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Anthem For A Doomed Youth English Literature Essay

Owen writes the poem in an English sonnet form, and the rhyme scheme can be interpreted as: ABAB CDCD EFFE GG . The invisible string connects the whole poem is the sympathy for the soldiers who died  in one of the bloodiest battles in the history. The poem was written in the ironic tone, it sets the contradiction between the glory of death for country and the horror of the war where lives were taken for granted and unappreciated. The whole poem is filled with the lost feeling and the sadness which are articulated by various techniques such as irony, diction, imagery, simile, alliteration to express Owen’s feeling throughout the poem.

     The title “ ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth”, is an irony. An ‘anthem is “a rousing uplifting song to praise patriotism or it could also be a composition based on a biblical passage for singing by a choir in a church service” (Webster dictionary). Putting “anthem” in the title, Owen gives readers the impression about something glorious or solemn. However, the anthem is for ‘”doomed youth' which indicates a dreary concept of a no hope, no future young generation. The whole title expresses the ironic idea that completely opposite to what readers anticipated of a triumphant battle hymn.

   The poem opens with a question “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” The question asks for what method to use to honor the deaths of the soldiers. In battle when soldier dies, their unit may fire cannon, gun or at least solemnly play bagpipe to send them away. However, the soldiers in this poem were compared to the cattles. Owen uses simile technique in this line. He clearly communicates his thought just with few words about the stake of soldiers’ deaths. The poet is greatly dismay by the inhuman death of the young soldiers. He pictures them as if they are helpless animals in the chaotic herd. They are killed mechanically as the cattles lining up in the slaughterhouse. The second line was created as the given answer for the first question .There is no special ceremony for the soldiers there will be “only the monstrous anger of the guns”. Owen uses personification method to give the gun the “monstrous anger” which is infact the hatred and anger from the enemy. The “monstrous anger” of the gun would also suggests the loud sound of the guns as if the monster roaring angrily. Line third and fourth carrying out the same idea with the second line. Owen repeats the word “only “ to emphasize the brutality of war, there is nothing else but the loud and anger sound of gun and bomb.

“Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.”

Alliteration method is used to describe the sound of the guns with bullets being fired harshly and continuously: “stuttering”, “rattle” and “patter”.  The “r” sound appears frequently suggests the rapidity of the shots. Line two, three and four offer the answer for the first question: There is no bell, no music for the passing soldiers, there is only the sound of nonstop gunshots. To express the idea about the soldier’s sacrifice is ignored and unappreciated, Owen uses the series of negative sentences in line 5, 6,7 with repetition of “no” and “nor”.

“No mockeries now for them; no prayers or bells:

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs-

The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells:”

The choirs are described as a mad, horrific screech scary sound. The bullet shot out and the shell grieved by wailing. There is no ceremony, there is no prayer or mourning music for the soldiers. There is only the horrendous spooky sound to send them away. Owen seems to express his perception about the role of religion which in this case is not very powerful. In countries where religion has played very important role, the religious custom usually provides the most majestic relief. Wilfred Owen mentions the bell, prayers, candles choir, however their sounds are replaced with the modern tools of war that time as the noise of guns. The consolation of religion seems to have no place in the poem. They just make us to remember the needy, lack of peace at the time.

“And bugles calling them from sad shires”

“Bugles” would be sounded at funerals or would be sounded to call a retreat. The bugles sound to call the soldiers back to their “sad shires” which is the places the they would have come from. Owen wants to show readers that even though the young men died as cattle on the field, there are people still call for them to return to their homeland. The last sound of battle is the sound to call the soldiers home.

   The sestet part opened with another question. This part is a shift in focus from the octave. While the octave describe the reality of the deadly battle field, the sestet send reader to the transcendence.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?”

Candles is the symbol used at funeral as the guiding light for soul to find way to their afterlife. Owen uses candle image as if he wants to ask for a ceremony to speedily take the soldier out of the war,  to bring the horror to an end.

“Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.”

However, there is no candles. There is only the reflection of the comrade in the death soldier’s eyes. The tear, the reflection is the candles which is “glimmers” and “shine as light in the eyes of the soldiers.  

“The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds.”

Once somebody dies, his body is wrapped in cloths before being buried and they are sent away with flowers. In this poem, the poet shows us that  there is never a proper burial. There is no flowers, no pall for their funeral. Instead the grief of girls at home is the pall to cover the death body and the flowers are the tenderness thought in people’s mind.

“And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.”

Owen repeats the “d” consonant by using alliteration method to shows the stillness that covers the earth. The dusk of the day is when the sun about to set down and call it a day for its final rest. In this poem, the image of blinds being drawn for the soldiers lying dead on the battlefield would mean for them that it is time to rest because the dark is drawing near the place where they lay. The poem ends with the image of the closing blinds at the dusk of the day. It is a peaceful ending for the soldiers once they are on their way to their final resting place. The image plants in reader’s mind an emotional feeling of sympathy and emptiness.

 Owen, as a war soldier himself has successfully voiced his opinion about the horror and the terrible loss of the war.  His genuine sympathy for young soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the war is touching and it states the fact about war which is guns and deaths; there is nothing fancy about it. Through a subjective voice of the one who has experienced the war, reader realize the brutality of war, and share with the poet the sorrow of loss. The war goes on within the soul of those who survived, of those who grieved. Only for those “doomed youth”, once they lay down when the dusk draw, they are the one have seen the end of the war, and may they rest in peace.


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