During wars, groups are often …

11 November 2018

During wars, groups are often outcast and victimised.

W.H. Auden and Wilfred Owen attempt to explore these themes of alienation and victimisation further in their poems. Owen’s poem, written in 1917, features a proud young man turned society’s outcast as a result of the horrors of war, looked down on because of his disabilities. Per contra, Auden’s “Refugee Blues”, written in 1939, focuses on Jewish refugees who are fleeing Nazi Germany and the way society mistreats them. Firstly, in “Refugee Blues”, Auden presents these two themes by dehumanising the refugees. This signals out the refugees as different and thus alienates them.

During wars, groups are often … Essay Example

One of the ways this is achieved is by comparing the refugees and animals, with the latter described as having more freedom; for example, birds can sing “at their ease” as “they weren’t the human race”. This is ironic as animals are normally caged whereas refugees are not. Animals are also treated better than refugees: although cats are “let in” by people, there is still “no place” for the refugees. Another way the writer degrades the refugees is through his use of perspective. Not only does Auden write in first person as a refugee, he also includes “my dear” in the last line of every stanza. This is used to constantly remind the audience that the refugees are indeed human, and is used to contrast and emphasise the way they are dehumanised and mistreated. Likewise, the soldier in “Disabled” is dehumanised to portray his loneliness.

The effects the war had on him has not only separated him from society but bodily functions too. However, the way Owen does this different to that of Auden: he describes the soldier’s encounters with girls to convey this, such as when they “touch him like some queer disease”. This simile is effective as it suggests that they do not attempt to mask their disgust of him, and the use of “queer” makes it more powerful as it brings up connotations of homosexuality which was strongly rejected during the time this poem was written. The final lines of the poem also states that the girls prefer “the strong men” who are “whole”, which clearly separates the soldier from the other men in the society, as well as victimising him since he is less admired than his counterparts. In “Refugee Blues”, the poem depicts the refugees’ segregation by describing their lack of hope. A noticeable feature used to convey this intention is Auden’s use of the tenses. In each stanza of three lines, the first two are written in past tense, and the last written in present tense, directed at someone else.

The lines written in past tense describe all the methods the refugees have tried in order to improve their situation, such as going to consuls, committees, and meetings. However, the lines in present tense suggest that the problem has still not been resolved. Auden also conveys their despair is by using a detached tone. Although faced with many struggles, there is no emotional response from the refugee. This causes the audience to believe that the refugees have accepted their fate. These techniques lead to the audience perceiving the refugees as helpless, and alone in the sense that nobody is there to help them. On the other hand, Owen writes about a sense of regret in the soldier to present the two themes.

Imagery is used when the soldier shivers in his “ghastly suit of grey”, which may signify a uniform, and may therefore be a metaphor for the regrets he cannot let go of. The writer also adopts a sombre and melancholic tone upon using juxtaposition to portray that the boys’ “voices of play and pleasure” are “saddening” to the soldier. Owen also employs irony to present the soldier as a victim. The soldier lied about his own age to serve his country and impress “his Meg”, yet returned to unwelcome glances as he was disabled. Another way Auden alienates and victimises the refugees is by mocking how society treats them. He chose the title of “Refugee Blues” to associate it with enslaved Blacks, who developed Blues music. The Blacks were segregated and looked down on by society during the time this poem was written.

These negative connotations may cause the audience to perceive the refugees as helpless victims. Furthermore, the writer describes the uselessness and lack of public support. The refugees are “offered a chair”, which suggests that they are only given temporary support and shelter before abandoning them. The implied absence of concern for the refugees secludes them, as well as further victimising them, as the refugees would not need help if they were well off. Similarly, the way the public behaved to the disabled is also criticised in “Disabled”. The idea that “war is just a game” recurs throughout the poem, which was advocated by the government to encourage men to join the army. This is mocked by the writer, which is emphasised when he uses a chiasmus in “some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal”.

The capitalised Goal may refer to his high hopes and successful life before the war, met with downhearted responses upon arriving home. This is also the shortest stanza in the poem, which suggests that the welcome and “thanks” he received were insincere and short. This causes the audience to think that the soldier was victim to lies and false hope, then cast aside by the public. Owen and Auden both communicate their view that war only results negatively to the audience. Their two poems are very different, in terms of perspectives and ideas, yet the message conveyed are very similar. “Disabled” expresses the regrets, remorse and painful sacrifices one has to make for wars, whilst “Refugee Blues” focuses more on the acceptance of reality and acknowledging their alienation. However, both poems include a jarring ending.

“Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro: looking for you and me” brings the reader back to the bigger picture that the refugees are being hunted and are fleeing for their lives, in contrast to the general public who are safe and sound in their homes. “How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come and put him into bed?” is full of pain and sorrow. He no longer has anything to look forwards to every day, having “thrown away his legs” for the war and spends his time thinking about his regrets. These two poems leave a traumatic effect on the reader; and ultimately, a vast sense of alienation and isolation that the two poets were trying to convey.

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