Anthem for Doomed Youth

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Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen is a war sonnet that captures the feelings of survivors towards those who have perished in armed conflict. Owen uses the sonnet form to capture the brief, albeit intense, nature of death on the battlefield by using assertive and cutting diction to captivate his readers.

Owen used a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFFEGG while writing “Anthem” which shows a strong division between the first eight lines and the last six, but upon closer reading it appears to conform to the typical Shakespearean sonnet form. The choice of a sonnet form for “Anthem” allows Owen to convey his message briefly but in a way that remains poignant which helps keep the reader’s interest while still keeping the purpose of the poem intact.

The poem’s tone is grim and rhetorical. Owen bids us to consider the questions he puts forth to reevaluate the way we treat our soldiers. The language, which is at times archaic but always blunt, helps reinforce the grimness of the tone. The theme of the poem is interesting for a sonnet. “Anthem” is a sonnet focusing on war, which is a stark contrast to the countless number of sonnets devoted to matters of love and life. The sonnet form suits “Anthem” well, however, by allowing the poet’s message to be delivered as concisely and powerfully as possible.

Owen opens the poem with a harsh question, asking what celebrations will be had for “those who die as cattle.” (Owen 1) The choice of “cattle” is provocative and provides the reader with the image of a herd of cattle being slaughtered systematically. One reason for this choice of wording may have been to elicit the feelings of expendability and worthlessness towards the soldiers to show the reader how soldiers must feel about the duties they’re tasked to perform.

Owen follows this question up with a blunt answer, saying that “only the monstrous anger of the guns” (Owen 2) greets the deceased soldiers. The use of “anger” helps personify “the guns” to show that...
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