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"Anthem for Doomed Youth"

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Introduction

Critical Essay "Anthem for Doomed Youth", a deeply moving poem by Wilfred Owen, leaves a strong emotional impact on the reader. The poem, set during The Great War, employs various techniques to convey the true nature of war but also the lasting effect on the families of the soldiers after their deaths and reveals what has been truly memorable in their lives. This is largely achieved through structure, theme and word choice. The structure, written in standard sonnet form, creates a difference in tone between the two stanzas. The octet, which portrays a bitter and ghastly nature to war, is heavily contrasted in the sestet: "...demented choirs of wailing shells;" (Octet line 7) "...flowers the tenderness of patient minds," (Sestet line 5) The second stanza provides a far more gentle and romantic feel, giving the impression of homeliness. As sonnets are traditionally associated with love, Owen exploits this to portray a romantic dignity within the soldiers' deaths but more importantly, through his title, "Anthem", he suggests a celebration of their lives. ...read more.

Middle

This demonstrates this stanzas contrast of civilised vs uncivilised behaviour as these men are left only to die amongst the horrors of open warfare. "die as cattle" reveals the extent of the lack of humanity present in war and the dehumanisation of the soldiers being viciously slaughtered in such a great extent. Religious symbolism recurs throughout the whole poem. The first stanza offers an evident disparity between religion and the cruelty of war which combines to reveal how the weapons used to kill the soldiers ironically become symbols of religion: "Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons." (Octet lines 3-4) The elevated word "orisons", a prayer given in Latin, is exploited to appeal to the readers emotions while contrasting with the dreadfulness of battle. "hasty" gives the impression of insensitivity and swiftness reinforcing the speed and merciless nature of the rifles' bullets. The use of religious symbolism reveals Owen is searching for redemption on behalf of these men for what has happened on the battlefields. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is this stanza which creates the real, intense sentiment within the reader as it reminds us how important it is to honour the men's courage and remember them for their heroism. This theme is again echoed in the last line of the poem: "And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds." (Sestet last line) This line, not only being a reference to the traditional drawing of curtains to signify the death of a loved one in the house, also removes the reader from the brutal impact of the first line of the poem. This idea, insinuated throughout the sestet, proclaims love is the single most important thing in a world of cruelty and war and implies it will always triumph. Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth", through word choice, structure and theme, effectively arouses a strong emotional impact within the reader. Owen, while revealing the true reality of open warfare, protests that love and commemoration is a more adequate appraisal ...read more.

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