Anthem for Doomed Youth

Choose a poem in which you feel there is a significant moment which reveals the central idea of the poem; show how the poet achieves this in an effective way.

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen is a poem in which a significant moment reveals the central idea of the poem. The poet achieves this through many poetic techniques such as depersonalisation and alliteration.

The first hint of content of the poem comes in the title, the paradox of ‘Doomed Youth’ implies that it will not be a happy poem but the first line is significant as the central idea of the poem is revealed.

“What passing bells for those who die as cattle?”

The rhetorical question at the very beginning of the poem draws the reader in making them think fully about the ideas carried on through the rest of the poem. From the very start we are aware that the people who are dying are not considered important as the writer refers to the people as ‘those’. Also the depersonalisation as he calls them ‘cattle’ implies that they were thought to be no more than animals. They also lose their own personal identities. ‘Cattle’ also implies that the men do not have voices and needs that anyone else – anyone human – can understand. As a reader I feel that opening the poem with a rhetorical question is very effective.

However in the second line of the poem Owen personifies the guns – ‘monstrous anger’ – showing that the guns are worth more and have a louder voice than the men who are dying, which links to the first line as the men were depersonalised. Also Owen uses the word ‘stuttering’ to describe the rifles which could imply that the soldiers are young and nervous referring to ‘youth’ in the title. The reader feels sympathetic towards the young soldiers.

Again Owen implies that the soldiers are not seen as individuals by the use of ‘Can patter out their hasty orisons’. By using the word ‘their’ Owen shows how the soldiers were grouped together. This idea is carried on to the next line with ‘No mockeries for them’ as he refers to the men as ‘them.’ The idea of ‘mockeries,’ ‘prayers’, ‘bells’ and ‘mourning’ all are associated with death and funerals, but the repeated use of ‘No’ tells us that no one respected the soldiers enough for a proper burial, it could also imply too many of the soldiers were dying. This also relates to the question at the beginning of the poem. The reader feels angry that the soldiers are not respected in their deaths.

Although the second stanza starts the same way as the first stanza – with a rhetorical question – the ideas suggested are different.

“What candle may be held to speed them all?”

Unlike the first rhetorical question this implies that there is not anything good or big enough to show respect to all the soldiers who died in the war. This rhetorical question also links the first and second stanzas together as they both start the same way.

Also death is portrayed in a more positive light, as the people at home respect the soldiers. This is shown by the ‘holy glimmers of goodbyes’ by the use of the word ‘holy’ the poet shows the reader that the soldiers were respected greatly. Owen also implies that only in death with the torture of war end which makes the reader feel sympathy for the soldiers and anger for the pointless destruction that war causes.

In contrast to the treatment of the soldiers in the first stanza the writer tells the reader that the soldiers will be missed as he says about the women at home:

“the pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;”

This shows that they were worried about their husbands, brothers and sons. This is carried through the next line when Owen tells the reader ‘their flowers the tenderness of patient minds’ showing that the war is not only affecting the soldiers but their loved ones who are left behind. This makes the reader sympathetic towards the soldiers and their family and friends.

The idea of respect is carried on in the last line as the alliteration of ‘And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.’ slows down the pace of the words and ‘drawing down of blinds’ symbolises the end of another soldiers life as drawing down blinds was a mark of respect when someone died.

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen is a poem in which a significant moment reveals the central idea of the poem. Through many poetic techniques such as word choice, alliteration and personification the writer effectively creates a moment which the central idea is revealed.

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