Analysis of poem Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen

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Strange Meeting – Analysis – Maximilian Stumvoll

The poem „Strange Meeting“ was written by the English poet Wilfred Owen in 1918, towards the end of the First World War. While recovering from shell shock in a hospital Owen had horrible nightmares. These dreams about war and how it serves as the mouth of hell inspired him to write “Strange Meeting”.  This lets us assume that the narrator is the poet and the poem is written from his perspective. The general theme and aim is to show that war is terrible, destructive and traumatic and it isn’t what it is said to be.

The poem is about the narrator (a soldier) walking through a tunnel to hell and “meeting” a soldier he has killed, who speaks to him.  The fact that the narration begins with “it seemed” leads me to believe that the poem is actually a dream. The tunnel is the mouth of hell as it is going down, so descending to hell. “Groined” and “groaned” is the first example of pararhyme. It is used throughout the poem to create the effect of dissonance and failure. This tunnel is scattered with “sleepers”, the corpses of dead soldiers. One soldier springs up and recognizes the narrator. The irony comes in with the dead soldiers smile, because it leads to the realization that the place where this takes place is hell. “Hall” and “hell” is another pararhyme. A smile is an expression of happiness and contrasts greatly with the concept of hell. Smile is repeated in the oxymoron “dead smile”. Someone dead and in hell can’t smile but thus the poet describes that soldier’s empty soul. His emotions are turned around like killing is bad but expected in war. The word “vision” is further evidence that the poem is dream. The monologue of the narrator ends with the ironic image of how hell is safer than the battlefield above (“upper ground”). He addresses the soldier with the words: “strange friend here is no cause to mourn.” This is an ironic paradox because of course nothing is worse than hell. Or is it? Owen shows the view of a particular soldier who thinks that hell is a better place than the midst of war, away from the blood and guns.

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From then on the poem continues as a monologue of the dead soldier. He begins by disagreeing and explaining that there is great cause to mourn. He says that the two of them share the same identity and had the same hope. The line “went hunting wild after the wildest beauty in the world” is an ideal that Owen pursued when he was younger. This can be seen in Owens earlier poetry. He was changed by the war and lost his innocence. The phrase “the pity war distilled” talks about purification of pity. It is a strong anti-war propaganda statement. ...

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