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Revision Notes - Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

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Introduction

Woodfarm High School English Department Intermediate 2 English Revision Notes Critical Essay: Poetry ?Anthem for Doomed Youth? by Wilfred Owen Context: WW1 1914-18 Wilfred Owen was a soldier in the First World War. He was against war and was appalled by the horror of war. Form: A sonnet ? a 14 line formal poem. ?Anthem for Doomed Youth? has two sections, each beginning with a question that the remainder of the section answers. It has a strict pattern of rhythm and rhyme. There is an octet (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). The octet is dominated by the sound of battle. The sestet is characterised by muted grief. Linking these two sections is the sound of the bugle. Throughout the poem, Owen draws the comparison of traditional/religious/funeral rituals and ceremonies with the actuality of death for a soldier on the battlefield. The table below gives a brief outline of these comparisons. Traditional Funeral / Religious Ceremonies Death on the Battlefield ?Anthem? ?Doomed Youth? Church bells announcing death Gunfire Prayers for the deceased Rifle fire Choirs singing hymns ?demented choirs of wailing shells? Candles held by alter boys Light reflected in dead soldiers? eyes Velvet cloth to cover coffin The pale, mourning faces of young girls Flowers Kind, mourning thoughts of loved ones Drawing down of blinds out of respect and mourning. Each slow dusk falling on the battlefield Owen draws these comparisons to highlight two main themes: 1. The horror of war and the terrible conditions facing the soldiers, even after they have died. ...read more.

Middle

Line 5 ? 7 ?No mockeries now for them; no prayers or bells: Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs- The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells:? ?Mockeries? ? ceremonies which would be insults to them and what they have sacrificed. ?Prayers?/?bells? ? traditional funeral rites. ?No?, ?no?, ?nor? ? repetition emphasises what they do not have. ??Save ? except ? he goes on to describe what they do get in place of a funeral ?Shrill? ? high pitched ? piercing. Connotations - uncomfortable to hear, unpleasant ?Demented? ? crazy ? sounds mad. ?Choirs? ? group who sing in harmony, having rehearsed together. Harmony is usually pleasant ? in a choir they plan and work together. ?Wailing? ? in pain, crying, sorrow, lamenting ? onomatopoeia. The word ?wailing? imitates the sound of the shell as it travels. It is an appropriate description, given the death all around. ?Shells? ? explosive projectiles from a cannon. Commentary-. In the battlefield, the overall impression would be harsh and discordant, making the listeners wince. This is why the choirs are described as ?shrill? and ?demented? ? it is a mad and horrific cacophony of sound. Just as the bullets pray, the shells grieve in their ?wailing?. This develops the idea of the noise of battle from the opening lines. The guns and shells build up together to create for us the atmosphere of the battle ? a disorienting mix of sounds that are the tragic reality for the soldiers at the moment of their deaths. ...read more.

Conclusion

?blinds? - People draw down the blinds at night as a preparation for sleep. Also the blinds would have been drawn in a room a dead person had been laid. ?Dusk?: partial darkness, evening time Commentary ? This is the last of these comparisons ? ?candles?, ?pall?, ?flowers? ? and the last usual funeral custom is the ?drawing down of blinds?. Traditionally the blinds are drawn when someone dies. It is a sign to the world and a mark of respect for them. Instead of blinds being drawn around a dead person, the soldiers lying dead on the battlefield would simply have the day draw to a close. ?Dusk? would come naturally, darkening the place where they lay. Summary ?Anthem for Doomed Youth? was written by a soldier, Wilfred Owen, who died in the last week of the Great War. His poem clearly communicates the sorrow and horror he experienced during that war. In the poem, the noise of battle gives way to silent grief. Young men who should have lived died in the chaos of battle. Those who lost loved ones were not present at the deaths or burials of their young men. In place of the usual funeral rites, sounds of battle, distant grief and nature?s close of day were what they had to mark their deaths. Throughout the poem, Owen employed imagery to bring to life the sorrow and horror of war ? by describing the sounds and sights, by comparing a fitting funeral to the reality of death in war and by questioning the sufficiency of religion to provide solace in the face of such brutality. ...read more.

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