Wilfred Owen’s Disabled centers around a soldier who is physically and mentally disabled. The poem was written in 1917 while Owen was in Craig Lockhart recovering from shell shock. There, he would have seen many men like the one in the poem. The descriptions of injuries are gruesome, but reflect Owen’s first-hand experience of such sights. Owen gets a message about the reality of war and the falsehood of propaganda across through expressing thoughts and feelings expressed throughout the poem.
Owen establishes a feeling of sympathy by allowing the reader to realize the soldier has been deceived. This is evident in the line “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.” This line tells us that the army officials were desperate for as many recruits as possible and willfully ignorant of the consequences they could face. The verb “smile” suggests that the officials knew of the ‘lie’ he was telling. The caesura in the form of a colon lets the reader pause and realize what he is lying about. The word ‘smiling’ could also be referring to the excited and enthusiastic young men. The truth of his young age only increases the sympathetic feelings the reader has for him almost as if he has been tricked into the horrors of war. The writer constructs a feeling of loss through past and present shifts, contrast, and juxtaposition. This is evident when Owen uses flashbacks and juxtaposes “And girls glanced lovelier,” with “All of them touch him like some queer disease.” The alliteration of the letter ‘g’ emphasizes the romantic town he is now excluded from. The word glanced suggests a quick and flirtatious look. This contrasts with the simile “like a queer disease” which implies they now touch him strangely, inhumanely, and abnormally. “Queer” could also suggest homosexuality which was considered a mental disease at the time. The loss of attraction of the girls once had for him symbolizes the end of his pleasured life he once enjoyed and the beginning of the living death he now faces.
The poet creates feelings of loneliness and isolation through repetition. This is shown when Owen repeats “Why don't they come?” at the end of two separate lines. The rhetorical question implies the soldier’s loneliness and vulnerability.” They could also be referring to his friend and the girl who has left him after the war. It could also be a reference to the nurses who have passed on helping him.
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