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Is it sweet and fitting to die for your country? What are Tennyson and Owen’s views on this subject?

A-Level: English

Title:  Is it sweet and fitting to die for your country? What are Tennyson and Owen’s views on this subject?
Description  Is it sweet and fitting to die for your country? What are Tennyson and Owen’s views on this subject?
Word Count:  1200


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Unlike Owen, Tennyson has never been to war and the poem was written to suit a different type of audience. Tennyson’s poem reflects an emerging national conscientiousness and his sense of compulsion to express his political views.
Owen believes that the soldiers have been tricked into going to war, “like old beggars under sacks”. This shows that they are looking tired and also the soldiers were told that it was going to be easy but it was actually really hard. He also shows that he is haunted by what he has seen and that he doesn’t agree with it by saying “the old lie”. He is in a better position to talk about war because Tennyson never experienced the likes of war. All of Tennyson’s information has come from what he has read and heard.
He believes that the war is a great thing and he thinks that the people who fight are patriotic and noble. In his poem he says, “flash’d all their sabres bare”. This makes it sound like they are winning as ‘flash’d’ is usually associated with fun. Also throughout the poem he uses words like ‘forward’ and ‘noble’. These are used to show that all is well.
Owen’s language is him trying to make us reflect about the brutality of war. He tells us that it is “obscene as cancer”. This simile used is trying to interact with the reader to give an image associated with horror but one that is commonly known.
This is opposite to how Tennyson uses language like, “white horse and hero tell”. This is saying that the soldiers are heroes because they have gone to war. Tennyson uses this and it sounds like he is trying to enlist conscripts. He then goes on to say “when can their glory trade”. This is referring to soldiers being heroes and will always be remembered if you die at war. The language used by Tennyson is all very positive even though there is a great loss of life. Cleverly he makes dying sound fun and exciting like when he says, “Volley’d and thunder’d”. This shows the soldiers enjoying being in battle.
When Owen compares the soldiers to ‘old beggars and hags’ this makes the soldiers sound like the lowest form of society as opposed to Tennyson idealised description. Owen then goes on to say ‘haunting flares’, this is as if their ghosts and nothing left of them. After this he says, ‘men marched asleep’. This is a well used metaphor as men cannot really march asleep but gives an image that they have lost all sense of reality. After this, the line, “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling”. The exclamation marks show the panic that is happening because of the gas attack. There are three exclamation marks which are using the rhetorical device listing in threes to get the point across. The end of the sentence is an oxymoron as ecstasy is a very positive word not usually associated with war. This makes it seem a controlled panic. Later in the poem the poet writes “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning”. The first part of this line is a metaphor to show how bad the gas attack was. The word ‘sea’ is associated with being vast. The second part of the line uses emotive language to make the reader feel sorry for the person drowning. After this he writes, “In all my dreams” which refers to whatever he saw is haunting him and he is still suffering after the attack. Towards the end of the poem Owen writes, “Some desperate Glory” which refers to the people who go to war believing it to be the noble thing to do and also patriotic.
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