• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The worst injuries of war are emotional, not physical With reference to Disabled and Mental Cases to what extent do you agree?

Free essay example:

“The worst injuries of war are emotional, not physical”

With reference to Disabled and Mental Cases to what extent do you agree?

        Through phrases such as ‘war and madness’, Mental Cases and Disabled establish themselves as a rebellion against the old tradition of not questioning orders. Owen’s poetry lashes out at the works of Jessie Pope and likewise propaganda, yet does so by not making a tirade about the nature of war, but by attempting to reason the consequences of it. Owen’s poetry exhibits the nightmarish truth of emotional and physical injuries, which both shock and sicken the reader. It becomes even more shocking that out of these injuries the physical injuries are conveyed as the worst.  

        Owen usually goes into great repulsive detail of the physical injuries such as ‘treading blood from lungs’ in Mental Cases. Contrasting this, the first stanza of Disabled plainly states the physical injuries of the persona in, ‘legless, sewn short at elbow’. Henceforth, Disabled concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by omitting focus on the physical injuries whereas Mental Cases concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by centralising around the physical injuries. Therefore in both Mental Cases and Disabled it is not what is being said, but rather what is not being said that is most significant. Taking this in account, it is for this reason that Disabled establishes that the physical injuries of war are the worst as is not the emphasis of the emotional injuries, it is the lack of emphasis on the physical injuries that makes it so striking.  

        Likewise to Disabled, Mental Cases also portrays physical injuries as worse than emotional injuries. ‘Always they must see these things and hear them/batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles’ shows that these men are emotionally injured as they are being haunted by the horrors they have seen. The internal rhyme of ‘batter’ and ‘shatter’ is surprising because it is upbeat and an antithesis to the violence the actually words describe. As a result, the rhythm is supporting the mental disturbance of these men and consequently the worst of their suffering it would seem is due to emotional injuries. On the other hand, it is key to take in account the reason for the men’s emotional suffering. ‘Shatter of flying muscles’ creates an image of the bullets piecing through the men as if they were glass reflecting the fragility of their lives. Literally, however, it is referring to the physical fatalities and injuries. It therefore means that the emotional injuries are product from physical injuries and henceforth, physical injuries must be the worst of the two as without it, emotional injuries would be considerably impotent.

        Structurally, although Disabled and Mental Cases contrast each other, they both convey that physical injuries are worse than emotional injures. Likewise to the body of the persona, the structure of Disabled is broken down into irregular stanza lengths reiterating the title Disabled. Each line in Disabled ends on full stops giving the effect of the persona’s separate memories, which provides a personal insight into the persona and causing him to seem real. Even though the reader is well aware of the persona being make belief, the reader is able to feel sadness for the persona’s incapability of returning to those times because his story itself was genuine for many in the Lost Generation. Consequently, the structure of Disabled highlights that physical suffering is the worst because without the use of it, we would not be able to accept the persona in Disabled as real and thus lack sympathy for his emotional injuries.

        Contrasting this, the structure of Mental Cases is disordered and lacks the ‘pretty’ pararhyme schemes in Disabled. The commas and questions, short sentences and internal rhyme schemes creates a sense of immediacy and a direct tone reflecting that Owen is confronting the reader. Moreover, the original title for Mental Cases is Purgatory Passions reflecting the connotations to Dante’s Inferno and thus explaining the structure’s chaos. Correlating a walk through a hospital ward with purgatory seems extreme; however, this can be justified by the hellish anguish of the patients. Purgatory is a spiritual experience so the anguish the patients are feeling are clearly emotional, yet to reach purgatory there firstly must be death. This therefore recapitulates that physical injuries are worse than emotional injuries as the emotional injuries could not happen to the hellish extent they are in Mental Cases without the physical injuries.  

        As a Romantic, Owen thought that logic could not merit humanity’s emotions highly enough, yet as someone been through the horrors of war Owen realised that emotion could not cope well enough with physical suffering. Consequently, we see that the mentality of those in Mental Cases or Disabled is chaotic; in Disabled the persona is lost between warn memories and the cold present whereas in Mental Cases the personas’ senses are lost between life and purgatory. All these anguishes are emotional injuries, however, more importantly the causes of them have been due to physical injuries thus making them worse than the emotional injuries.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level War Poetry section.

(?)

Here's what a star student thought of this essay

4 star(s)

Response to the question

This essay is a response to a question about whether or not the candidate believes that the physical or emotional injuries of War are the worst. To a very high extent, this candidate displays all the worthy accolades of a ...

Read full review

Response to the question

This essay is a response to a question about whether or not the candidate believes that the physical or emotional injuries of War are the worst. To a very high extent, this candidate displays all the worthy accolades of a candidate operating at an A grade for GCSE, but their analysis and the commentaries on their analysis appear skewed, sometimes even contradictory to what they say earlier/later in the response. Because of this, there is not a clear understanding nor a clear judgement being made in response to the question, so whilst there is every indication this candidate could achieve higher, they are relegated to getting no higher than a low B for ignoring the steer of the question and providing a clear answer that does not contradict themselves or Owen.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is entirely indicative of a candidate who's analytical skills are well-developed and can cope with commenting on a variety of poetic devices that Owen has used in conveying his message about War. There is successful commentary made on the rhyme scheme of both poems, but it seems the analysis of 'Disabled', whilst more sporadic than 'Mental Cases', is far more accurate and aligned with Owen's own influences. For instance, in 'Mental Case', the candidate states that: "Mental Cases also portrays physical injuries as worse than emotional injuries. ‘Always they must see these things and hear them/batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles’ shows that these men are emotionally injured as they are being haunted by the horrors they have seen. (sic)" and yet this contradicts itself by saying that 'Mental Cases' emphasises the physical injuries as worse than the emotional ones before then providing a quote and explanation that suggests the complete opposite. This is just one example of where the candidate makes a point and then seems to forget the nature of consistency, meaning their answer is very disjointed.
Also, there doesn't seem to be a sufficiently thorough enough understanding of 'Mental Cases' particularly. Though the commentary on the fractured structure and how it is "disordered and lacks [...] pararhyme schemes" is good, the candidate could go deeper and discuss how this reflects the nature of insanity - that nothing is recognisable and often always causes physical (Owen goes on to explain that the breaking dawn is like a flesh splitting open afresh). So, whilst the question leaves much to personal interpretation, it is best if candidates do not contradict what the poet is saying in their poem. Owen was, in 'Mental Cases', saying that the emotional disturbance of a mental illness like Shellshock is so severe that is causes physical pain as a result. So it would appear that Owen believes the emotional injury of war was just as debilitating as the physical injuries soldiers frequently sustained.
It was very good to see the analysis of the spiritual resonances of both poems, noting very astutely 'Mental Cases' original title or 'Purgatory Passions'. This shows independent, external research has been conducted into the context of the poem and examiners love to see that not all the analysis written down is regurgitated from the lesson.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is fine. There are no glaring problems with either grammar, spelling or punctuation, though it could be said that a lot of improvement could be made in the range of punctuation used. Using more complex punctuation points like colons, semi-colon and parentheses allow for the examiner to see a confident writer.


Did you find this review helpful? Join our team of reviewers and help other students learn

Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 08/03/2012

Read less
Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Related AS and A Level English Skills and Knowledge Essays

See our best essays

Related AS and A Level War Poetry essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The causes of world war one

    4 star(s)

    He was an officer in the Manchester Fusiliers. He started writing towards the end of the war, and had taken part in frontline service and so had a very negative outlook on the war (which is completely justified). One of his earlier, greatest and most famous poems is "Anthem for a doomed youth:" What passing bells for those who die as cattle?

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Compare "Mental Cases" and "Disabled"

    "Someone said he'd look a god in kilts" Now he looks like anything but a god. The vivid image of the man being horribly wounded in the trenches is conjured by the metaphor of how he "lost his colour": "Poured it down shell holes till the veins ran dry" His

  1. The Lost Generation in The Sun Also Rises

    The novel begins with Robert in a somewhat disastrous relationship that he was forced into by his lady. Things begin to go awry in the relationship and this, combined with Robert's new interest in the book The Purple Land cause him to yearn for a change of scenery.

  2. War Poetry Essay.

    "Exposure" a poem by Wilfred Owen tells the war as it took place in reality. In this poem it emphasises the harshness of spending the winter in the trenches, and the deaths caused in fighting off the extreme conditions, not the enemy.

  1. In the wars, Robert Rose is a very significant character.

    Ross had mourned for years over the sudden death of her brother and her father, now she had lost a daughter and was going to lose a son. It is also evident she kept a lot of things to herself.

  2. Compare the ways in which figures of authority are portrayed in Joseph Heller's Catch ...

    angry at the British, and the British refuse to believe they have any responsibility in the war; 'We're not here under any obligation' French persists in telling Lanzerac. The heated discussion only ends when Lanzerac is offered a medal on behalf of the King of England.

  1. History - World War One

    The effects of chlorine gas included: its pungent metallic taste which caused burning to the back of the throat, the chest and eyes. It was thought as not being powerful enough so the Germans tried to develop a new form of gas.

  2. Explore Owens Use of Metaphor in Mental Cases

    One gets the impression, while reading this poem that ?these? men are directly in front us. They lose their individuality and identity but through Owen?s use of direct speech to the reader we feel their presence strongly. Through Owen?s use of intense imagery and metaphors we are able to feel

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work