Looking At Anthem For Doomed Youth English Literature Essay

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Few days before the end of World War I. The poem expresses the writer's own experiences and his criticism about the War. Owen excellently articulates various imagery techniques to convince readers that war is not as glorious as what people might think. Using the imagery which describes the fierceness and the mourning about war is Owen's main idea in this poem.

   Through Owen's eyes, the war is fierce and deadly. The poem opens with a question

"What passing bells for these who die as cattle?"(1).  Using the image "passing bells", the poet 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 soldier in this poem through the simile technique was compared to the cattle. Owen 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, harmless, docile creatures such as sheeps or cows in the chaotic herd. Those young men are  killed mechanically as the cattle lining up in the slaughterhouse. Owen conveys the inhumanity of these soldiers' deaths, and sympathizes to those who are died  for other's benefit.

In the second line: "Only the monstrous anger of the guns"(2),  Owen uses personification method to give the gun the "monstrous anger" which is in fact the hatred and anger from the enemy. It is ironic, strange and terrified to realize that the soldiers are being dehumanized, but the weapons of the war are becoming more human. The "monstrous anger" of the gun would also suggest the loud sound of the guns as if the monster roaring angrily. In line second, third and fourth Owen repeats the word "only " to emphasize the brutality of war. He describes the image of the riffles and says that there is nothing else but the loud and anger sound of gun and bomb for the soldier's funeral.

"Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle.

Can patter out their hasty orisons." (3-4)

Consonant 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. It grabs reader's attention and builds the intensity. The image of riffles and those sounds give us a sensory experience of the war. Readers not only read about it, but also have the senses as if  they are there. Line two, three and four offer the answer for the first question of what would be the ceremony for the dead soldiers.The answer is that there will be no special ceremony, no bell, no music for the passing soldiers. The only thing available is the sound of nonstop gunshots in the battlefield. Owen successfully described the brutality, the ferocity of war in the first four lines of the poem with the images of deaths, riffles and "the monstrous anger of gun".

     The war not only is brutal in front line for the soldiers, it does also require the tremendous sacrifice from their families. The image that implied metaphor is "the shells are demented choirs". The choir from family and loved ones sing to send soldier away when they die is compared to the shelling sound. This image may help the readers to feel the bitter cry from family members that calling for their soldier's name. In the line 8, Owen wrote:

"And bugles calling for them from sad shires" (8).

The bugle is "an instrument played at funeral" (Webster dictionary). The shire is the countryside from which many soldiers came. This is very touching and sad image. The poet uses personification method, make the bugle as if human, can call for the dying soldiers. The symbol of "bugles" and "shires" makes the shift in space within the poem. Owen changes from battlefield setting to the soldiers' homeland. From the "sad shires", their loved one desperately worry and call for them. This idea seems to make up the other part of what the poet wants to express: In the war, there are soldiers who die in the front line, and there are also families' tremendous losses of their sons/brothers/husbands for the war. That is the sacrifice nothing could compare. The last sound of battle is the sound to call the soldiers home. If there is one soldier that dying out in the trench, there must be many more of mourners back home. They are the devastated widowers and forlorn family members.

     Wilfred Owen also expresses the idea about the soldier's sacrifice is ignored and unappreciated. He uses the series of negative sentences in line 5, 6 with repetition of "no" and "nor".

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

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs" (5-6).

The choirs are described as a mad, horrific, 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 images bell, prayers, candles choir as those used in a solemn ritual for the death. They just make us to remember the needy, lack of peace at the time  because their sounds are replaced with the modern tools of war as the noise of guns. The consolation of religion seems to have no place in the poem. No ritual, no religion can justify

the killing of the soldiers in the battlefield like animals. Yer their sacrifices is unappreciated and forgotten.     

    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?" (9)

A candle is the symbol used at funeral as the guiding light for a soul to find way to its afterlife and it represents a sincere act of crying. 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. The poet continues his thought in line 10, 11.

"Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes." (10-11)

There is no candle. 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." (12-13)

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. The image of "pall" and "flowers" are a metaphor to relate the action of sending flowers as a ritual to the deaths with "the tenderness" of the loved ones who patiently waiting at home. With the selection of excellent words choice, Owen explains to readers that the grief of girls at home  is the pall to cover the death bodies of the soldiers and the flowers are the tenderness thought in people's mind.

This last line is an image that implies many different meanings. "And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds" (14).  First, the setting of dusk reminds us of death. 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 would mean for those dead soldiers on the field that it is time to rest because the dark is drawing near the place where they lay. The " down of blinds" image could also depict the private grief of the family members, that is when all the attention for the funeral is gone, everyone else move on,  the mourners are left alone in a dark room with their sorrow and sadness. The poem ends with the image of the closing blinds at the dusk of the day. No matter how reader might want to  interpret, the image is no doubt 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.  By successfully articulates various imagery technique through the poem, Owen has shown his genuine sympathy for young soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the war. War is all about gun fires and deaths, horror and loss; there is nothing fancy about it. Through a subjective voice of the one who has personally experienced the war, readers 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 and of those who grieved. And for the "doomed youth", once they lay down when the dusk draws, they are the only one have seen the end of the war. May they rest in peace!