Lesson 2: Introduction

This module requires you to closely analyse a particular text. In this case, the poetry of Wilfred Owen. You will need to understand the themes and ideas, and how they are developed. How is meaning shaped within a text.

Wilfred Owen 1893 – 1918

  • Anthem for Doomed Youth
  • Futility
  • Dulce et Decorum Est
  • Disabled
  • Mental Cases
  • The Parable of the Old Man and the Young


  • In 1914 when war broke out, Owen felt he was more valuable as a poet, rather than a soldier. This quickly changed when he enlisted and saw the devastating effects of war. He then saw his purpose to ‘educate you to the actualities of war.’
  • Is was this change in perspective that influenced his poetry to include a focus on soldiers as victims of war.
  • Owen was appalled by the hideousness of the battlefield, these images became part of his poetry.

The War Context

  • Propaganda posters and media promoted idealistic notions of patriotism, duty, adventure, honour, and glory. This tempted the young men to enlist. Their thoughts were full of the respect and glory the uniform and marches would bring. Even Owen was dazzled before he was sent to the Front. He wrote to his mother, ‘The sound, together with the gallant bearing of the twenty fifers, has finally dazzled me with Military Glory’.
  • The battle of Somme marked a turning point in public attitude, the massive losses meant that a growing despair, pessimism, cynicism, anger and protest began.
  • The weapons caused huge destruction, and many lives were sacrificed to gain ground.
  • Trench life was vile – rats, lice, mud and disease added to the complete misery felt by the troops.
  • Owen captures this brutal truth of war, and is considered amongst the greatest poets of his time.
  • He is know as the public spokesman for the men at the Front.
  • He bitterly criticises those at home supporting the war, and those at homw unaware of its devastating effects.

OWEN’S CONCERN: What did he write about?

These can be used to form thesis points in your essay.

  • Owen’s didn’t want to glorify war, or write about heroes. He say’s his concern was WAR, and the ‘Pity of War’.
  • He spoke about the men sent into the battlefield, and in describing their experience, he challenged the public perception of war a the time.
  • He criticises the horror and violence of war, the ‘universal pervasion of ugliness.’
  • He relived his nightmares in verse.
  • There is a general feeling in Owen’s poetry that things can be resolved without the brutality of war. He sought to explore the potential of humanity, and expose the destruction.
  • He looks at the psychological effects of war on men – kill or be killed.
  • HIs poems also reveal the absolute bond amongst the men in War – he even went back to the front (and his death) because he felt the men needed him, and he could not speak for them, inless he had experienced their suffering – this is how passionate he was about his subject – War.


  • Owen’s poetry is called ‘didactic’ because he wanted to teach, inform, awake and enlighten.
  • War disgusted him and he wanted to show how it dehumanises man through its utter destruction and brutality.
  • Owen wanted people to see the soldier’s perspective. The irony and satire in his poetry shows his bitterness towards people judging war from the comfort of their homes – especially those who promote it.
  • He sought to enlight the general public about the sacrifices, ugliness, and barbarity of war.
  • Public awareness to this injustice and ignorance was his ultimate purpose.



Battle of Somme – Real Footage

Shell Shock

  • You know a little bit more about Owen – imagine you are him, on the battlefield. You have seen your mates killed and their bodies left to rot, you know you probably won’t ever get home alive. You are sacrificing your life for what?
  • You are killing other men, like you.
  • Write a diary entry of your feelings, while you sit in a lice ridden trench. Smelling the vile smell of death and disease. Rats scampering in the shadows….
  1. N. Nicholas says:

    Distinctive and clear ideas allow an artist of any sort, to define history to future generations, so that an event can be viewed from many perceptions. Poetry is one form of literature which, like art, expresses ideas, feelings and emotions through physical objects. Distinctive ideas which are portrayed within poetry are pertained from the gathering up of strong emotions which later are transformed into ‘words of perception’. Wilfred Owen, a man of an emotive nature, devotes his words of perception to his pity toward war, murder and violence. Although some may argue that Owen embraced a feminine side to himself, his attitude in the past was alleged very differently to the present, in terms of war. The major ideas which are present in Owens poetry were very rare during the early 1900’s, and displayed a present view towards war. This enabled him to think of himself as a teacher or adviser where he showed people that war dehumanizes a human being. Owen quotes, “To win a war is as disastrous as to lose one”, and this shows his idea that, although a country’s name benefits from a war, the implementers of this name have been tarnished and wounded for the rest of their lives, whether they survived or died in the war. As all these foundations to larger ideas were being slowly solidified, they were being recorded on sheets of paper to be sent down for others to learn, distinguish and explore, and so they were set at the heart of his poetry.

  2. Kevin K. says:

    Wilfred Owen a well known poet from world war 2. Owen saw what was happening at that time with progaganda and advertisments all orround, so he went to war and saw what was happening first hand, and did not like what he saw, how they treated there own brother in the battle field, how they desposed the dead boodies. His poems are about the truth behind the war, and that everyone gets affected by it.

  3. RGoldthorpe says:

    Owen’s war poetry is a passionate expression of outrage at the horrors of
    war and of pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in it. It is dramatic
    and memorable, whether describing physical horror, the unseen, mental torment . His diverse use of instantly understandable
    imagery and technique is what makes him the most memorable of the war
    poets. His poetry evokes more from us than simple disgust and sympathy;

  4. Robie Ibrahim says:

    Throughout Owen Wilsons poetry, he portrays a very deep meaning in each of his poems. They are based in the 1900’s signifying the ignorance of the government at the time and their methods towards ‘corrupting’ young youth to joining the army. He also tries to engage young nieve men and woman to warn them on the false propaganda they try to put in their minds and show them the realities behind joining the navy.

    He also wrote about his feelings and experiences while he was in battle in the navy, he used very brutal, bald and heartless terminology to show the readers the state of mind he was in. The gruesome atmosphere he was in was also used to try convince young people at the time to not be sucked in by the falsly set propaganda.

  5. Mark Abood says:

    The distinctive ideas explored in Wilfred Owen’s poetry are basically, he wanted to get rid of the whole, going to war makes you a hero propaganda, and show people what war life really was like from the view of a solider. He uses such descriptive wording and places images in out heads of what war was really like. not the over filling of heroism and mate ship that is portrayed in the media.

  6. joseph eid says:

    Owens poetry was different to that of some other types of war poets of his time because he was courageous enough to make his ‘attacks’ on the government and the significant loss of life.

    Wilfred Owen was a soldier who wrote poems to raise awareness of the reality of war into the public consciousness. Owens poetry addresses the emotional and psychological impact of war on men & youth. His purpose was to inform, awaken & enlighten the audience about the brutality of war. His poetry explodes myths of war created by propaganda that war is an exciting adventure, but Owen reveals that it is not, men get killed. Owen wanted to teach his audience from his own experience on the frontline.

  7. tony moussa says:

    Wilfred Owen exemplified how cruel hearted the government really was and wanted to illustrate this to society through his moving poetry. His poetry distinguished who we was which was a direct reflection of his emotion and sense of self, this is what excelled him to be the great poet he is remembered to be.

  8. Tevin Narain says:

    Wilfred Owens poetry is none like anybody elses as his writing is very descriptive, it was very catchy which made the reader want to keep reading to follow the excitement. Owens worte about war the pity of war. He speaks about the soldiers, describing thier experience in the battlefields and the terrifying situations that they were forced to particpate in. Owen speaks like he is apart of the war, but not literally, but where he feels he goes through the same things so his poems are as if he is there and the poem shows how passionate he is about eh subject.

  9. S Binns says:

    Wilfred Oens views on the War are that the War was not advertised properly. He believes that they false advertised it & that people in a way were tricked into the war believing it would be a great experience & that everything will be alright knowing that even those that do survive will be affected forever. He also believes that everyone of his fellow brothers shouyld be recognised as a hero towards the public for there actions in the call of duty.

  10. edward guanzon says:

    Wilfred own composes within his poems a personal view of the war that is going on, which conveys to the reader the positives and great negatives of it. Owen gives the reader an emotional feeling during the war, his ideas are to give the reader an image of the war.

  11. peter says:

    dear diary i hate waiting in the trench to die i seen my friend getting shoot by hearing the amount of gunfire and by observing it in real action combat.fear was penertrating throught my mind about my mother and how i will never see her face again that was constanly going through my mind during the war and i was hoping that i wont die but if it happens then let life come how it is.by observing my friend getting shoot it gave me a sense of anxiety problems after the event which occured.

  12. J.C Ishac says:

    Wilfred Owen’s poetry explores a lot of distinctive ideas however the main idea that he explores is the views of war from a soldier’s point of view not from all the media. He explores this distinctive idea to show what it was like from their view and how they lived through it and what they done to survive it. Soldiers saw their own mates been shot dead and left their to rot and Owen emphasised on that point.

  13. Paul abou-arrage says:

    wilfred owen vision was to write about the war how people are suffering and how scary it is to walk in to the battle feild looking at people dieing, he really cared about this people were fighting in the war to save the country he wants to express important it is.

  14. Troy says:

    Wilfred Owen idea was to give a vivid description of war from the soldiers point of view and from the point of view of those family members at home who may never see their loved ones again. In his poetry his hatred for war is distinct he makes no disguise in his contempt for those who continually send young people to die. Wilfred Owen was a man of an emotive nature, devotes his words of perception to his pity toward war, murder and violence. Owen told the world in his poetry how pointless war was there was love there was potential and there was hope all of these silenced in the cruelest way possible on both sides and how everyone was conned into this ‘great adventure’

  15. Karan Krishna says:

    The distinctive feature about Wilfred Owen is that he writes his poetry based on the horrors of war and within each of his poems he conveys a message about the cruelty, brutality and ignorance of the personnal that had sent him over to war.Owen adapts techinques of Imagery, Sarcasim and Symbolism in his poems. He employs these techniques to help him better provide the perspective of a soldier and convey his message about the devasting effects of war.

  16. Kieren.N says:

    The distinctive ideas explored in Wilfred Owens poems are war brutality, its inhuman nature of the destruction of war. He didnt want to glorify war but showed the pity of war. The pity was these boys killing each other and this shows how little the value of humanity is in war. His uses of techniques to express his feelings, sounds and sights of the horrors of the battlefield.

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