Saturday, July 13, 2013
Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth is exactly that, an anthem (a solemn song) to commemorate the innocent youth, whose lives were taken soon by war. By using the word anthem, he calls to mind the glory and honor of a national anthem, however; he goes on to explain that there is no honor or glory in death, pairing the words doomed and youth together creates so much sorrow as well, it provides a woeful impression as it foretells of young people having no hope. Written in sonnet form, it is an elegy for the dead. The octave deals with auditory images of war and death and the sestet deals with more visual images. Wilfred Owen masterfully uses both imagery and figurative language to convey his lament for these young people who, died.
In the octet of this poem (the first eight lines), Owen catalogues all the images of death, such as "passing bells", "anger of the guns", rattle of guns, funeral prayers, "wailing shells", "bugles and sad shires". Many of these images are personified as well, such as the rattling guns and wailing shells. These images will be the funeral that the boys get, not the real one that they deserve. This personification contributes to the harshness of the images and creates auditory images for the reader. The reader can hear the sensory images. However, these images are also set directly against religious imagery, to further emphasize the destructiveness of war. The passing bells, prayers, choirs, and candles emphasize the preciousness of human life. Owen may go so far as to suggest that even religion is helpless against such a powerful destructive force as war. This tone is suggested by the fact that prayers and bells are set against a word like "mockery". Just the term "hasty orisons" has a somewhat disrespectful tone.
Owen's use of both similes and metaphors further emphasize the meaning of the poem. The first line jolts the reader with the simile that these young people "die as cattle".
D. N. Aloysius