World War One poets Jessie Pope and Wilfred Owen
The poets I am going to study each had different reasons for writing their poems of World War One. For example, Wilfred Owen experienced the war at first hand and tried to expose the sheer pain and terror to the British nation. Whereas Jessie Pope never experienced the war, she thought the only way she could help Britain was to encourage men to sign up. Despite these differences, both poets might be seen to have similar motivations; they both felt they were doing necessary action.
Personally, I believe in Jessie pope’s actions, although they may seem harsh I believe its necessary in that if not done, Britain could lose the war resulting in worse consequences. This essay will explore how Jessie Pope and Wilfred Owen portrayed the war as an eventful adventure or as a diseased lie. At the start of the twentieth Century, Britain was the largest empire in the world holding over a quarter of the world’s population and having one of the most successful empires ever. Due to this great success British people had a great confidence and felt very proud to be British.
Therefore on 4th of August 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany, the British people felt the war would be a walkover and easily won, but in reality it was a nightmare. Britain had lost 80,000 soldiers by the end of 1914; only four months after the war had started. Despite the large death toll, those at home never knew of the reality until the late stages of the war. Newspapers only revealed good aspects of the war and propaganda like Jessie Pope’s poem “Who’s for the game”, which was published in the Daily Mail.
Very few of those directly involved ever got to reveal their stories and there dreadful experiences. Wilfred Owen was one of these people directly involved, and managed to tell his story and reveal the reality. Owen managed to expose the war through poetry but was unfortunately killed in the last week of the war; nevertheless he managed to expose the harsh reality of World War One. Jessie Pope’s “Who’s for the game” is an example of Pope’s Propaganda and what Owen was trying to counteract. Pope wants people to read this poem and sign up for the army.
Immediately the title “Who’s for the game” shows the war as a game which are usually fun. Jessie has used it for the title showing even more importance and meaning. Due to this it is the first thing the reader will read. This quote is also a rhetorical question and therefore gets the reader thinking and interested as well as expressing war as a “game” and by this will get the reader to read on with a sense of adventure. There are many other questions in the poem that Pope has used to convince the reader to join, an example being “Who’ll give his country a hand”.
Using many questions will get the reader constantly interested and wanting to read on, particularly as most are rhetorical. The effect of the rhetorical questions results in multiple thoughts and effectively encourages the reader to think that they must join the army due to the many reasons. Pope shows the war as adventurous in these many questions by rhyming words like gun & fun to show the adventure and by having one whole stanza with just questions.
Jessie Pope uses clever imagery to show adventure “who’ll toe the line for the signal to ‘go! ‘? Jessie Pope uses this imagery to express the excitement of going over the top but this was not the case; soldiers dreaded going over the top. Many soldiers died from the stress of going over. From this Pope has changed something which was terrible into something exciting and therefore is showing an adventure even though to do this she had to lie greatly. To the reader they may think its all fun as they “toe the line” like they want to get an advantage in the race to go over. Pope may have been frustrated due to being a women and not going to war so poems like this would be the only way of helping.
Pope uses personal pronouns like “you, you’ll, who’ll” to make the reader feel it’s addressed to them and therefore feel like this poem is important. Compared to Pope, Wilfred Owen did experience war and the poem “Disabled” shows the consequences of war on a young solider. This poem is in contrast to “Who’s for the game” It shows the complete opposite of what Jessie showed war as. First of all in the first line Owen uses bold imagery of a disabled person sitting and waiting for the dark “He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark” Such bold imagery arouses the reader interest and gives you an idea of what the poem will be about.
A man sitting in a wheel chair would encourage sympathy from anyone, in that they have a story to tell and this man tells his in this poem. The word “dark” symbolizes the bad history in which the man has had, as dark colours are usually associated with death. Owen also repeats many questions to get the reader thinking. Owen wants the reader to think about these questions this is why the technique of repletion is used “Why don’t they come? And put him into bed? Why don’t they come? ” Owen wants to express this strong event in that women don’t look at him anymore.
He is trying to show you won’t be the same after going to war and that you gain nothing. He has lost his spirit his legs and his personality. This repetition contrasts the earlier image when he was “carried shoulder high” to add extra impact. If carried shoulder high it must be a good event and now he can’t even be put to bed. The repetition used by Owen is used to show sorrow for this disabled victim. Owen has used a tone of sorrow and to persuade the reader to not join the war.
“Why don’t they come? Owen needs the reader to understand the consequences of the war he is experiencing. Although he himself is not disabled he may be a lucky person as many other people are. Owen has also shown the person as a young man, adding to the sorrow of his disability as he spends the rest of life like this. This man maybe his own creation but he represents the experience Owen has gone through. As explained before Owen uses his own experiences to show the war life of this man. Owen signed at the Army aged 21 and the disabled victim signed aged just 19 “aged nineteen years”.
Owen uses his own experiences to make this poem seem valid and to let out the anger over what he has gone through. He wants the reader to know it could happen to them and show all the mistakes he has made. He wants the reader to know the war is not an adventure. Another poem made by Owen is “Dulce et Decorum est” . This poem is addressed to Jessie Pope trying to persuade her that war is dreadful and that she shouldn’t write poems persuading people to join. Wilfred Owen firstly uses a bold image of a gas attack; “Gas!
Gas! Quick, boys! ” Gas attacks were seen to be inhumane in the war and rarely used. They blinded soldiers for days or even for life by using poisonous chemicals. Owen wants Pope to know the bad aspects of the war and the gas attack is easily one of the worst. Owen has clearly addressed this poem to Pope using words like “you, my friend” The poem has a tone that shows anger and frustration towards Pope; “The old lie”. Owen wants Pope to see the bitter reality of war as she has never experienced war her self.
Owen wants this poem directed to Pope to give it more meaning & to show war is a disease. If addressed to someone just to public she is likely to ignore it but addressing it to Pope suggests Owen is calling for her to stop. Owen uses many techniques like repetition of words “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” Owen is repeating these graphic words to prove the effect of the gas attacks and show to Pope what a soldier may go through. These words are strong, powerful words; they make the reader feel sorrow.
Drowning, choking and guttering can all be associated with death and torture. Pope should feel awful about what she has done, but she still must think her actions are necessary. The title of the poem “Dulce et Decorum est” means fight for your country. Owen uses the contrast of a man fighting for honour to a diseases lie “The old lie”. This contrast makes the audience think the poem is Propaganda and maybe even Pope’s work but it is actually revealing bad aspects of war and is Owen’s work this then makes you believe Pope’s work is unnecessary. He shows the War as a disease.
Overall, all three poems have clear interpretations of the war and it is clear the poets experiences of war have changed their view of war being a adventure or a disease, Wilfred Owen even described a person after war as a “queer disease”. Therefore the statement “War is not an adventure it’s a disease” was supported by Owen, while Pope disagreed. As said before I believe this is due to Jessie Pope never experiencing the war. Although Owen seemed to help people not experience the terror, Pope’s actions were still necessary even though she was lying.
Even today while Britain is at war with Iraq much of the horror is never revealed to the British public and the Army use clever Television adverts to show war as fun. Luckily, some of the terror is finally being released to the public through the technology of Camera phones. As war goes on not all bad aspects will be revealed or there never will be war going on. It’s natural to keep such terrible things hidden from the public so countries can recruit soilders and fight to gain advantages like oil and land.