Wilfred Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth" Commentary

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Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

In this Petrarchan sonnet. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” Wilfred Owen highlights the horrors of war. It mirrors the fate of brave soldiers dying in the line of fire. The theme of death and loss of identity is dominant in the poem and the words in the title, “Doomed Youth” suggest that the soldiers tragic fate has already been proclaimed. The assonance in these words with the vowels gives the poem foreboding tone.

The octet begins with a question that what marks the death of the “passing” soldier, as they are slaughtered like “cattle” which signifies that the soldiers die a faceless death as they lose their identities to the chaos of war. Consequently, Owen responds to this by saying that “Only the monstrous anger of the guns” and “Only the stuttering riffles rapid rattle” will “patter out their hasty horizons”. The repetition of the word “only” denotes that nothing else can be heard above the anger and wrath of the weapons of war and the alliteration of the letter “t” in “stuttering”, “rattle” and “patter” imitate the short, harsh and rapid sounds of bullets being fired. These lines make the reader realize that these sounds that mark the death of the soldiers caused their death in the first place and that the soldiers aren’t given their last rites as the orisons are “hasty” and most likely thoughtless.

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Wilfred Owen then goes on to describe the “choirs” with a metaphor comparing the “shrill” and “demented” sounds to “wailing shells” which shows the raving mad and horrific cacophony that reinforces the noisy atmosphere of the war. He also portrays the funerals with their “prayers” and “bells” to be mere “mockeries”, which emphasizes that the deaths caused by war are not noble or purposeful as its just like slaughtering “cattle”.

The sound of the “bugles calling” from “sad shires”  links the octet to the sestet which seems to send a message to the soldiers home and almost warns them to ...

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