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The implications of the war in Ian McEwan's ‘Atonement' and Wilfred Owen's poetry go far beyond putting their work into a historical perspective. The war's true importance in ‘Atonement' is to help delve deeper into the psyche of a character that has lost all consciousness of reality in this way Owen uses war as a symbol of the tragedy of human life. Both texts reflect on the idea that suffering, waste, violence and evil are the necessary conditions of human life and more importantly they shed light on the unspoken soldier's experiences that could not have their story told in any other way. War in both 'Atonement' and in Owen's poetry is presented as a "nightmare" in which its corruptive power puts men in a degraded state of mind. Many men …show more content…
In Owen's poem ‘Exposure' the alliteration in "the frost will fasten on this mud and us" depicts the weather as determined and malicious, and similar repetition of the "f" sound in "pale flakes with fingering stealth" that "come feeling for our faces" seems to suggests the way the cold subtly infiltrates and clings to the body. The metaphor "fastening" and "fingering stealth" suggests the relentless and almost malign way in which the cold takes hold of the body, with the "merciless east winds" more deadly than "flights of bullets" highlighting the sheer severity of such conditions towards human life. The determination of the personified conditions is also apparent in ‘Atonement' when Robbie tries to run for his life despite the "rich soil clinging to his boots". The use of the verb "clinging" highlights how difficult the conditions were to survive in. McEwan can convey the conditions of war so vividly because his father would have passed his stories of war on to him meaning both writers are able to reveal how mundane details like mud can have such a devastating impact. It also conveys the desperation of the situation in which every man is for himself. Owen himself experienced the coldest winter in living memory. In January 1917 his men "had to lie out in the snow and the deadly wind", he wrote to his mother; for two days and two nights at Redan Ridge unable to move and one man did actually freeze to death as depicted in another of his poems ‘Futility.' In the poem ‘1914' Owen depicts war as the "winter of the world". The metaphor highlights the harsh conditions of reality with destructive verbs such as "whirled" and "down-hurled" creating a tone of despair and horror at the destruction wrought by the war on societies across the globe.

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