“Anthem for Doomed Youth”, a wartime Sonnet by Wilfred Owen The poem uses many techniques to convey its meaning. By our understanding of the use of these techniques, the poem becomes easier to understand and at the same time, more is revealed to us. Wilfred Owen was a soldier during WW1 and therefore gives us a firsthand experience of war. He was against war and was appalled by the effects of war on people and their families. By using a sonnet for the structure of his poem, Wilfred Owen introduces a touch of irony. The conventional function for a sonnet is love, but this poem has a sort of anti-love, or rather, a love that turns bad. The young male population have so much patriotic love, and are so eager to serve, but this love turns sour. They spend time rotting in the wastes of the trenches, only to be mown down in the blink of an eye by a machine-gun. Not only are their lives wasted, gone without the holy rite of a funeral, but the lives of their loved ones at home are also ruined. The technique of comparison is used a lot in this poem. Owen explores the monstrosity of war in various examples of comparison. The boys “die as cattle,” this conveys the idea that the young men going to war is the same as cattle going to a slaughter house to be killed. With no real purpose but to be mindlessly massacred. Through personification, the guns responsible for taking so much human life are made out to be monstrous, even evil. The poem also likens their deaths to a funeral, but one where the bells are shots, and the mourning choirs are the army’s bugles. The drawing down of the blinds, the traditional sign to show that the family is in mourning, has been likened to the drawing of a sheet to cover the dead. Through various literary techniques, Wilfred Owen enhances the meaning of the poem. The title itself has significant use of assonance, “Doomed Youth. ” The sound is intended to be drawn out, long and melancholy, as melancholy as the subject of war itself. Onomatopoeia is used to make the sounds real: as if we were really there. We hear the “stuttering rifles” and the “patter out their hasty orisons. Repetition and alliteration have also been used to make the poem reflect the ordeal that the soldiers had to face: monotonous boredom in the terrible conditions, then their death, inevitable from the start, will come. The poet structures the poem in a fascinating way. The poem is split into two parts, one part contains eight lines and the second part contains six lines. In the octet a question is asked in the first line and answered in the remaining seven lines. The poet also uses the same technique in the sestet, asking a question in the first line and answering it in the remaining five lines. The first part, the octet, focus’ on the realities of war on the battlefield, giving us an experience of what it is like to see and hear the disturbing sounds and visuals. The second part, the sestet, focus’ on the effects that the war had on the families of the soldiers. The octet is dominated by the harsh sounds of war on the battlefield. The octet starts off with a question, “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle? ” this is a good way to open the poem. The question contains a simile, “die as cattle”. This is referring to the soldiers being treated as cattle and creates an image of cattle being slaughtered in vast numbers. It could also be referring to the soldiers being treated as less than human. This has a great effect on what you think about the poem and the war. The poet then starts to reveal the realism of war through a selection of literary techniques in the remainder of the octet, “rifles’ rapid rattle. ” An example of alliteration to emphasise that the opposing troops did not take pity on the individuals they are trying to kill. This makes the reader think of why the soldiers were battling. Both sets of soldiers are the same, fighting for leaders who are craving for power. The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells. ”This line shows that the wailing of the shells are constantly being launched as if they were a choir. A high-quality piece of word choice. “Demented” shows that the wailing of the shells are insane and creates the impression that things are going to turn out dreadful. Wilfred Owen then separates the sestet from the octet by a question. “What candles may be held to speed them all. ” This question introduces the consequences that the war had on the families of the soldiers back home. The question also brings in religious views which are backed up with other spiritual language such as, “orisons”. This is referring to the soldiers praying to a god, thus stressing that the soldiers do not want anything to do with such a terrible occurrence. The poet draws the poem to a close suitably, “Drawing-down of blinds. ” This is an excellent way to conclude the poem. The drawing-down of the blinds generates an image of shutting the blinds at night to end the day, only this time it is the end of a horrific ordeal for all of mankind. I thought the poem was unusual but enjoyed reading it none the less. Owen is a fantastic writer and obviously despises the bloodshed, unnecessary slaughter and the horrors that soldiers had to put up with during the war. My opinion of the poem is that it is very well written. Owen has used imagery to make the reader understand that the death of the soldiers was common, expected and insignificant. He also makes excellent use of alliteration, onomatopoeia, similes, and rhyme which conveys Owens anger and unhappiness with the army and his pity for the soldiers.
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