“Facing it” by Yusef Komunyakaa and “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, are two powerful poems with the graphical life like images on the reality of war. It is apparent that the authors was a soldier who experienced some of the most gruesome images of World War l. In “Ducle et Decorum Est” Owen tells us about a personal experience in which he survived a chemical warfare attack. Although he survives, some of his fellow troops do not. As in “Facing It” Komunyakaa is also a soldier who has survived a war. Komunyakaa response to his war experience is deeply shaped by his visit to Lin’s memorial.
Inspired by the monument, Komunyakaa confronts his conflicted feelings about Vietnam, its legacy, and even more broadly, the part race plays in America. Both author used imagery and symbolism as they wrote these poems. Owens describes the soldiers as being crippled, mentally and physically overcome by the weight of their experiences in the war. He compares the young men to “old beggars under sacks”, saying that war turns young men with a full life ahead of them, and optimistic views into beggars that have given up on life and believe that life is never going to get any better (lines 1 and 2).
The imagery that he uses allows us to see how gruesome the war really was, and how it was not Just something that was glorious and honorable. In the second stanza Owens continues to use similes to show imagery, while ecstasy usually means, an excessive amount of happiness, here it is used to describe how young me are shocked into trying to run for their lives from “Gas! (linel). As where Komunyakaa describes himself as a black person that hides in the darkness of that granite (line 1 and 2).
Komuyakaa stands at the memorial realizing that is more that it appears; it is not Just cold stone, but omething he identifies with on a more deep and profound level. It is this deeper meaning that inspires his emotional response in lines 3-5. These Loading… Manning Page 3 lines show both his past emotional struggle as well as his present one. For Komuyakaa, this memorial does not awaken in him new emotions but old reoccurring ones; ones which he fghts to contain with little success, although he came to the memorial with the knowledge that he would find it a highly emotional experience.
He struggles to internalize his emotions, telling himself he is stone, like the granite emorial, a strong and steady reminder of the past, but he fails as he realizes the difference between him and the memorial: he is a living human being. He shares the darkness, the blackness, with the granite memorial, yet he can feel the full impact of this connection whereas a granite memorial cannot itself feel the pain that it directly represents. The overall moral of the poems is fairly up front for the reader.
It is that war is not how stories make it sound, it is not honorable and fun and glorious, it is gruesome, deadly, and changes the lives of many young men and women who still ad a lot of life and innocence left in front of them, and now all they will have are the memories of death and their friends dying in front of them. As Komuyakaa face becomes clear it now serves as a direct reminder of the emotional impact of his surroundings upon him, through mirroring his own face and also by simultaneously illuminating his surroundings and his silhouetted existence within these surroundings, reminding him that he stands within the Vietnam Memorial.
This effect is described within the (lines 8-13) His constant turning and moving trom angle to ngle also suggests emotion as he cannot view the memorial from a single stationary vantage point but must shift back and forth, fully aware of the effect each shift of movement has upon his perceptions of both himself and the memorial, which are directly correlated with his emotions. As for Owens, in the third stanza he is speaking directly to the government officials, and the people that made the propaganda, (lines 21-25) are all quotes that prove that he is speaking to government officials.
Owen is speaking as if he is angry with the government. In (lines14-16) Komunyakaa draws ttention to the reality and magnitude of loss through stating the exact number of men killed. However, he also underscores his inability to fully accept this reality by expecting his own name to be present, and written “like Loading… Manning Page 4 smoke”. Smoke adds a surreal quality, as smoke vanishes almost as it appears, and is a direct contrast to the memorial, with names permanently engraved of those who died and therefore whose names will never vanish.
The one name Komunyakaa reaches out and touches is that of Andrew Johnson in line 17. It’s as if he is blame himself for the death of his friend. Komunyakaa blames his self for not be able to save his friend. Owen is the same way as he describes his fellow troop dies from the gas attack. (line 16) Owen trys his best to save his fellow troops by yelling for the boys to put their mask on (line 9). To Komunyakaa, the names do not represent the loss of war, these names represent a multitude of individuals, and the memories he shared and events his witnessed with them.
However, as he in fact touches Andrew Johnson’s name, Komunyakaa finds that he did not share these men’s ultimate end. Komunyakaa own name does not appear on the memorial, and at best he can only isualize its presence existing in smoke, whereas he can reach out and touch the name of Andrew Johnson. In the beginning of the poem Komunyakaa visual perception has played tricks upon him but now he reaches out and touches the name of his comrade, and in doing so remembers he truly is dead and will never return, due to line 18.
As the speaker looks into the memorial, struggling to understand his past, his own reflection becomes elusive and enigmatic. Owen also finds that he did not share the same ultimate ending as his fellow soldier. Owen was able to put his gas mask on before the gas reached him. Komunyakaa finds a connection he shares with this veteran, as “he’s lost his right arm/inside the stone,” much as Komunyakaa head had vanished inside of the stone at the beginning of the poem (line 28-29).
The loss of the veteran’s arm insinuates a mutilated appendage, a casualty of the war, much as Komunyakaa peace of mind is also a casualty of the war. Komunyakaa has lost his peacefulness in a way that can never be undone, and again he watches others and finds it shocking that they can continue living normal lives and be in the presence of the memorial, without it hindering their ability to function n any noticeable way (lines 28-30) Komunyakaa interprets every movement as a product of his own overwhelmed mental state, rapid motion for Loading…
Manning Page 5 him can only symbolize emotion and turmoil which ends up falling short of reality. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mort” ends with the assertion that is a lie, and the disquieting story told is in itself enough to convince even the most stubborn. However, it is the use of striking comparisons and compelling metaphors that drives the author’s point home. To take the stance that death for one’s country is ghastly nd unbecoming is a bold move, as it could easily come across as un-patriotic.
The sentiment expressed by the author, however, is not against his country, but against the concept of war and what it does to those who are innocent. His observation is largely one of physical harm, but the reader is able to see the psychological harm done to the speaker through the event he has Just retold. The poem is an evocative look at the damage done by war, and the lack of glory thereof. Owen Juxtaposes the horrifying image of a soldier he helplessly watched die during an attack of poisoned as, a memory that haunts his dreams.
There is no glory in war, the poem shows, only terrible, unjustified suffering. Although others likely impacted in their own way, can still live normal lives and perform normal tasks in spite of the war, and in the presence of the memorial, whereas it takes Komunyakaa a moment to understand that a woman can stand in front of such a monument and perform a natural every day action such as brushing a boy’s hair. Both authors are impacted by the events that took place in the wars they were in and both authors came home with a different view of life.