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A critical appreciation of 'Mental Cases', by Wilfred Owen, showing its relation to other war poetry.

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Introduction

Ana-Maria Fernandes 12WB A critical appreciation of 'Mental Cases', showing its relation to other war poetry 'Mental Cases', by Wilfred Owen, was first drafted at Ripon in May 1918 and revised at Scarborough in July. It was originally called 'The deranged'. 'Mental Cases' could be described as poetry of the time, as it reflected the horrific after effects of war. In this poem of three stanza's Owen shows how soldiers have become 'mental cases' as a result of experiences in the war. The first stanza starts with a rhetorical question 'Who are these'. Here Owen is trying to establish an identity of the soldiers. The 'twilight' shows that they do not know where they belong, either in night or day and 'rock they, purgatorial shadows' symbolizes their state of mind and health, they are rocking backwards and forwards, in the dark. The heavy assonance in 'drooping jaws that slob their relish', makes the reader cringe at what the soldiers have been reduced to, it gives the impression of animal imagery and ...read more.

Middle

In 'Peace', he thanks God who has 'matched us with his hour'. A difference can be seen here, as Owen is conveying images of a hellish, 'purgatorial' punishment whilst Brooke mentions God. Brooke held a more idealistic view of war whereas Owen stated the harsh reality. Owen was admitted to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh in the summer of 1917, with shellshock. Here he met fellow war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves who encouraged his ideas. Sassoon later wrote the introduction to a posthumous publication of Owen's poems in December 1920. Through 'Mental Cases' Owen is able to draw on his own experiences from trench warfare and so can relate to the soldiers' state of mind in 'misery swelters' and 'walking hell'. His personal ordeal makes the harsh, vivid images more poignant and disturbing. In the second stanza, Owen answers the rhetorical questions posed in the first stanza. They are no longer soldiers, but 'men whose minds the Dead have ravished'. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the third stanza, Owen uses natural imagery as stark contrast to show what effect the war experiences are having on the soldiers. 'Sunlight seams like a blood smear' and 'night comes blood black', which indicates nightmares. This, along with the previous image of 'blood from lungs that had laughed laughter', shows how everything they see is now tinged with blood. 'Sunlight' is not a hopeful sign. The disturbing image: 'Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh', is heightened by the harsh consonant 'k'. The breaking, disrupts the healing process and shows the soldiers suffering in a constant cycle of torment. The animal imagery of the soldiers 'plucking at each other', 'picking', 'snatching and 'pawing', Shows how desperate they are to grab any chance of life. Through the final line, 'Pawing us who dealt them war and madness', Owen places the blame on 'us', the 'brother', for causing the soldiers all this pain and suffering. In conclusion, 'Mental cases' highlights the destruction of war and can be seen in contrast to different views by other war Poets. ...read more.

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