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Compare "Mental Cases" and "Disabled"

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Introduction

Mental Cases Both "Mental Cases" and "Disabled" are anti-war poems evoking vivid and sometimes shocking emotions. Owen shows a less pleasant side to "The Great War" in his typical fashion. "Disabled" paints a vivid picture of a young man's misfortune and shows the contrast between his old life - full of hope - and his new life, in which he has no hope. "Mental Cases", on the other hand, outlines the mental effects of the war, with strikingly vivid images. ~ "Disabled" begins with a description of a man in a wheel-chair. He is described as wearing a "ghastly suit of grey" which is "Legless, sewn short at the elbow". This bluntly makes apparent the fact that this man has lost his legs and parts of his arms. He hears the "Voices of play and pleasure" but he is far removed from them. He has no pleasure, now. On lines 11 and 12 Owen describes how the man used to experience girls - "how slim // Girl's waists are or how warm their subtle hands". ...read more.

Middle

Before, he had "no fear // Of Fear" - he though not of death or danger. He though only about the spirit of fellow men - "Esprit de corps" - about the uniform ("daggers in plaid socks") and about the "drums and cheers" as he marched of to war. The only one who "cheered him home", on the other hand, was "a solemn man who brought him fruits". He was not welcomed back as a hero but "not as crowds cheer Goal". This is another reference to sport and to how different war is. Only the man with the fruits, who we may assume to be a vicar or similar holy man, actually thanked him for his sacrifice. Of course he did not go to make a sacrifice for his country. He went "to impress the giddy jilts". Even the vicar "enquired about this soul". ~ Whereas "Disabled" concerns physical disability sustained during the war, "Mental Cases" is about the mental damage sustained. ...read more.

Conclusion

The descriptions of the expressions on the faces of the hellish men are most powerful and evocative. They are said to "wear this hilarious, hideous, // Awful falseness of set smiling corpses". This is ironic in one respect - they smile not for pleasure. Moreover, the image of grinning skulls is evoked and this is most powerful. The final two lines make one feel responsible for causing such torment. They are, "Snatching after us who smote them, brother, Pawing us who dealt them war and madness." One may feel a certain amount of guilt at allowing such suffering to take place or for encouraging or dealing it. The word "brother" includes mankind and suggests that we are all responsible. It certainly stirs many ant-war feelings. ~ Both "Disabled" and "Mental Cases" evoke strong emotions from the reader. One can empathise with the mentally damaged men in the second poem and with the physically disabled man in former, although to a lesser extent. One is made more aware of the effects of war by both poems and becomes less complacent. Owen has achieved his aim in raising ones awareness of the negative effects of war in a very powerful and evocative manner. ...read more.

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There are some thoughtful observations in this essay demonstrating some knowledge of the texts and an engagement with the poet's intentions. Evidence is frequently integrated into the essay. However, there are some key issues which require improvement:1) The essay lacks a clear structure. As a comparative piece, it might have been best to select poetic areas for analysis (use of imagery, symbolism, repetition, phonological devices, structure etc.) and use these to explore the similarities and differences of the two poems. 2) Paragraph structure also requires attention. Paragraphs need to contain a clear topic sentence, evidence from the poem, analysis, and if relevant, some contextual information about the time of writing or the poet. Paragraphs in this essay often took just one line, or a word, and analysed this which does not lead to a coherent essay overall. 3) The structure of both poems was ignored. There are significant techniques used in both poems that require attention and analysis. 4) Although not a major point, some contextual reference, perhaps to Owen's time in Craiglockhart hospital in 1917 where he would have witnessed much that he writes about, might have been an interesting addition to the essay.
Overall two stars **

Marked by teacher Lucy Foss 13/05/2013

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