The similar themes and devices of Michael Morpurgo (in the film adaptation of ‘Private Peaceful’) & Wilfred Owen’s poetry.
In ‘Private Peaceful’ we can see the main characters experience a loss of faith, Tommo near the beginning when in the prison cell says “Why does this war happen”, he also feels bitter because his father died and he feels that if God was just he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Futility’ demonstrates the loss of faith that the soldiers experienced by mixing the vocabulary of religion and evolution, “was it for this the clay grew tall”. We can also see in ‘Private Peaceful the futility of war by the spoken line “All that fighting, no gain on either side”, showing how lots of death resulted in no progress. In the poem we can see that the soldiers are mainly farmers, “whispering of fields unsown”, which makes the fact that nature is fighting back even more poignant, showing how far these people have gone. In the film we can see that the brothers are farmers, and how when they go to war they still talk about their farming (for example when at the French pub).
Dulce Et Decorum Est
In ‘Private Peaceful’ Morpurgo uses the character of the Colonel to show patriotism and jingoism, he believes that the soldiers are doing their duty to their country and God. In ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ Wilfred Owen mocks people (like the Colonel) who believe the “old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” because he can see that dying for your country isn’t the best way to die. In the poem Owen talks about a gas attack :
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In the film we get visual context in terms of the struggle for gas masks and how people reacted to the gas. In one scene the soldiers were warned of a gas attack and we could see how they fumbled to put their gas masks on and how some choked and struggled to breathe while putting them on.
In ‘Private Peaceful’ the young men are persuaded to go to war by a sergeant or officer who says “Girls love a soldier”; we can see that they are tempting the men into the army by telling them that they’ll be more attractive when returning from war. However we can see Molly disapproves of Charlie going to war, showing how women didn’t want their husbands to leave them and their children. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Disabled’ also contains a character who believes that going to war will make him more attractive, “and maybe too, to please his Meg.” Owen expands on this by later talking about how the only women this young boy will ever encounter now are nurses who won’t glance twice at him “Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole”. We can visualise such events in the poems by looking at scenes in the film, especially those in medical tents, with nurses tending patients. Another theme in the film is that of young boys lying about their age to get into the army (and thus achieve such success with women). We can see this in the character Tommo who lies about his age to apply for the army, mainly because Charlie has gone off with Molly. In ‘Disabled’ we see this when the young boy tells the army that he is 19 “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.” By showing this we can see how desperate the army were for volunteers.
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‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a poem by Wilfred Owen written as an elegiac lament for the young soldiers who were slaughtered in battles that he too fought in. He delivers this message by shocking the reader in a variety of ways. The poem is almost written in sonnet form; Owen liked to misuse the sonnet form to show that he was anti-establishment and angry. Owen mixes the rhyme scheme of the Petrarchen and the Elizabethan sonnet by using “ababcdcd effegg” and uses a mix of half rhyme (“guns” & “orisons”) and full rhyme (“bells” “shells”). This misuse of the sonnet is a strong statement that would have shocked society, the sonnet was literally a poetic “anthem” (an anthem being a song to represent a nation) which the British society loved, by misusing it Owen expresses his raw emotion and hurt at the loss of life and the complacency of the public on the matter.
Owen asks why there are no funerals in Britain for the dead soldiers, why there are no “mockeries” or “passing-bells”. The passing bell was a bell that rung when someone died, and Owen uses this image to represent how nobody marked the deaths of some of these soldiers. The bell also provides us with a connotation with noise, especially with the idea of noise ringing in our ears, similar to the noise in the trenches. He also talks of how these “doomed youth” had no future; in the phrase “die as cattle” Owen uses connotations with the death of cattle and slaughter to evoke emotion in the reader. When the reader reads the word “cattle” immediately there are connotations with the slaughter of defenceless animals, thus Owen is suggesting that the soldiers going over the top of the trench may as well be “cattle” being slaughtered.
Owen uses onomatopoeic alliteration to create the noise of shells and bullets, especially in the line “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”. The next line is cleverly constructed, “Can patter out their hasty orisons”. When put in the whole sentence it simply states that the bullets cause the deaths of the praying soldiers however the word “patter” is the interesting word in this sentence. The word originates from ‘Paternoster’ (meaning ‘Our Father’, the most prominent Christian prayer) and came to mean repetitive noise, like how prayers are repeated in churches. Not only is this onomatopoeic and creates the idea of the repetitive sound of the shells but the idea of prayer continues as this “patter” of gunfire stops their own “hasty orisons”, literally translating as the repetitive prayer-like noise is cutting their hasty prayers short; thus linking religion and warfare, something that would have made Christians in society uncomfortable.
The poem contrasts the civilian life with the lives of the soldiers: for example he contrasts the “choirs” in funerals with the “demented choirs of wailing shells”. This personifies the shells and contrasts religious groups with the weapons that killed thousands of soldiers, once again upsetting society and defying the norm. Owen suggests that there is no “mourning” for the soldiers except for the “shrill” noise of the shells that reminded him of crazed choirs. He extends this idea by suggesting that the “candles” are no longer held in the “hands of boys” but in “their eyes”; they are no longer choirboys but soldiers fighting, and the candlelight is going out, “shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes”. Owen uses the burning light of the candles as a metaphor for their lives, however he also uses the last line “And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds” to represent the deaths of the soldiers. Some could argue that this last line links to the people back home, the “pallor of girls brows” is the only thing back home that shows the mass killing, there are no funerals, and it is these families who will remember their sons and husbands every “dusk”.
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This reading especially really helped me with the rhythm of this poem. When reading it in class I couldn’t seem to find the rhythm in my head and when trying to read it. There’s strong consonance in this poem which is really heard in this actor’s voice, as well as the onomatopoeia.
You can hear the alliteration so very well in this reading of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, especially the onomatopoeic ‘rifle’s rapid rattle’.
I really like this recital of ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ because it isn’t read by some Oxford scholar but an actor whose voice really expresses the sorrow of the poem; his voice also strikes a chord with me because his northern accent would be the accent of many of the men who died.
Wilfred Owen was a WW1 poet who wrote poems to show those back in England what trench warfare was really like. He wrote his poems to give the soldiers a voice and used a variety of techniques that make his poems widely recognisable.
Owen’s early poems have strong full rhyme whereas later on he develops into using half para-rhymes. In addition to this he uses consonance, for example in ‘The Last Laugh’ he uses “Dad” & “Dead” and “grinned” & “groaned”. This links the two lines but without the regularity of a full rhyme. Owen’s poetry is sometimes written in a form close to a sonnet, the Elizabethan sonnet rhyme scheme is ‘ababcdcdefefgg’ whereas in ‘How to Die’ Owen writes with this rhyme scheme: ‘ababcdcdefefghgh’. As sonnets are poems to argue then the reason for Owen’s poetry could be seen in a number of ways. It could be argued that because of Owen’s sonnet-like poems he could be arguing on behalf of the voiceless soldiers. However it could also be said that because his poetry isn’t in the form of a perfect sonnet that he is against arguing and conflict and thus against war, a major theme in his works.
Owen also uses onomatopoeic alliteration to create noise, in ‘Arms and the Boy’ the sound of bullets is created in the phrase “blind, blunt bullet-leads” and the sound of rifles being shot is represented by the “rifles’ rapid rattle” in ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. The noise reflects the sheer noise of constant shelling and gunshot, one of the primary reasons for shellshock. The punctuation is used to create pauses in his poetry. Owen famously said that the poetry is in the pity and that the pity is in the punctuation; he pities the subjects of his poetry, feeling sorrow, sympathy, compassion and a strong desire to help and alleviate the suffering that the soldiers have to endure.
Thanks for reading,
The last blog post of this academic year before “proper” A Level!! Sorry that analysis of Dorian Gray hasn’t been uploaded, it’s been on the computer for about a week but there’s been technical difficulties with WordPress as well as internet in general in school!!
- Dorian insists that Basil makes the decision to see the painting “You insist on knowing, Basil?”
- “A cold current of air passed them” could be symbolic of a change in wind and change in general. Feature of Gothic Literature, chilling
- “and he tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it on the ground” a very dandyish action, an overdramatic flourish
- The “hideous face on the canvas” was “grinning” – connotations with the devil,
- Dorian watches Basil’s viewing of the picture, a “flicker of triumph in his eyes” – he’s obviously enjoying showing Basil what his painting has become
- “crushing the flower in his hand” Dorian has removed the innocence from himself and this action represents that. Flowers are common symbols for dandyism and before crushing it he was “smelling it”, representative of his dandy life before his corruption.
- “No! the thing is impossible. The room is damp. Mildew has got into the canvas. The paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them.” Basil goes through the same thought process that Dorian did when he first observed the change, he attempts to find some scientific reason.
- “It has destroyed me” almost a confession to Basil (the most priestlike character)
- Basil as the moral character tries to absolve Dorian’s sins by finding somewhere to “kneel down” and “remember a prayer” – he then quotes the Bible “Though your sins be as scarlet, yeti will make them as white as snow”. Dorian however doesn’t want forgiveness, “Those words mean nothing to me now”
- Dorian kills Basil with a knife. Basil is then referred to as “the man” and “the thing”- this shows how Dorian’s opinion of Basil has changed, he is very dispassionate.
- Dorian thinks of an alibi and realises that Basil was intending to go to Paris – this is very convenient as Basil had disappeared years before and thus nobody would be worried if Basil had gone again, they would merely assume that he had gone out of the public eye like he did the time before.
- Dorian’s very calm about his alibi, “but I had forgotten my latchkey” – he seems to think this up very quickly
- Dorian worries and is “biting his lip”, a characteristic trait of Basil.
- The chapter ends with suspense, “Yes; that was the man he wanted.”
- “The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke” – he slept almost too well, lost in “some delightful dream”
- “It was almost like a morning in May” – this gives connotations of spring and rebirth, a new life for Dorian now that Basil is dead.
- “He winced at the memory of all that he had done” note that Dorian is only concerned with himself, he is incredibly self absorbed. He is not concerned that his friend is dead, there is no care for Basil only for himself.
- “that had made him kill him” Dorian thinks that it isn’t his fault for what he did, it was an emotion that “made him” do it, he couldn’t have not done it as Basil was making him angry.
- “Hideous things were for the darkness” typical Gothic literature
- “He spent a long time also over breakfast” he indulges himself, ignoring what he’s done. Dorian then tries to distract himself by drawing but every face he draws “seemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward.” This gives the ideas of ghostly omens as well as subconscious guilt. Dorian then reads about Venice, the city of masks, ironic as he wears a mask most of the time, he is immoral however he pretends to be an upstanding upper class gent.
- “Poor Basil! What a horrible way for a man to die!” finally we see a glint of conscience in Dorian.
- Wilde then personifies time as Dorian waits for Alan Campbell to arrive, “Time seemed to him to be crawling with feet of lead”, this shows how slow and heavy his thoughts were.
- Dorian obviously trusts Alan Campbell, he could be jailed for killing this man, “Yes: it is a matter of life and death.” He pleads with him and makes him feel like only he can help, “You are the only man who is able to save me.”
- Dorian and Alan obviously have history; they were probably past lovers, “Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian”
- Once Alan complies Dorian doesn’t let him leave, he gets his servant to go and get the equipment, if Alan left the house he could change his mind and flee, or even go to the police.
- The picture has changed once again, with “red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening,” Dorian covers it up before Alan enters; he’s only worried about himself.
- Dorian is wearing “Parma violets” in his buttonhole, a very clean flower; complete irony considering Basil was disposed of and dissolved in the same house.
- Lord Henry notices immediately that Dorian isn’t in character “what is the matter with you tonight? You are quite out of sorts.”
- When Dorian gets home we see the secrecy of the upper classes when he opens the secret “triangular drawer” containing the “chinese box”, shows the double life.
- Dorian embarks on a long journey, paying the driver a lot of money to do so.
- Negative connotations with the working class are present throughout this chapter, I’ll list some quotes here rather than keep coming back to it, “horrible laughter” “drunkards brawled and screamed” “sordid shame of the great city”. In windows shadows appeared and they moved like “monstrous marionettes, and made gestures like live things” this associates animalistic ideas with lower classes, as well as making them seem like they’re not as good as others, “the driver beat at them with a whip”. The prostitutes are associated with the devil, “two red sparks flashed for a moment in the woman’s sodden eyes”, “greedy fingers”
- Gothic literature features, the area is dark, the moon “hung low” like a “yellow skull” an obvious death omen.
- Dorian’s double life becomes obvious, disguising himself as a poor man so he can feed his “hideous hunger for opium”. When Dorian sees those who have been taking opium he regards them as “grotesque things”
- Dorian “wanted to escape from himself” as his memories are too excruciating for him to endure, “he wanted to be where no-one would know who he was”.
- Dorian obviously has a reputation “There goes the devil’s bargain!”
- One of the prostitutes calls him “Prince Charming” and thus a “drowsy sailor” – James Vane, follows Dorian out and points a gun at him. James’ speech is very dramatic ironically considering how he was the least dramatic of the family, “Her death is at your door” “Make your peace with God, for tonight you are going to die”.
- Dorian grows “sick with fear”, it isn’t guilt, he is merely scared of his own death
- Dorian shows him that he looks too young to have forced Sibyl to suicide eighteen years ago, and he becomes confident, taking the upper hand, “You have been on the brink of committing a terrible crime, my man.”
- A prostitute then reveals to James that Dorian hasn’t changed for eighteen years, though he has obviously ruined her “since Prince Charming made me what I am”
- Dorian was whispering to Lady Narborough, charming her as she “pretended to listen” to what the Duke said. This is what marriage was like in those days, merely for money not love.
- Dorian says that Lord Henry’s name should be “Prince Paradox” and Lord Henry refuses “the title” – he doesn’t want to accept who he is.
- The upper classes chat and Lord Henry uses many witticisms, using his wit to argue with people. At the end of the chapter we are left with a cliffhanger, as Dorian faints, his conscience catching up with him “Am I safe here Harry?”, the main cliffhanger however is that James Vane was “watching him”. Oddly Dorian is very afraid but only because someone has exposed his secret.
- “The next day he did not leave the house” – he is obviously very paranoid, Wilde uses animalistic terms to show how he feels, “The consciousness of being hunted, snared, tracked down,”
- Dorian ventures out on the “third day” – religious connotations of Jesus rising on the third day.
- Nature “the clear, pine-scented air” “seemed to bring back his joyousness”, he has been cleansed and calmed
- Dorian doesn’t want Geoffrey to shoot the rabbit, because it “strangely charmed” him, however if Geoffrey had not shot again James Vane would not have been killed.
- Geoffrey is not compassionate for this man, the death has “spoiled” his “shooting for the day” – shows the little regard he has for the lower classes.
- Dorian believes the death is a “bad omen”, however once he sees the face of the man who was shot he lets out a “cry of joy” as it was James Vane. He then knew “he was safe” and was relieved.
- Lord Henry dips his “white fingers into a red copper bowl”, this could be interpreted as his corruption of Dorian, from “rose white boyhood” to the “sins of scarlet”. Lord Henry says “Pray don’t change” which is highly ironic as he already has due to Lord Henry.
- Dorian is trying to put things right, “I began my good actions yesterday”, he is very proud of himself as he chose not to corrupt a young girl, “Hetty”, a lower class country girl. Dorian was “determined to leave her as flower-like as I had found her”. However Lord Henry ruins his good mood by saying that he has broke this young girl’s heart, and that she’ll never be “content with anyone of her own rank”. Dorian is hurt, “You mock at everything”.
- Dorian tries to open up about Basil’s death, “What do you think has happened to Basil?” He almost tries to confess, “Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?” “What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?” Lord Henry brushes these off, saying that Basil was “really rather dull” and thus would not have been murdered and that it was not in Dorian to commit a murder.
- Narration in this section is not typical of gothic literature as there’s good weather “a lovely night”, free direct speech.
- A young girl told Dorian that he couldn’t be “wicked” because “wicked people were always very old and very ugly” – Dorian is now tired of being ugly in soul, he wants to reform and become better – he’s desperate to change back to his former self, “He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of boyhood.”
- He looks in the mirror sees his face and realises what he really is, “His beauty had been to him but a mask”. He smashes the mirror, a bad omen, foreshadowing what will happen at the end of the chapter.
- Everybody who could reveal his secret is dead, James Vane, Basil, Alan Campbell (who shot himself in his lab), all these people died because of him.
- “Basil had said things to him that were unbearable”- he still doesn’t accept full responsibility.
- Dorian thinks of Hetty and wonders whether the portrait’s changing back, he goes upstairs to look, and yet the painting has grown worse, “like blood newly spilt”. He realises that he only did his one good deed to appease himself and make himself feel better, a very selfish act. He realises there’s no escape and that he has to destroy the painting, “He would destroy it.”, this vow is so that he can try to escape
- Dorian uses the “knife that stabbed Basil Hallward”, symbolic as it kills the painter and the painting, “As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work.” He feels that “he would be free”.
- Dorian stabs the painting and is dead on the floor, the painting has been reverted to his “exquisite youth and beauty” and on the floor was a “dead man” with a “knife in his heart.” He has changed to the image of the picture, “withered, wrinkled and loathsome of visage.”
Good luck to all of you who have the English Literature AS exam tomorrow like I do, you’ll all do great :)
Thanks for reading all this year and I look forward to writing new stuff for A Level!!