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Literary Analysis of “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen

The poem Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen was written throughout World War I in 1917, when Owen was recovering from shell shock in a war hospital in Edinburgh. Hence, Owen writes from the viewpoint of a soldier on a battlefield. The persona presents in this poem the effects of war on young male adults sent to war: their loss of identity and their premature death as effectively as, the indifference or even lack of respect of society towards their premature death. It could be suggested that the author is exploring the theme of the horror of war and the separation war creates amongst these who keep at house and these who believed: the so-named two nation impact. In order to convey these themes the author employs irony, aural imagery, visual imagery, repetition

The structure of Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth is ironic. It is written in the kind of a hybrid sonnet, as it combines the structure of the Petrarchan sonnet with the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet except for lines 11 and 12. The Petrarchan sonnet is a variation of the Elizabethan sonnet as the fourteen lines are divided in two unequal stanzas. The Shakespearean rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFFE, GG. A single should note that Owen uses a half-rhyme for B. The truth that Owen utilizes the structure of a sonnet is ironic due to the fact these ones have traditionally a joyful mood and are themed around love. This is straight opposite to Owen’s poem which has a gloomy mood and is themed around war. The lines are written in iambic pentameter, as a line consists of five pairs of syllables exactly where the initial syllable is unstressed and the second stressed. Except for line 2 and 3 exactly where the pressure falls on the first syllable in the initial pair in every single line. The structure of the poem is ironic and highlights the fatalism of war.

The starting of the second stanza brings forth a shift in setting, imagery, structure, tone and rhythm which contribute to the theme of the two nations. The first stanza talks about soldiers on the battlefields and their premature death whilst the second about those who stayed at property and are mourning the dead. The persona uses mainly aural imagery in the very first stanza and visual imagery in the second 1. The initial stanza is an octet which is contrasted with the second stanza which is a sestet. The tone in very first stanza where the persona describes war on the battlefield the tone is acerbic and condemning although in the second stanza exactly where the persona describes war for these back house the tone is sympathetic and fatalistic. The tone is related to the one in the poem the sendoff also written by Wilfred Owen. Moreover, the initial stanza is written in the present in order to make the horror of war far more genuine to the readers as effectively as emphasize the truth that this is taking place correct now as we read this poem although the second is written in the future emphasize the fact that the death of these boys will never ever be forgotten.

The rhythm of the poem need to also be taken into account as it begins off with a rapid pace, and then slows down all through the poem, drawing to a slow and sombre close. This not only enhances the theme of the two nations but can also be connected with the attitudes of the youth who enrolls in the military thrilled to honor their country but soon recognize the truth about war. Nonetheless, each stanza use rhetorical query on their very first lines to which the persona goes on to answer in the stanza itself. “What passing-bell for these who die as cattle”? line 1 and “what candles might be held to speed them all?” line 9. These a single question the readers and allows the readers step into a soldier’s shoes, hence, increasing their emotional response to the lines following.

The title employed for the poem is ironic and instantaneously shatters the fantasized photos of war contributing to the theme of the two nations. The poem is entitled “Anthem for Doomed Youth.”, one particular need to note that the word anthem refers to a song, patriotic in nature which is synonymous with praise for one’s country and help of its troops. In reality an anthem is a song that is supposed to conjure up feelings of really like and honor for one’s country. Owen contrasts it with the word “doomed” which implies that the soldiers are destined to die soon. Moreover, the word ‘doomed’ not only foreshadows the fate of these soldiers but also of the poem itself, as the persona look to come to the conclusion that these deaths will continue to come. The word “youth” follows it which reminds the readers of the innocence, strength and vitality of these young soldiers. In addition, the extended vowel sound given by the two words combined is intended to be melancholic and contrasting with the concept of strength. Hence, this title highlights the theme of the two nations as those back residence sing “Anthems” to praise the honor and assistance the soldiers on the battlefields as well as highlighting the glamour of war even though actually war is synonymous to the inescapable death of innocent young males. The title summarizes the poem a mixture of thoughts related to religion and death, irony, and cynicism.

Owen extensively employs figurative language in order to discover the theme of the horror of war. The simile soldier “die as cattle” line 1, the quantity of deaths occurring on the battlefield is compared to cattle becoming slaughtered hence, emphasizing it massive quantity and its repetitive occurrence, as even though mechanical. Additionally, the use of the word cattle evokes the lack of identity of the soldiers, the contemptuous of their death and the lack of emotion towards their premature death. A hyperbole is utilized in line two: “monstrous anger” in order to exaggerate the fury of war and evoking the lack of rationality. This anger is personifies the guns producing the image of guns becoming completely out of control and appearing to take the upper hand on the soldiers. Therefore, producing the guns appear responsible for the deaths of these soldiers. It ought to be noted that ‘Guns’ is a loud and rhythmic word, creating the impression that war is fierce, like a monster. The efficient use of onomatopoeia in “stuttering rifle’s rapid rattle” (lines three), evokes the sound of guns and destruction as highlighted by the comprehensive use of “r” and “t” letters. The alliteration also presented by these words emphasizes the fast pace of war. The use of “hasty orisons” line 4 which means here funeral prayers leaves the readers with the certitude these soldiers will die.

The persona contrasts the battlefield with religious imagery suggesting his condemnation of war as nicely as exploring the theme of the two nations. Weapons of destructions “guns” (line 2), “rifles” (line 3) and “shells” (line 7), are followed by antagonistic religious imagery “orisons” (line 4), “bells” (line five), “prayers” (line five), suggesting the persona’s condemnation of the war as deprived of morals. Who will commemorate these boys’ lives? There will be “‘No mockeries no prayers nor bells” “nor any voices of mourning” line 5 and 6, showing the lack of respect of society towards their premature death as no conventional religious ceremony will take location. “The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells”, line 7, the challenging and strong word “shrill” implies that the funerals had been not quiet and peaceful. The aural imagery suggests once much more, that it was not an appropriate way of saying goodbye. This line shows that the church has no spot on the battlefields as the choirs are described as demented. The demented choirs also serve as personification for the shotgun shells which stresses the fact that the weapons are the ones controlling the scenario and are going insane as nicely as evoking disturbing and frightening aural imagery of shells. Furthermore, the personification and onomatopoeia “wailing shells” implies the suffering and the irrationality of these soldiers’ deaths. The alliteration utilized in the last line of the very first stanza “sad shires” suggests the suffering for relatives and close friends back property in England countryside where many soldiers came from. The soldiers are not give the appropriate funeral rites, and instead are treated as if they have been “cattle” on the Western Front.

The funeral deprived of all sanctity on the Western Front is contrasted with the funeral marches at residence. The sanctity of the life of these soldiers is recalled by these at house highlighted by the words “candles” line 9, “holy glimmers” line 11, and “flowers” line 13. The aural setting is contrasting: explosions of the shells, and at property, fairly, sorrowful cries highlighted by “pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall” line 12. This evokes an image in the readers’ minds of mothers, wives and girlfriends with tears streaming down their colorless faces, showing their hopefulness. The compassion and grief of relatives is evident in the lines 10 and 11 “Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes / Shall shine the holy glimmers of great-byes”. They are described as “boys” line ten, emphasizing their innocence and their naivety of the soldiers. This creates a really powerful and emotive imagery for the readers, displaying how war has deprived them from a joyful life back house underlined by the use of the alliteration. It also replies to the rhetoric query put forth in the very first line of the second stanza, “what candles may possibly be held to speed them all?” line 9, it will not be candles but the holy last glimmer in their eyes will mark their passage from the living. The soldiers even though appearing to die without having identity and dignity on the battlefields will be forever don't forget by these at residence as suggested by the use of “flowers” as a metaphor of their memories of the dead.

“each slow dusk” (14): dusk speaks of finality, it shows how slow time passes for those who mourn “a drawing-down of blinds” (14): privacy for mourning families, indicating perhaps that a coffin is inside, sign of respect for the loss of life. The final line of the poem an alliteration making use of the sound “d”, accompanies the drawing dusk more than the battlefield exactly where soldiers lie, and the drawing down of blinds in the houses exactly where they are mourned, and this appears to be a vivid comparison amongst the two worlds.

In conclusion, Wilfred Owen’s poignant use of irony, figurative language and onomatopoeia in “Anthem for Doomed Youth” allows him to explore the two main themes of this poem: the horror of war and the effect on the two nations. All round, the poem engenders a clear condemning message towards war. I think this message to be very relevant to society of War Planet I as propaganda and pro-war poetry was well-known at the time which did not and could not reveal the truth about war as Owen did due to his firsthand knowledge.
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