unlike Owen who is on the receiving end; the ‘I’ in the poem is the one causing the terror but is feeling guilty for it.

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Apology to the wasps, the title of Sara’s poems is metaphorical just as the poem is and shows the guilty feeling of the human being after the realization that destroying the wasp’s nest was overreacting to the wasp sting whose sole reason for stinging was to actually protect the nest. The title gives a clear hint of the poem itself and is a good introduction to the poem. Dulce et decorum est, the title of Owen’s poem is a Latin saying from the Roman poet Horace and means “it is sweet and honorable…” followed by pro patria mori, which means “to die for one’s country”. This is completed at the end of the poem. The title is ironical compared to the poem itself since the poem describes how horrible the war was and how easy and painful it was to die out there. The title Apology to the Wasp is the best since it is easily relatable to the poem.

The structures of the two poems are very different. Dulce et decorum est is narrative that is a story created by progression. It has a rising action where Owen talks of the war setup the flares and their camps; the climax comes with the gas attack where one of the soldier who is late to wear his gasmask dies a horrific death and the falling action with the Horace’s saying that he believes is a lie. The poem takes the form of a ballad but breaking patterns and rhymes and two sonnets but unsettling version of it. Apology to the Wasp is in lyrical form. It is short expressing the persona’s thoughts and feelings of guilt. It also has one speaker only. It is a blank verse with an iambic meter and no rhyme at all. Owen’s poem which was long and took time to give details communicates better since each event unfolds systematically and his digression from sonnet and ballad gives the poem a natural description as if in normal talking speed and clarity.

In terms of figurative language, Sara’s Apology to the wasp wins the challenge since the poem itself is a metaphor. The human being is the United States of America while the wasp is Iraqi. In the poem she uses the simile ‘And blasted your nest, like it was a third world country. I was the United States Air Force. It felt good to be so powerful.’ In the phrase there is also the stereotyping of the U.S.A as big and powerful and Iraqi as weak. Dulce et decorum est has several figurative language in it. There is use of similes like Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, to show how tiresome and downgrading the war was. Direct speech is also present in the poem where there is the shouting of the words Gas! Gas! Quick boys! To translates and involve the audience. The vivid description of the dead soldier gives the corrosion caused by the gas from inside and how it has affected the writer since he says it was like a dream. Imagery of the soldier drowning in a green sea and his choking and guttering describe the painful ordeal. Even though Sara used figurative language to its best, Owen manipulates the little he has to communicate his message.

Both writers use pathos to appeal to the audience. Sara uses the guilty conscience of the human being to show the effects of the war and how the war was caused by irrational thinking. The human being is superior to the wasp and is able to destroy massively yet the wasp wanted was to protect its nest and the only protection it can use is a sting. The biochemical causes numerous deaths compared to the swelling of a wasp sting. In the end we see the human feeling guilty for it and the title is an apology to the wasp. Owen appeals to the audience by horrific deaths. Human beings fear death but being in the battle this is considered just a small price to pay for victory. He describes of how messy the front line of the battle is and as the climax of the poem comes we see the gruesome death. The gas attacks are painful and those who watch people die from it are left with images that look like dreams.

In conclusion, Owen is able to communicate effectively. His background, narration of events and styles present in the poem give the expected outcome and the height of war.

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  1. Owen, Wilfred, Dulce et decorum est published 1920
  2. Littlecrow-Russell, Apology to the Wasp published 2006
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