The Ghost Road and The poems of Wilfred Owen

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In both ‘The Ghost Road’ and ‘The Poems of Wilfred Owen’, one sees the brutal effects of the First World War through the experiences of those directly involved, the soldiers. They suffered immensely, from shell shock, paralysis and also loneliness and homesickness. In Pat Barkers ‘The Ghost Road’ she concentrates mainly on two characters experiences, whilst Wilfred Owen portrays the feelings and experiences of the soldiers as a whole. By comparing and contrasting both of these textual sources, it is the intention to discover the true effects of the war and to question how much the portrayals of the war differ.

In the novel ‘The ghost road’ by Pat Barker, it begins with Billy Prior at the seaside in Bradford. He is watching people as they walk passed, he notices what he thinks to be a soldiers wife, this is because it says ‘Married, but the war, whether by widowing her or simply by taking her husband away,’ this show how soldiers wives are lone, and have no independence as they have to live with there parents. The wives of the soldiers are like the soldiers in away; this is because they are trapped like the soldiers yet they are trapped in a war that seems to them like its never going to be over.

Prior is getting ready to go back on the front line, because he fells it was his duty. Prior like Owen also had shell shock ‘ shell-shock, yes’. This is one of the major things during the war that affected soldiers; it would stay with them forever and influence the rest of there life. As in Wilfred Owens poem ‘Mental cases’ it shows how many soldiers were victims of the First World War therefore resulted in shell shock. In Owens poem it says ‘ Why they sit here in twilight? ‘, this means that only half of there mind is actually in reality the rest is still in the war.

In this poem like other poems by Owen there is a lot of references to hell, as it says ‘purgatorial shadows’. It also says ‘ Surely we have perished Sleeping, and walking, and walk hell; but who these hellish? ‘ Owen here is questioning his own mind; he wonders where he is, is he actually in hell himself. The first stanza is very effective, this is because there is a lot of questions, which will make the reader want to read on, so they can find the answers to. Then the second stanza provides all the answers for the questions.

As one continues reading on it becomes clear that it is set in a mental asylum, where it seems as all the men in it were previously soldiers who are suffering from shell shock, just like Prior and Owen in ‘The Ghost Road’. In ‘Mental Cases’ it says ‘these are men whose minds the dead have ravished… Multitudinous murders they once witnessed. ‘ this shows how they are haunted by the murders they have watch of fellow soldiers and this will never leave them. In Owens poem ‘Dulce et decorum Est. ‘ it describes a soldier dying from a gas attack.

The poem starts off with ‘Bent doubled, like old beggars under sacks,’ this shows the way in which the soldiers are walking and what they look like, they are walking like this because they are exhausted, it also says how they look like ‘old beggars’ this is because they’re exhaustion is show all over their face and they are all muddy and undesirable like beggars would look. It then goes on to say ‘ Till on the haunting flares we turned our back,’ the word ‘haunting’ suggest that the soldiers are struggling to forget the memories of war, but this is made harder because they are constantly been reminded of it.

The poem then goes on to say ‘towards our distant rest began to trudge’ this could mean that they are preparing for their death because that is the only rest and peace they will ever get. It then says ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! ‘ this suggest a gas attack. It then says ‘ Fitting the clumsy helmets in time’ this suggests that all the men have managed to get their helmet on in time, but that’s not the case. ‘But someone still was yelling out and stumbling’ this shows how someone hasn’t been able to put his hat on in time.

Owen then goes on to say how ‘ in all my dreams, before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, chocking, drowning. ‘ This shows how this situation of helplessness has effected Owen, he can not forget it and its in all his dreams ‘haunting’ him. Owen then goes on to describe the mans physical appearance which is disturbing, as it says ‘ His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;’ his means that the man is so sick of life, he looks the devil, sick of sin.

Owen then addresses the reader, asking one to ‘ hear, every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud… ‘ here Owen is suggesting that the death is ‘obscene as cancer’ this death must be disturbing because cancer is a vile way to die, cancer strips all your dignity away, the soldier must be experiencing the same. Owen ends the poem with ‘ The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori,’ which means it is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country, yet he now knows that this is a lie, and that many soldiers have been deceived by believing this.

This poem generally shows the reader how disturbing the war was and how hard it is to forget the terrible things the soldiers witnessed day in day out, the poem explains why so may men in the war suffered from shell shock. Like Prior in ‘The Ghost Road’ who suffers from shell shock, little things trigger it off. The war made the soldiers lustful and lonely.

In ‘The Ghost Road’ Prior meets someone called Elina, who he has sex with, but he has to pay for it that’s how desperate for love he is, he notices ‘He got into bed, telling himself the cold damp patch under his left buttock was imagination. This shows also how the women were lonely also, and realizes the men were to and used this to their advantage and got men to pay for sex. During sex Prior moans as it says ‘ Ah, he cried, more with shock than pleasue’ Elina goes on to say ‘What’s the marra with you? ‘ and Prior answers with ‘ I thought I could smell gas’. This shows how the war has prevented him from living his life, because the smell of gas brought back all the memories of war, even at a time wear he was meant to enjoying.

It also say ‘he forgot her’ more or less straight away this is because she is one of many he has slept with. Then it says ‘bent doubled.. ‘ this taken from Owens poem ‘Dulce et decorum est’ By comparing and contrasting the portrayal and feelings of soldiers of World War one in the two chosen sources, it has been discovered that the Authors portrayed similar effects and experiences of war. The view of war that Pat Barker portrays can be supported and expanded by reading the poetry of Wilfred Owen.

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