What picture of war does the poem create?

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Wilfred Owen wrote this powerful anti-war poem to paint a brutally realistic picture of death in combat. At a time when millions of young men were being told how glorious and great it is to serve in the military during wartime, Owen wanted to provide a stark reality check. Recruitment...

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Wilfred Owen wrote this powerful anti-war poem to paint a brutally realistic picture of death in combat. At a time when millions of young men were being told how glorious and great it is to serve in the military during wartime, Owen wanted to provide a stark reality check. Recruitment posters in England depicted soldiers in gallant uniforms standing tall, and songs were sung of the noble accomplishments of combat. However, Owen opens the poem up with a different image. Here, a long line of soldiers are shown as haggard and broken. They are "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks" and "Drunk with fatigue." There is nothing glorious about this image. Instead, we have Britain's youth disfigured by the privations of war, their humanity and dignity stripped away from them.

The second stanza suddenly and violently plunges the reader into the frantic chaos that is a gas attack. Owen describes the gruesome death of a soldier drowning in poison gas. There is nothing noble about this death. It is not a hero's death. It is just tragic, horrifying, and meaningless. The final stanza describes the pitiful corpse which has been "flung" onto a wagon. We, as readers, are meant to be horrified at this senseless loss of life.

Owen wanted everyone who had never experienced war to understand that it was not a glorious adventure. Rather, it was something dehumanizing and cruel beyond imagination. The image that this, and many of his other poems, depicts is one meant to shock and disturb. It is a picture of inhumane senselessness.

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