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“Disabled” by Wilfred Owen: Literary Analysis and Interpretation
The title of the poem is considerable and reveals the “two nations” theme. It is the disability of the figure that sets him apart from the other individuals it is the explanation why he will in no way be capable to really feel the pleasures of life once again. This is highlighted by the truth that “women’s eyes passed from him to the robust males that have been whole” (line 44). The use of the word ‘whole’ implies that he sees himself as incomplete, much less than a man. Additionally, numerous physique parts are integrated into the poem: “knees” (line 10), “hands” (line 12), “veins” (line 18), “thigh” (line 20) and “leg” (line 21). These words emphasize the figure’s want for a ‘whole’ body. Nonetheless, it is critical to note that he is not only isolated physically, but also mentally, as war has created him insensitive to the pleasures of life. This is revealed by the fact that the sounds of youth and vigor are described as “saddening like a hymn” (line 4). This idea of the everlasting effects of war on the mental overall health of soldiers is also presented by Owen in the poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” as the soldier who died in front of his eyes continues in all his “dreams” to “plunge[r] at [him], guttering, choking, drowning.”
The reference point of “you” employed in “Disabled” reveals the theme of the “two-nations”. The persona makes use of the third individual pronoun, where a “nonparticipant” serves as the narrator: “He sat in a wheel chair” (line 1), some thing that distances the reader from the figure. This detachment in between the veteran and the reader can be interpreted as the distance between those who fought and these who stayed at house. The narrator, nonetheless, seems to have insight into the character’s thoughts, as the entire poem has a tone of wistfulness and the persona knows his want, expressed in the penultimate line: “why do not they come And put him to bed” (line 45-46). Additionally, it must be noted that this contrasts with other poems written by Owen as this poem is very personal. It focuses on one particular soldier’s story although other individuals such as “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, examine soldiers to cattle such that soldiers are seen as undifferentiated masses.
The structure of “Disabled” reveals diverse stages of the figure’s life. In fact, the poem consists of seven stanzas which can be grouped to distinguish 5 stages of his life. Additionally, the alternation among past and present narrative of the figure’s life reveals his longing for the life he had prior to losing his legs.
The 1st stanza introduces us to an alienated figure that represents what is left of the male youth following war. The persona creates this alienated figure through characterization and setting. The figure is “in a wheeled chair” (line 1), “legless” (line 3), “waiting for dark,” (line 1) dressed in a “ghastly suit of grey” (line 2). This portrayed figure evokes pity in the reader, as the man clearly does not feel any passion or joy for life: he is alienated by his physical disability, which is reinforced by the reality that his garments are grey, and it seems that he is waiting for death. His isolation is highlighted by the words “dark”, “shivered”, “ghastly” and “grey”. Furthermore, the fact that he is “sewn quick at elbow” leads the reader to question the circumstances in which he lost his legs, evoking a sense of precaution and quickness. His physical description drastically contrasts with the setting surrounding him, additional reinforcing his alienation. Whilst he is described visually, the other persons are described orally: “voices of boys rang” (line 4) and “voices of play and pleasure” (line 5). The tone in which they are presented enables the readers to assume that, in the previous, the topic had also been playing in the park with the other boys. The finish of the very first stanza invites the reader to accept the subject as getting dependent on society and in search of protection as sleep “mothered” (line six) him from the voices. This first stanza divulges the theme of the “two-nations” as war has created him disabled and alienated him from his surroundings.
In the second stanza, at first, the figure recalls when he was nonetheless part of society. This section clearly contrasts with the very first stanza as the language changes from ominous to frivolous. This is highlighted by the use of alliteration amongst the words “glow-lamps” (line eight) and “girls glanced” (line 9), emphasizing the pace of the poem. His grey suit contrasts with the “light blue trees” (line eight). The figure’s reality is recalled in the line “before he threw away his knees” (line 10) in war. The use of the words “threw away” to describe the loss of his knees shows that he feels guilty and acknowledges his role in the loss of his legs. He describes what he considers as a symbol for the male youth sent to war lost: a life made of enjoy and contentment. This is conveyed via a modify in tactile imagery with girls: prior to the war, he felt “Girls waists” and “how warm their subtle hands” are (line 12), even though now girls “touch him like some queer disease” (line 13). This underlines his isolation from society. Moreover, it can be recommended that in line 13 the persona critiques society’s reaction towards disabled soldiers, as effectively as possibly revealing their implication in his existing state.
The third stanza reveals that the veteran was “younger than his youth” (line 15) when sent to war. But, right after a single year in war, he became “old” (line 16), displaying that war robbed him of his youth implying that his face is now older. In line 17 “He’s lost his color really far from here” closely followed by the words “shell-holes” is the initial allusion to war in the poem. Later, he goes on to describe the “Fear” (line 32) he felt on the battlefield. Here the use of the capital letter reinforces the feeling by way of personification. This conveys the “two nations” theme, as the reader will not be capable to realize this capitalized “Fear” unless he himself had served in a war. Owen wrote numerous poems on life in the trenches revealing the horror of war and the worry felt by soldiers. This was the case in the poem “The Sentry”.
The fourth and fifth stanzas reveal the figure’s motivations for joining the army. They are ecstasy right after a victorious football game, “drunk a peg” (line 23) and “to please the giddy jilts” (line 27). The choice, hence, encloses a feeling of euphoria, rapidness and desire for good results. Influenced by propaganda and stress from society, the persona presents to us here, in reality, a attainable situation which reveals a lack of reasoning on his part. This is most likely accurate for most soldiers. This is further emphasized by the statement “Germans he scarcely thought of” (line 30). Most of the soldiers in World War I believed that, by going to war, they would turn into heroic masculine figures with girls waiting at property for them. They never regarded the complete implications of their decision. The thought of these advantages is shattered in this poem, as the figure is anti-war and reveals the “truthful” effects of war: loss of youth and innocence, and helplessness. Ultimately, the persona criticizes the folks in energy for permitting him to enroll although he was underage. This is revealed in line 29 when “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years”. In this line, the sadness of the soldier’s plight is heightened. His motivations underline the culpability of society for his selection, leading the reader to really feel a sense of pity and compassion for the figure as he was just as well young and innocent to recognize the complete implications of his actions.
It is important to note that the persona uses an extended metaphor among the football game and war. This metaphor was very popular at the time and generally used by different poets, which includes Jessie Pope in the poem “Who’s for the game”. In this case, nevertheless, war does not turn out to be like a football game. This is highlighted by the fact that “he liked a blood-smear down his leg, right after the matches, carried shoulder-high”. These injuries on the football pitch produced him feel proud, masculine and heroic, as if he was celebrated by other folks. But, in the case of war, they conjecture a disgusting image, “leap of purple spurted from his thigh”. Therefore, war, in contrast to a football game, is not exciting and fair, and what is lost can not be regained.
The persona introduces a 3 line stanza to create a transition in between his promising previous and his gloomy present. The soldier recalls when he returned property: “cheered” (line 37), but it was not the hero’s welcome he had imagined. Not even “as crowds cheer Goal” (Line 37), emphasizing by capitalizing the word “goal” what the figure lost by going to war. The reader is yet once again encouraged to really feel sorry for his selection and subsequent loss. Owen’s objective is to show that the promises produced to the soldiers are lies and that these who return from the war injured are detached from society, and pitied for their loss rather than becoming honored for their sacrifice as a man “inquired about his soul” (line 39). This is also presented in Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”, exactly where the honor and glory in dying for one’s country is referred to as “The Old Lie”.
The final stanza of the poem completes the circle by bringing the reader back to the figure’s present. This is underlined by the use of “Now” to start off the paragraph, which results in a alter in mood. The figure comes to the resolution that “he will devote a couple of sick years in Institutes / and do what things the guidelines contemplate wise” (lines 40-41). Demonstrating that he accepts and provides in to society pressure once more, becoming a passive young veteran who will forever be regarded as disabled. The figure has assumed his role as an object of pity taking what ever “pity they may dole,” (line 42), after more underpinning his isolation from society developed by using the pronoun “they”, the nondisabled. The poem ends with an anxious plea: “How cold and late it is! Why do not they come/ And put him into bed? Why do not they come?” (lines 45-46). The repetitions of the last line as properly as the use of exclamation and question marks emphasize his passiveness and dependence on other individuals. The reader pities the figure that is no longer self-adequate and fears: the cold, desolate and lonely life awaiting him.
To conclude, the poem is undoubtedly revealing the “two nations” effect and forewarns future soldiers of the futility of war and the everlasting effects that it will have. The persona criticizes society for pressuring him to go whilst rejecting him later, when he comes back “disabled”. This is conveyed through Owen’s poignant use of structure, characterization, setting, contrasts and diction. The poem succeeds in conveying these messages to the reader in such a way that they feel obliged to respond and accept it as truthful. In my opinion, “Disabled” can be regarded as the epitome of anti-war poetry.
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