Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for a Doomed Youth

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Mike Ruggiero
British Classics
Poetry Paper Rough Draft
4/24/2013

Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for a Doomed Youth

Born on March 18, 1893 of an English and Welsh background, Wilfred Owen was born at Plas Wilmot, a house in Weston Lane, near Oswestry in Shropshire. He was the eldest of four children and extremely fond of his mother, which became apparent in the letters he would send her during his tenure in World War I. His mother was of a wealthy background and always imagined Wilfred rising to aristocracy. Wilfred’s father was a stationmaster, a man in charge of railway stations in the United Kingdom. His family was quite religious, Wilfred was a parish assistant and attended Bible classed, but his religious affiliations faded after being exposed to the world and the horrors of war. He always aspired to go to university but could not pass the exams in which to do so. After not being able to attend university Wilfred traveled to France, where he taught English at a Berlitz school and his love for literature grew. In 1915 he volunteered to enter the war and after two years in the service his letters to his mother described that he had entered hell, endured deprivation and extreme violence. His woes continued in March of 1917, when he was entombed for 36 hours in the cellar of a French home after falling through the floor. A month later his bad luck continued when a shell exploded near his head, sending him flying into the air and into ditch covered with corrugated iron, where he spent the next few days. On May 1, 1917 Owens Army file stated, “Second Lieutenant Owen was observed to be shaky and tremulous and his conduct and manner were peculiar, and his memory was confused.” After this he was sent to Craiglockhart in Scotland to recuperate after being a witness “to not a sign of life on the horizon and a thousand signs of death.” It was in Craiglockhart that he met his literary influence and friend, Siegfried Sassoon, who would change his life. Over the following year Sassoon provided Owens not only with only a much needed friendship but an entry to English literary society. Owens embraced both Sassoon’s friendship and the new world he had entered, creating an escape from the terrors of the war. Owen’s poetry gained fame and recognition in this last year of his life, having published five poems in between 1917 and 1918. Wilfred Owens died on November 4, 1918, a week before the official end of the war, he was only 25. Owen’s famous poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth, takes place during World War I, inside the trenches of the British troops. He seamlessly blends the battlefield, home front and funeral of a solider to create one general atmosphere, both on the front and at home. One moment you’re crouching in the trenches, listening to shells being fired at you, and the next, you’re standing with the soldier’s family at his funeral while also hearing the firing of rifles smoothly blended in the background. Wilfred Owen paints a gruesomely beautiful depiction of the horrors of war on and off the battlefield. The narrator or voice of the poem is that of a seemingly disembodied soldier, not necessarily dead or dismembered, or a man who has temporarily stepped out of his body to tell us his story from a bird’s eye point of view. There is also no use of “I”, “my”, “our”, or any other type of possessive language, however he associates himself with the soldiers and has knowledge of war, leading us to assume he is also a soldier. This man sees, knows, hears, and is not afraid to share all of his knowledge of the terrors of war. He seems displeased by war and the emotional toll it takes on those directly and indirectly involved. He seems to express that he dislikes the inability of religious rituals and traditions to truly address the problem at hand. Owen again shows off his writing ability with the creation of his soldier narrator, continuing to seemingly blend multiple subjects into one, continuous depiction of the man’s up close and...
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