Wilfred Owen: War Poems on the Important

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“My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” That is one of Wilfred Owen’s famous quotes demonstrating that he writes his opinion on the devastation of war and tries to inform the reader about it in his writing. I will be analysing one of the most well-known works of Wilfred Owen written in 1917, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. More specifically we will examine the themes of conflict and power throughout the poem and also how the Owen’s life is reflected in the poem. In the title, ‘Anthem for doomed youth’, Owen has captivated the reader by using such a powerful title speaking for all youth as if they are doomed and that this ‘anthem’ is a voice for them to regain power. Another statement Owen has made before you even begin to read the poem due to the form he used for the sonnet. This sonnet form is used usually for poems about romance and love however this poem is quite the opposite. Owen has focused this poem on all the negative aspects of war as he writes descriptively about the devastation that the war caused. Owen has created a powerful piece of writing as the poem makes the reader question have the countries and people been ignorant to the consequences of war and are, we all blind to how inhumane war actually is. In this poem, Owen forms a contrast between the harsh reality of war and the holiness of church rituals adding effect to the poem.

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The poem begins with an eye-opening comparison of the soldiers and cattle “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle” comparing the deaths of the soldiers as if they are livestock and how they will receive no passing bells for when they are potentially killed in the war. The next few lines create a loud atmosphere talking about the sounds of gunfire giving a frightening image of a loud atmosphere. Owen then makes church and religion references such as ‘no prayers nor bells’, ‘the choirs’ these are used to emphasising that there is no form of mourning on the battlefield, only the sounds of the ‘wailing shells’ which Owen compares to the sound of a choir. The author then asks the reader ‘what candles can be held to speed them all?’, then answers the question within itself as what candles? There are no candles to be used to mourn the soldiers. The poem then goes on to talk about the sad faces of the girls looking at the coffins of the fallen soldiers and the image of the flowers being placed on their graves. Owen then closes the poem using strong imagery saying ‘and each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds’ creating a vision of shutting blinds at dark representing the end of a chapter or life for these soldiers and their loved ones.

This poem was written by Owen using his own experiences and how he wrote it to inform others, so they do not have to witness the same war devastation that he did. In 1915, Wilfred Owen enlisted into the England army. He spent about a year training in England then he left for the western front in early 1917. Owen then experienced really heavy fighting causing him to then be diagnosed with shellshock. In June, Owen was taken to Craiglockhart war hospital. While he was there, he met a poet who was already relatively known as had the same opinions on war as Owen, Siegfried Sassoon. He looked at Owen’s works for him and encouraged him as well as introducing him to other known poets. By other poets reviewing Owen’s work it improved his writing in terms of style and his ability to focus on a concept when writing his poems. He then returned to battle during August in 1918 and then received the Military Cross for bravery in October. On the 4th of November 1918, Owen was attempting to lead his men across a canal in battle and unfortunately got himself killed. The poet Siegfried Sassoon, that he met when he was in the hospital, edited and published more of Owen’s works such as the war poems ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Owen had particularly strong political views in which reflected in this poem, one being pacifism. Pacifism is “the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.”

Wilfred Owen war poems  demonstrates this political view as it is about all the negative aspects of war and how all the innocent lives being lost is not right. Owen also demonstrates his beliefs and knowledge of his religion which was Christian. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ has many comparisons of war to religion as Owen makes horror-filled images of soldiers deaths and their mourning in war then comparing them with regular rituals of a religious ritual. Owen did this to demonstrate that war is absent of religion as it is so wrong that the soldiers do not receive their rightful mourning and religious funerals rituals that they deserve. This renowned piece of writing of Owen’s is still very relevant for contemporary readers as war is an ongoing occurrence in our world today. Owen highlights the brutality of war and the destruction it causes and uses this poem as a message for people so that they become aware of how terrible war is.

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