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Explore Owens Use of Metaphor in Mental Cases

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Octavia Connolly 6SLH Explore Owen?s Use of Metaphor in Mental Cases Mental Cases, written in 1918 by Wilfred Owen, explores the damage and deterioration of the minds of soldiers as a direct result of the First World War. Owen?s determination to make known the horror of war mentally is evident throughout; his use of facts increases his ability to shock ? it is his tactic almost. He describes in absolute detail the horrendous, physical symptoms of mental torment and emphasises that it was not only physical injury that left its mark, but that memories made such an impact that it could reduce men to wrecks. The use of metaphor; a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, will be explored further throughout Owen?s poem ?Mental Cases.? Whilst it is clear almost immediately that Owen intends to shock the reader, it also becomes evident that his aim is at once more refined and more complicated than that simple desire to shock. It is through his use of metaphor that he achieves this; if he simply intended to alarm the reader he could state in simple terms the psychological effect on these soldiers, but by using metaphor he explores their psyche in a much more visceral, provoking and sensory manner. ...read more.


Those souls who have sinned and now, only subsequent to their deaths are learning to be truly good again in order to save themselves from an infinity in Hell. Another argument could be that it creates feelings of liminality ? these men are locked in something entirely different to anything we know, another world. The archaic use of the word ?wherefore? provides a certain biblical weight to the moral insinuations of their conditions. These ?purgatorial shadows? sit in a metaphorical hellish existence, the tortured gesticulations of their ?drooping tongues,? ?jaws that slob their relish? and their ?baring teeth? create an image of dehumanisation for the reader and through the effective use of metaphor we can relate these images of disability to the shell-shocked men, enabling us to conjure up an easier image, one that we are more accustomed to. The images of the disabled are a part of our daily life whereas those of the shell-shocked have probably been witnessed never by the reader. Owen?s employment of androgynous characters in the first stanza with the use of ?these,? ?they? and ?their? could be metaphorically symbolic of the Harlequin, first introduced in Dante?s Inferno. The Harlequin, a clown-like figure with hardly recognisable human qualities, is a genderless being who is tormented with a mental incapacity in Dante?s purgatorial ?land.? The ?drooping tongues from jaws that ...read more.


Throughout WW1, shell-shock was considered to be a neurological illness and, as a result of the war, something that should be pitied, apologised for and something that should not lead to the social outcast of its victims. This did not, however alter the treatment of these victims. It was easy to pity them from afar but when confronted by them, people would have been uncomfortable, uneasy and awkward. This would arise from the inability to converse with the afflicted, the appearance of their ?fretted sockets? and ??hideous awful falseness.? Owen, it must be understood is not like these healthy but distanced people; he embraces the soldiers pain and converts it into a metaphor so vivid, enabling us to understand more their predicament. In conclusion, Owen?s use of metaphor is used to such a successful extent, that it allows the reader to imagine a type of person inflicted with the horrors of war in a way that would not be possible otherwise. It is, I feel, important to re-iterate the significant difference between imagery and metaphor. Yes, Owen?s use of powerful imagery is used effectively, but it is through his use of unrelenting metaphor that we receive an insight into the broken, dishevelled minds and bodies of the shell-shocked soldiers of World War One. ________________ [1] Dictonary.com ...read more.

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