The Last Laugh by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen is regarded by historians as the leading poet of the First World War, known for his war poetry on the horrors of trench and gas warfare. His use of pararhyme, with its heavy reliance on consonance, was innovative and infact he was not the only poet at that time to use these particular techniques. Owen showcase the torture and the pain of the endless war using various figures of speech to make the readers feel the pain and sympathize with soldier’s condition. Owen has made use of excellent literary devices in two of his poems, “The Last laugh” and “The Next War”.

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The poem, “The Last Laugh” is full of onomatopoeic words and personification. The poet has given it regular stanza lengths but irregular line lengths and rhyme scheme. Three stanzas describe different reactions and exclamations by three different soldiers when these are hit by weapons. The soldiers’ responses are emotional but the weapons’ attacks are ferocious, callous and capricious. In the poem “The Next War”, the writer tells us about how irrational humans are. It is a powerful poem that points out the confusion of bravery and purpose.

The words are of a brave soldier, facing life and death struggle of war. The writer gives a very Dramatic opening to “The Last Laugh”, “Oh! Jesus Christ! I’m hit” We are not sure if he is praying or cursing. Wilfred Owen imagines that the bullets and machine guns do not care. Paradoxically they are even personified as dehumanized insensitive creatures that mock the victim with the sounds they make, “The Bullets chirped in vain, vain, vain”He has also made use of repetition and repeated the word “VAIN” to express the fact that weapons are unemotional.

In the first stanza the soldier’s answer is ambiguously religious. Owen uses various synonyms of laughter to express both the lack of concern for human life and to echo the onomatopoeic sounds of killing machines all along the poem , “Machine –guns chuckles –Tut tut! Tut- Tut! ”, “and the Big gun guffawed” , “splinters spat, and tittered. ”, “Bayonet;s long teeth grinned” , “Rabblesn of shells hooted and groaned. ”, “ and the gas hissed” The second young soldier appeals to his parents, either because he really means it or by force of habit.

But his childlike appearance is only reflected in death. The writer calls the shrapnel as “lofty” which is very ironic as it given the quality of God. Personification and consonance is used, the sound effect of fricative “s” is repeated, “splinters spat, and tittered” And called the dying soldier as “fool”. The third paragraph’s first line is filled with the effect of literary device consonance alliteration of consonant “l”, “My Love! one moaned. Love languid seemed his mood. The third soldier who is in love calls for his partner but he only ends up kissing the mud instead of the girl which is very ironic and parody of a romantic gesture is shown here. Along along the un rhythmic scheme the writer has made use of para- rhymes, “died”- “deeds”, “dad”-“dead”, ”mood”-“mud”, “grinned”-groaned”. At all the ending words here the poetic effect of the sount of consonant “d” is repeated. The young soldiers in the battlefield are abandoned both by fate and by their human relations. Their only companions are the weapons that deride them with their indiscriminate and random attacks.


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