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Comparison between Tennyson’s Charge of the light brigade and Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

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During this essay I am going to try and prove to you that these two war poems have a different meaning to them and a different message behind them. Obviously they are both trying to get the point across about what the poets believe war to be like but I feel Wilfred Owen’s poem is a lot more detailed whereas Alfred Lord Tennyson’s has a more vague approach! Firstly, I will discuss Tennyson’s impression of war and how he shows us that war is full of honour, bravery and heroism. Throughout this poem Tennyson sticks to a very brief description of soldiers, death and general war!

Tennyson is trying to tell us that the soldiers who fought in this war were brave and should be honoured and respected. Proof of this is in the quote ‘Honour the charge they made’. From Tennyson’s point of view he must of felt that the soldiers were brave and courageous enough for us to honour them which is asked of us in this quote. In this poem it is as if there is no hope for these soldiers, like they are already dead and this effect is proven by many of the gloomy quotes which are portrayed throughout the poem- “while horse and hero fell” emphasising the word “fell”.

Many of the quotes in ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ are negative because when we read these lines it makes the soldiers sound more brave and heroic, as they already knew they were going to die but they still went ahead and fought for their country. If Tennyson is trying to get the impression across that people who fight for their country are brave and heroic then he has achieved this in my eyes because even though they are risking their lives and probably will die they still do not back down from war.

We know that probably many of them are going to die because of the quote “into the valley of death”. This is an example of bravery at the highest level! Wilfred Owen has a different way of looking at war because he see’s it as a tragic place to be. As he has experienced war he obviously understands it better than Tennyson so therefore can be more detailed in his approach.

He almost definitely thinks of war as a devastating place because of how vigorously he describes pain and death in his poem! ‘ the blood come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,’ this is horrific because of how brutal it is. Just the thought of corrupted lungs is awful but Owen has been there so he knows what he is talking about therefore we cannot argue this point. Throughout the poem Owen focuses on just one person, no exact number is mentioned but he talks bout an individual on a number of occasions – ‘he’, ‘a man’ or ‘someone still was yelling’. Here an individual is singled out but in Tennyson’s poem he tends to stick to ‘they’, ‘them’ or even ‘the six hundred’.

I think we can put this close detail down to Owen’s experience in battle but Tennyson does not get as detailed because of his lack of knowledge about war! The war Tennyson is actually referring to is the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean war and because Tennyson’s information is only second hand, derived from other sources and people, we do not actually know for sure that what he is describing really did happen! Where as we could argue that as Owen did actually fight in world war one he needed no second hand information to write a poem.

So everything we read in ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ really did happen or something very similar to it happened! I will now show you how the two poems are different in detail starting with ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. Throughout this poem Tennyson uses one particular technique often and that is repetition. Many words or phrases in the poem occur at least more than once! I think this is to get the point across, for example in the phrase ‘jaws of death’ Tennyson is making us think of a predatory animal that is waiting to maim the light brigade. jaws ” is also a keyword in this phrase, it is repeated several times and creates the image of a ruthless animal.

The image of pointed evil teeth is made stronger by the repetition of the word ‘death’. There seems to be no surviving this charge, and this image of a ferocious animal along with the repetition of the word ‘death’ reinforces the line ‘do and die’. This quote gives me the impression that the soldiers are left with no choice, if they fight then they have no choice but to die, this really does get the point across that the soldiers were brave because they put their country before their life.

Along with repetition Tennyson also likes to use metaphors quite frequently in this poem and proof of this is in the line ‘storm’d at with shot and shell’, In this particular phrase shots are not just fired, they are hailed down on the soldiers as if it was a thunderstorm. Repetition on the letter ‘s’ gives an impression of a cannon firing past you or a sword flashing due to the sound of ‘s’. Onomatopoeic is shown because we can almost here the sword flashing passed as the ‘s’ is pronounced.

The three points that I feel Tennyson is trying to get across is that war is heroic, brave and honourable and the reason I think this is because of lines or quotes in the poem which really do strike you as being one of these three adjectives! Firstly ‘do and die ‘ shows heroism because they know they are going to die before they even fight so putting the war before their life is a brave and heroic thing to do, as if there is no escape, like they are trapped into death. So when writing this line Tennyson knows that it will catch the readers’ eye because of how plain and upfront it is.

The quote ‘plunged in the battery smoke’ also shows bravery because the six hundred are not just walking cautiously into the smoke they are plunging into the unknown. The word ‘plunging’ is emphasising the way they entered the smoke, they attacked the smoke with no fear, there could have been anything waiting for them in the smoke but they carried on. They do not care if the smoke is blocking their view, they bravely plunge through the smoke not knowing or caring what risk they are taking!

This is why I think these soldiers were brave. Boldly they rode and well’ – finally I think proves that Tennyson feels that soldiers who are willing to die for their country should be honoured and respected. Honour and pride is shown here as they rode together without fear as a force. Almost as if they were riding and nothing could stand in their way, so therefore very proud to be English! So these techniques such as metaphors, alliteration, similes and repetition are used to create an atmosphere in the poem to make it sound as brave or heroic as Tennyson likes!

Owen also creates atmosphere in his poem by using special writing techniques but in more depth. So if Tennyson writes ‘into the mouth of hell’ which is quite vague and could mean a number of things, Owen writes a more clear, definite meaning like – ‘Drunk with fatigue’ this obviously means that in battle the soldiers were wounded, exhausted and staggering around like drunk men do! I think Owen feels aggrieved and hatred about fighting in the war otherwise there would be no need to write such an extreme Poem.

The ‘guttering, choking, drowning’ quote almost suggests the chronological stages of death. The first stage is when the soldier ‘gutters’, this is onomatopoeic because ‘gutt’ almost sounds like when you swallow. Then the soldier chokes, probably on his own vomit. Finally, he drowns but not in water, he drowns in the smoke, which is extremely vivid! Also the quote ‘like a devil’s sick of sin’ is very striking because the devil is the most sinful person on earth but if he is getting sick of sinning then this has got to be a dreadful and frightening place to be.

This is a simile strengthening the image of a very injured mans face. This must mean that his face is in such a bad state that not even the devil could make it worse, not only does this create a depressing atmosphere but it creates a sense of sorrowful feeling as well. Owen makes war sound like hell and as if there is no point if all this pain and death that is going to take place. I think he is trying to tell us there is no need for it and is saying to those who think there is “just look what I have been through!

In the quote – ‘the blood Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs’, we are faced with an awful sight, and it makes it worse when we know that Wilfred Owen actually saw this. He makes it sound more awful as well by using enjambment! “blood” is purposely on a separate line to emphasise the fact that you cannot fight in a war without blood being exposed. Here, we also find the use of sound; the word ‘gargling’ is like the sound of a liquid in your mouth when you tilt your head back. This is also literal imagery as blood does actually come gargling.

This is extremely serious as heavy blood loss means death so in a way we could say that this person’s life is flowing out of his body! Another phrase that catches my eye as being harsh is ‘incurable sores on innocent tongues’. This is a fairly horrific because the sores are incurable therefore cannot be treated so either scarred for life or will die soon! What makes it even sadder is the word ‘innocent’, this word is an exaggeration in this case because these ‘innocent’ people have probably already killed in this war, which would mean them not really being innocent.

However, Owen uses the word ‘innocent ‘ because these men probably did not want to kill, almost as if they were forced to. Whichever way you look at it we know that Owen has experienced war so wants to share the brutal reality of it with us and wants us to know that it is horrific. I will now try and explain how Tennyson uses sound techniques to create atmosphere in ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. Throughout this poem Tennyson gives us a sense of how the horses and men are charging not just through the words he uses, such as ‘charge’, but also through the rhythm and pace of the whole poem.

This beat is necessary and effective as it adds to the sense of heroism and bravery that he was trying to create; you hear the horses plunging and galloping on. Also in ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ Tennyson adopts a dactylic metre and if you really stretch your imagination then this actually does resemble the sound of horses galloping. In the opening line ‘ Half a league, Half a league ‘ there is dactylic metre as we can hear the two unstressed syllables against just the one stressed.

This reminds the reader of heroism of the men as they charge relentlessly forward throughout the course of the poem. Another sound technique Tennyson uses is onomatopoeia, again to emphasis the thud of the horses’ hooves in their charge. Although he never mentions the word thud, he does use similar sounding words: ‘thunder’d’, ‘blunder’d’, ‘wondered’, ‘hundred’. This technique is not emphasising the meaning of the word it is focusing on the sound it creates. This sound is the ‘thud’, as if the horses were ‘thudding’ through the battlefield.

Also on many of these words there is an ” ‘d ” or a ” d’ ” and this is to also emphasise the ‘thud ‘ of the horses in the form of repetition. So when we hear horses galloping through the sound of the words we see heroism in the form of sound. Owen however does not concentrate on sound techniques as much, he prefers to rhyme with ‘sacks’ and ‘backs’ or ‘ sludge’ and ‘trudge’. Another way of creating atmosphere is the way he uses the effects of gas throughout the poem! The enemies main weapon in this poem is gas, although the word ‘ gas ‘ is only mentioned once it is referred to several times.

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime’ lime green is the colour of chlorine gas so Owen is making us think about the burning affects. Another phrase is ‘through a green sea’ here there is repetition of the colour of the gas but there is a change in elements, you cannot escape water. The metaphor is extended to link with the image of drowning so vision becomes blurred as it does in water. I am now at the end of my essay and hope that I have proved to you that these two poems about war are extremely different and that war can mean bravery and heroism or hell and disaster!

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