“Disabled” : The human cost of war
Wilfred Owen’ s poem “Disabled” was written during his four-month stay at Craiglock- hart Hospital in 1917. The poem eloquently depicts the disassociation and detachment from self and society felt by this solider who has become disabled. Owen uses the term “queer” to show that the soldier’ s losses have made his body alien. These injuries have also removed his social masculinity.
As I read the poetry of Wilfred Owen, I was often disheartened by his realistic depictions of military combat. For the poet, the condition of shell shock from which he was suffering during his stay at Craiglockhart Hospital was an important physical and poetic position for his writing. Owen wrote in opposition to the war and yet supported the men he served with his poetry by bringing the discomfort and horror of war to the eyes of the public. Disabled is one of the poems written during his period at Craiglockhart that develops the disassociation and detachment from self and society felt by most soldiers.
In the poem, the concept of what the poet terms “queer” implies the alienation caused by the loss of the soldier’ s legs. In response to the recognition the soldier receives from the
formerly interested “girls,” the speaker notes that “All of them touch him like some queer dis- ease.” The implications of this line manifests that the injuries of this war have made the male body strange, unfamiliar, undesirable, and unknowable. Owen further convolutes the image by revoking the traditional correlation of touch by connecting it with dissociation. The use of the term “queer” in such prominence demands further investigation of its importance at the time. While the term “queer” has had a long history in the English language, it has, since the early twentieth century, acquired new cultural associations which are at work under the surface of Owen’ s text. ‘Disabled,’ written in 1917, also partakes in this cultural gray area in...
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