What images are presented in the text?
The line “coughing like hags” tells me of men coughing their lungs out on the front line. This can be because of the rapid sickness present in the trenches or the use of chemical warfare (gas) during ww1. A hag is an older and usually ugly Woman, often times seen as a witch. Being compared to a hag shows that these soldiers are not in the best of health, and cough like their lungs are from someone much older.
The line “Men marched asleep” tells me that the soldiers in Wilfred Owen’s battalion were operating under a haze of drowsiness. Either due to the constant fire from the enemy or the fear of being sent over the trenches, these men are lacking in rest. Because of this, the men’s morale must have been incredibly low.
Finally the line “drunk with fatigue” tells me that the men are incredibly tired and weak, unable to properly function, they almost seem to be in a stupor. This tells the reader that the men at the end of their rope.
“An ecstasy of fumbling” – the word “ecstasy” paints the picture of these men in an almost trance-like state, outside of their normal consciousness.
Language techniques task:
In “coughing like hags” the language technique of Similes is used to compare the coughing of the soldiers to the coughing of “hags” – in popular fiction a word used to describe an old, ugly woman. This gives the reader the image that, through war, these soldiers have lost their youth and have become closer to death, as sick as a hag. This is also used to explain to the reader the horrors of what these young men have gone through, how when they were fed the lies that fighting for one’s country is glorious.
At the end of the poem, Wilfred Owen quotes an old Roman lyrical poet Horace Odes. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – translated means “It is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland” is not only used as the title of the poem but also as the main theme of the poem. Owen tells the reader that this idea is an “old lie” and uses his experiences in ww1 to prove this point.
In “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” emotive language is used in order to evoke an emotional response in the reader, as well as show them the horrors of a chlorine gas attack. It shows the image of a man floundering around, looking for relief where none can be found.