Strange Meeting

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Wilfred Owen was brought up in a very devout household, and it wasn't until he left his mother's house that he became increasingly critical of the role that the Church played in society. Owen enlisted in January of 1917 and fought in the Battle of Somme until he suffered shell shock, and was sent to Craiglockhart hospital to recover in May of 1917. While in the hospital, he met Siegfried Sassoon, a fellow poet, who influenced much of Owen's later poetry. While in the hospital Owen experienced horrible nightmares due to the shell shock, and he would use these dreams as inspiration for his poetry. One image plagued his dreams, which was the idea that war was a sort of "mouth of hell," and it was this image that inspired Owen's poem Strange Meeting. Owen's poem is also reminiscent of Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Revolt of Islam, which also depicts a journey through a strange land. Wilfred Owen's main objective when writing his poetry is to shed light on the gruesome and horrific reality of being a soldier, which counters the nationalistic propaganda that depict soldiers as honorable, proud, and heroic. Many soldiers came home mentally and physically disabled, which is the exact opposite of what people expected.

Owen was a master of poetic devices; he often used pararhyme, half-rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and assonance to fully involve his reader in the tone of his poem. Pararhyme is when the stressed vowel sounds differ, but are flanked by identical or similar consonants; the second rhyme is usually lower in pitch than the first, which produces the effect of dissonance, and failure. Examples of pararhme are: groined/groaned (lines 3-4), and hall/hell (lines 9-10). Half-rhyme is consonance on the final consonants of the words involved. Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession. Half-rhyme can introduce a slight note of discord. An example of Half-rhyme is: swiftness/tigress (line 28). Alliteration is the repetition of an initial consonant sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases, which helps to convey imagery and stress timing. It also helps to make a line more memorable. An example of this is: grieves/grieves (line 21). Onomatopoeia is when a word imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. Examples of this are: groaned (line 4), sprang (line 6), and thumped/moan (line 13). Assonance is the refrain of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences. An example of this would be through/wounds (line 38).

It seemed that out of battle I escaped

Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped

Through granites which titanic wars had groined. (lines 1-3)

The narrator begins the poem with "it seemed," which connotes a sense of uncertainty, like it could all be just a dream. There are only a few ways to escape battle, which are: you are injured and sent home, you are killed, you are captured by the enemy, you become a deserter, or peace is declared; however, even if you manage to escape the war physically, the war will still be with you mentally. The way that this poem is set up leads the reader to believe that the soldier is dead, and he is now descending the tunnels into hell. "Dull tunnel" refers to Siegfried Sassoon's poem The Rear-Guard, which depicts a soldier groping his way along a tunnel that is pitch-black to get to the fresh air of the battlefield above. The fact that the narrator says that the tunnel is profound leads us to believe that there is something special about this tunnel. This tunnel serves as the "mouth of hell." "Long since scooped" means that the tunnel was dug a long time before he went down into the tunnel. This journey through the tunnel is an arduous one, because of the granite that had been shaken loose by the "titanic wars" above. World Wars are characterized by their enormity in size, power, and force, which also happens to be the definition of the word titanic. "Groined"...
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