Analysis of 'Disabled' and 'Refugee Blues'

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How does Wilfred Owen and WH Auden communicate a feeling of despair and isolation in Disabled and Refugee Blues?
By Rhys Perrin

Though there are distinct differences between Disabled by Wilfred Owen and Refugee Blues By WH Auden, both poems can be easily be associated with despair and desolation.

The first stanza of Disabled, is set in the present and Wilfred Owen describes the soldier’s lack of pride in his apearance in the ill fitting ‘suit of grey’. Alliteration is outlined in the first stanza but his situation is emphasized by describing his chair as ‘ghastly’ which shows he feels protected and yet confined and uncomfortable and that he can never escape from his cage. The word grey is usually associated with depression and misery which increases the despair of the situation. As he sits in his chair, crippled whilst ‘voices of play and pleasure’ are heard outside. The use of alliteration is effective in describing how free other people are whereas the persona feels trapped. This communicates the soldier’s longing and helps put the reader in his perspective.

In the second stanza, the soldier begins to reminisce of the light that filled his world before his accident, this outlines his naivety and lack of knowledge of war and its consequences. He also relishes in fact that ‘girls glanced’ at his beauty and how that all has changed when he ‘threw away his knees’. This is effective in showing his regret and also how much of a waste it was. This effect is increased by the emphasis on how handsome and desirable he was before the accident. It is implied that the feeling on confinement doesn’t make him feel as lonely as the fact that he will never find love or at least feel the satisfaction of human contact. This is intended to communicate a powerful feeling of sympathy and possibly empathy of the reader. He also reminisces on the light that filled his world and how ‘Glow lamps budded in the light-blue trees’. The use of very light language shows his outlook on life, also the word glow is associated with beauty and innocence which reinforces the point that his perspective on life is very positive. All this joy he shows prior to the war creates a significant contrast between how at first he had such a positive perspective on life and after the accident he perceives everything as dark and intimidating.

In ‘Disabled’ the persona clearly wants and yearns for death. This becomes clear as the persona is asking questions such as “Why don’t they come and put him to bed? Why don’t they come?. The use of repetition is an attempt to show the reader the characters confusion and panic. Rhetorical questions are used to not only get the reader thinking but also gives the effect that the author is asking the reader the question. By referring to the hospital nurses as ‘they’ not only distances the nurses from the narrator and therefore emphasizes the narrator’s loss of limbs, but it also creates the effect that ‘they’ could be interoperated as Death. One might also think that the use of 3rd person creates the feeling that the character is so unlike himself anymore that he refers to himself in the 3rd person.

In contrast the persona in Refugee Blues is attempting to escape death and survive. This is shown in the quote “But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?”. This quote is showing the confusion and desperation of where the Jews will go and how they will survive in pre-WW2 times. The use of the stereotypical term of endearment ‘my dear’ indicates that the main character is a Jewish man, and the person who is accompanying him is probably a lover. The fact the these two personas have each other emphasizes the magnitude of their situation which increases the sense of isolation and despair.

In the first few stanzas of Refugee Blues the persona...
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