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The Sentry Analysis

Author: poem of Wilfred Owen Type: poem Views: 10

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We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,

And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell

Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.

Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime

Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,

Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.

What murk of air remained stank old, and sour

With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men

Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,

If not their corpses. . . .

                             There we herded from the blast

Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.

Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.

And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping

And splashing in the flood, deluging muck --

The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles

Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.

We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined

"O sir, my eyes -- I'm blind -- I'm blind, I'm blind!"

Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids

And said if he could see the least blurred light

He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.

"I can't," he sobbed.  Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids

Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there

In posting next for duty, and sending a scout

To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about

To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,

And one who would have drowned himself for good, --

I try not to remember these things now.

Let dread hark back for one word only:  how

Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,

And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,

Renewed most horribly whenever crumps

Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath --

Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout

"I see your lights!"  But ours had long died out.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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There is no theme of religion, there is a theme of anti-religion. Those who have been deeply affected by the war feel no need for idolised worship as the praying for themselves and loved ones has not done them good, i.e. loss of faith.
//Rowan McIntosh, 14, Tring School, Hertfordshire, England.

| Posted on 2015-02-08 | by a guest

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Maybe he is talking about how war afecting his personal life. When he was dating florence knightinghale he was happy bu the war made him sad.
also she was very shouty

| Posted on 2015-01-29 | by a guest

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There are a few personifications in this poem..."for shell on frantic shell"."...chocked up the stairs" and "...under the shrieking air". By giving these inanimate objects (shell,stairs and air) an attribution of human nature, I believe Owen is stressing the importance of these lines to this poem. Owen's use of onomatopoeic words such as "Thud! Flump! Thud!" Further demonstrates his skills in making the readers understand the kind of hell him and his men went through. Its Owen's intention getting his readers to empathise and pity those that suffered or died from the War.

| Posted on 2015-01-11 | by a guest

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what does it mean when Owen says "watch my dreams still--yet i forget him there"

| Posted on 2014-03-26 | by a guest

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There is a juxtaposition between light and darkness at the end of the poem. Light becomes death and Dark becomes life due to the effects that the war had on soldiers.

| Posted on 2014-03-18 | by a guest

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\"the Sentry\"
Right from the first few lines we see how the violence is continuous from the un even rhythm and the verb HAMMERED to shows the repetitions of the bombs falling.
the fact that owen uses the word waterfall to describe the water flowing like slime owen is trying to get into our head that this is so horrible that he uses waterfall which is something of beauty.

| Posted on 2012-09-26 | by a guest

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Thanks for all your comments, it really helped.
By the way just in case you want some extra information...The Sentry was written in 1917-1918, Owen first started writing it while receiving hospital treatment at Craiglockhart and finished it in September (1918) in France!

| Posted on 2012-09-11 | by a guest

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so grateful. helped me understand the poem immensely :)

| Posted on 2012-03-25 | by a guest

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the sentry is a complicated poem so read the comments above to understand it, because i dont.

| Posted on 2012-03-12 | by a guest

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I think Owen feels hopeless in The Sentry, because the light described in the poem, although does describe the physical light, represents hope and heaven. He says “ours had long gone out”, meaning that his hope had already disappeared. It also speaks on behalf of all those fighting at the time, as “ours” is plural even though throughout the whole poem, it seems like the Sentry has been talking to Owen only. It could represent the Sentry seeing ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’, dying and rising to heaven. The fact that “[theirs] had long gone out” may show that they were still in the hell which is Earth. Another interpretation could be faith in God. The last line is ambiguous and blurred in meaning to the reader. Lastly, “long” shows that it has been on Owen’s mind for a long time already. I also think Owen feels haunted by the image of the Sentry’s eyes because he states that they “watch [his] dreams still”. The word “still” shows that it should not or was not expected to appear after the incident. To the reader, the imagery of the “eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids’” also sticks in the mind because of the grotesque yet vivid impression it makes. On the other hand, it is not easy for the reader to dream of the eyes, as they never witnessed it, showing how morbid it was for Owen to see. Owen “[tries] not to remember these things now”, showing that he would like to forget everything that has happened. Also, it is the only part of the poem that is in present tense, bringing the reader back up to speed. It suggests that he is saying these things to try and rid them from his mind, as it is no longer a description or account.
Rhetorical devices:
Internal rhyme – gives a repetitive effect of the attack and irregulates the rhyme scheme, showing the panic and confusion caused
“And gave us hell; for shell on frantic shell”
Repetition – like internal rhyme, reminds us of the relentless attack of the bombs and the frequency of each drop
“ruck on ruck”
Alliteration – “waterfalls of slime/kept slush waist-high” => sibilance suggests evil and how even nature has become an enemy, while keeping the noise of water movement
“clay to climb” => gives the effect of feeling stuck
“Buffeting eyes and breath” => plosive alliteration to trigger the suddenness of the attack and imitates noises of the explosions (next lines describe the results of the bomb)
“steep steps” => sibilance shows how slippery the trenches were
“huge-bulged like squids’” => the j noise adds to the revolting image of the sea creature
“dense din” => give a heavy strain, such that the soldiers would have felt both physically and mentally
Onomatopoeia => represents panic and struggle incited by the bomb attack, and panics the reader
“thumping and sploshing”
Punctuation => dashes, colons, semicolons, ellipses, commas and full stops break up sentences mirroring the movements and noises as well as the chaotic environment or the bombing
“If not their corpses . . .”
Direct speech => only the Sentry’s speech is used, perhaps because he suffered the worst in this attack and in most attacks, and is the subject of the poem. It may represent no matter what could have been said, the soldiers’ voices would not have been heard by the government anyway
Figurative language => the horrid sights, sounds, smells, etc cannot be easily imagined without metaphors and similes, so the surroundings are more vividly portrayed
“huge-bulged like squids’”
Verbs => show the speed and nature of the actions of the bombs, soldiers and the Sentry

| Posted on 2012-02-19 | by a guest

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please can somebody explain the story to me but not to long and easy to understand
thanks- student at chilton cantelo school somerset-yeovil

| Posted on 2011-12-29 | by a guest

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i think its really good and it shows emotions in way.

| Posted on 2011-12-09 | by a guest

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how is it written ... like is it iambic ect? help please. dead stuck,
writers block girl

| Posted on 2011-11-08 | by a guest

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is there a theme of religion in the sentry if so what is it?

| Posted on 2011-10-30 | by a guest

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the imagery in the poem is hard hitting, as it is supposed to create fear, it makes us feel unconfortable :)
posted by carlie

| Posted on 2011-05-21 | by a guest

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is there any personification in this poem,if so what is it? thanks

| Posted on 2011-01-23 | by a guest

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can you please talk about the onomatopoeic effects in the poem.
Thanx a ton,in advance!

| Posted on 2010-11-21 | by a guest

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thnx guys ur answers hve rlly helped me, u lot r rlly intelligent keep up de gd wrk, thnx ALOT

| Posted on 2010-11-06 | by a guest

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so what does form and structure in the sentry show? if there is any?

| Posted on 2010-10-20 | by a guest

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This poem is a memory of a ex-soldier telling the audience of a sentry who was shelled and blinded. The description used tells the people of the gruesome things in warfare, counteracting the efforts of other people who try to convince people to join the war. This poem is also used to depict many things such as religion and generally owen\'s view on the war.

| Posted on 2010-09-04 | by a guest

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In " the sentry" wilfred owen leaves horrific images in the reader's mind because its
A. it was witnessed
B. Because it proved a point about the war
14 year girl

| Posted on 2010-05-07 | by a guest

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i love this first comment
it has so helped me write my essay!!!!

| Posted on 2009-11-25 | by a guest

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'The Sentry' was written by Owen as a result of a horrific incident the poet witnessed in the trenches of World War One, in particular, on the Somme; tells the reader of the terrible conditions and experiences that the men endured throughout the war. He focuses on a particular memory of when a sentry was blasted from his post and was blinded. Owens description of this traumatising event evokes clear images in the reader's mind and it becomes even more poignant when we consider this is a real life experience of the poet. Owens poems were particularly shocking as the citizens of Britain were led to believe other prominent war poets such as Jessie Pope and Rupert Brooke’s idealized version of warfare.
Alliteration is a language technique used frequently in Wilfred Owens poems to present warfare; Owen repeats different letters to give a different sound and attitude to each poem. The use of alliteration in ‘The Sentry’ on the letter t in the sentence ‘And the wild chattering of his shivered teeth’ gives a broken sound to the sentence, mirroring the fragmentation of the soldiers lives. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ also uses alliteration of the letter t in the phrase ‘stuttering rifles rapid rattle’ although Owen uses this alliteration to replicate the sounds of the battlefield as it creates a harsh resonance to the poem.
‘The Sentry’ uses repetition as a sound device. The line, ‘And gave us hell; for shell on frantic shell’ and ‘mud in ruck on ruck.’ establishes a regular rhythm which portrays the relentlessness in which Owens regiment were attacked. Repetition is also used the ‘The Last Laugh’ in two of the lines, ‘vain! vain! vain!’ and ‘Tut-tut! Tut-tut!’. This repetition creates a rhythm that gives the poem a hectic, energetic feel that mirrors the chaos and urgency on the battlefield. This is also the same effect that the alliteration creates in ‘The Sentry’.
Word choice in ‘The Sentry’ is used to create a vivid mental image;
"I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still;
The word choice of ‘squids’ gives the reader a repulsive image that also helps Owen imply that in World War I this kind of experience was a regular occurrence. The phrase ‘Watch my dreams still,’ has connotations of being haunted, as in ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ where the effect is markedly more unsettling because of the word choices;
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
The verbs ‘guttering, choking, drowning.’ bring action to the poem and therefore mimicking the action on the battlefield; this helps Owen present the experience of warfare as an unnecessary battle between countries. The word ‘helpless’ also suggests a certain helplessness on behalf of the soldiers. This could also be a criticism of the Government as they are leaving them unprepared, and this causes the deaths in the army.
In ‘The Sentry’ religion is a theme that the focus is not directly until the last line, where the blinded sentry shouts, ‘I see your lights!’ The light is a symbol of religion which could be interpreted in two ways. The first sentence of the line could talk about the Sentry’s death, with the light representing cliché ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’, bringing a positive outlook of death. However the last sentence, ‘But ours had long died out.’ counteracts the positive image the reader sees with the idea if the soldiers ‘flames’ being their faith in religion. The feeling evoked is that the loss of light is their loss of faith in God and they are therefore condemned to hell for their actions whilst fighting in the War. This idea also corroborates with Owens feelings towards the Church, as he abandoned his Evangelical religion and in a letter to his mother wrote, ‘There is a point where blasphemy becomes indistinguishable from prayer.’ Another poem that echoes this sentiment is ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ in the way that the poem talks of having ‘no prayers nor bells;’. This poem, although being centred around religion isn’t expressing a loss of faith but saying that religion isn’t enough to save them. This presents warfare as unnecessary evil, and soldiers are being sent to hell for fighting for their country, which they are led to believe is honourable thing by war poets such as Jessie Pope.
Pathetic fallacy presents nature as a theme of ‘The Sentry’. The lines;
Rain guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist-high and rising hour by hour
These two lines encapsulates the idea that nature has become the British Armies enemies and that the Germans have become less of a threat in comparison. The use of pathetic fallacy gives the poem an aura of inevitability and the rain seems to give the poem a sinister tone. In this sense Owen presents the experience of war as a regrettable, dark one. This idea also links in with the poem ‘Futility’ where pathetic fallacy is a technique also used. The use of the technique on the words ‘sun’ and ‘snow’ gives the poem different contrasting ideas of hope and despair. It also reflects peoples different opinions of war; the sun being the citizens of Britain who have only heard the patriotic war poetry written by Jessie Pope and other significant war poets, and the snow being the soldiers bleak, negative but realistic view of it, as they can speak from personal x is used in the poem ‘The Sentry’ to present warfare as a dehumanising experience. The phrase ‘frantic shell’ personifies the weaponry, with the word ‘frantic’ creating a chaotic image. The personification of the weaponry devalues the soldiers to the level of the weapons, suggesting that the soldiers are non-entities to the Government, like the weapons. This also links into the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ where the soldiers are called ‘cattle’ suggesting that the soldiers are simply a mass of animals that can be easily massacred. Owen in these two poems effectively shows his resentment towards the Government and emphasises the fact that some soldiers experience of warfare is frenzied but short-lived.
In ‘The Sentry’ opens with the use iambic pentameter however the regular rhythm then descends into chaos as other examples of pentameter such as trochaic in the line ‘Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime’, by using more than one form of pentameter Owen reflects the action and turmoil on the battlefield, however by keeping many of lines within the pentameter scheme Owen replicates the experience of the relentlessness assault that the British soldiers were under on the front line.
Rhythmically in ‘The Sentry’ the pentameter is interrupted by the use of caesura, which creates a disjointed effect that fits the disturbing nature of warfare. This is evident in the line ‘And gave us hell; for shell on frantic shell’. The semi-colon interrupts the flow that is created by the pentameter and echoes the experience that warfare has had on the soldiers; showing that the soldiers lives have been suspended by the war.

| Posted on 2009-11-01 | by a guest

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The idea of the Sentry seeing a light at the end of the poem could be an allusion to the religious idea of "seeing a light at the end of the tunnel", implying he is in a near-death state. The idea of the soldier's light's dying out could possibly be symbollic of their hopes dying out or their lives.

| Posted on 2009-05-19 | by a guest

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This poem is an accurate and detailed account of an actual event that occurred while Owen’s company were occupying a German dugout on the front line. During the poem, Owen describes the conditions of the waterlogged dugout as it is hammered by explosions, until a sentry he had posted was blasted into the dugout by an explosion. He then goes on to describe the soldier himself, and how his appearance and sobbing haunted Owen in his dreams.
The language throughout the poem is simple and, for the most part, in Anglo Saxon –based vocabulary, which lends its defining trait of gritty texture and onomatopoeia to the poem to great effect. ‘Hammered on top’, referring to the shelling, gives a powerful impression of the relentless assault on the aural sense the soldiers suffered, and this is further depicted later on in the poem with the phrase ‘shrieking air’, which likens the sounds of war to an almost inhuman and banshee-like scream. ‘What murk of air remained stank old, and sour’ focuses on the sensation of smell, and along with the visual and tactilic description of the ‘guttering’ rain compared to slime, and the dugout steps ‘too thick with clay to climb’ paint the scene in the full spectrum of human sensation.
The sounds of the words are a main tool of Wilfred Owen’s poems, and this poem is no exception. In the opening lines, he uses a combination of repetition and rhyme in ‘…hell, for shell on frantic shell’ and ‘hour by hour…sour’ to establish the cadence, and this, along with the heavy dull sounds of ‘thud! flump! thud!’ later in the poem all reinforce the reference to an endless hammering, and the continuity strengthens the impression of the ceaseless barrage. To describe the shells as frantic gives a sense of the terror and confusion they inspired, but also blurs the distinction between objects and humans, in a similar way in which he insinuated that soldiers had been dehumanized and ‘die as cattle’ in Anthem for Doomed Youth.
The sentry himself is introduced as being distinct from his physical being, with ‘The sentry’s body’, making him seem like nothing more than an object possessed by life rather than a living human being. In my opinion, the most effective simile Wilfred Owen employs in the poem is comparing the sentry’s ‘huge-bulged’ eyes to those of a squid, as the grotesque and slimy sea creature being related to a person’s eyes, which have associations of beauty and innocence, is powerfully incongruous. The other soldiers are later described as ‘Those other wretches’, continuing the theme of war’s dehumanizing effect.
The alliteration of the ‘t’ sound in ‘wild chattering of his broken teeth’ emphasises what is already an unpleasant image, through the rattling of the consonant, and this again displays how Owen ensured that his poetry was effective not only through the power and horror of his topic, but through the sounds and rhythm the words create.
The final line, where the sentry claims to see what he mistakes for the light of a candle flame is especially powerful due to it ambiguity; what the source of the light the sentry sees is, is left unanswered, and the fact that ‘ours had long died out’ could be interpreted to be referring to either candle light, or, more abstractly, the light of hope.
In conclusion, Wilfred Owen utilises simple language rooted in the basic Anglo Saxon English his fellow soldiers would have been able to understand, alongside powerful and detailed realism to accurately portray a horrifying example of the effects of war that he experienced first hand, and how they seemed to force one to assume a state of mind which overlooked the humanity of those in your company.
Barney George Low 2009-01-25

| Posted on 2009-01-26 | by a guest

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