'S. I. W.' by Wilfred Owen

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"I will to the King,And offer him consolation in his trouble,For that man there has set his teeth to die,And being one that hates obedience,Discipline, and orderliness of life,I cannot mourn him."W. B. Yeats.Patting goodbye, doubtless they told the lad
He'd always show the Hun a brave man's face;
Father would sooner him dead than in disgrace, --
Was proud to see him going, aye, and glad.
Perhaps his Mother whimpered how she'd fret
Until he got a nice, safe wound to nurse.
Sisters would wish girls too could shoot, charge, curse, . . .
Brothers -- would send his favourite cigarette,
Each week, month after month, they wrote the same,
Thinking him sheltered in some Y.M. Hut,
Where once an hour a bullet missed its aim
And misses teased the hunger of his brain.
His eyes grew old with wincing, and his hand
Reckless with ague.Courage leaked, as sand
From the best sandbags after years of rain.
But never leave, wound, fever, trench-foot, shock,
Untrapped the wretch.And death seemed still withheld
For torture of lying machinally shelled,
At the pleasure of this world's Powers who'd run amok.He'd seen men shoot their hands, on night patrol,
Their people never knew.Yet they were vile.
"Death sooner than dishonour, that's the style!"
So Father said.One dawn, our wire patrol
Carried him.This time, Death had not missed.
We could do nothing, but wipe his bleeding cough.
Could it be accident? --Rifles go off . . .
Not sniped?No.(Later they found the English ball.)It was the reasoned crisis of his soul.
Against the fires that would not burn him whole
But kept him for death's perjury and scoff
And life's half-promising, and both their riling.With him they buried the muzzle his teeth had kissed,
And truthfully wrote the Mother "Tim died smiling."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry Analysis: S. I. W. by Wilfred Owen

Oh, what a powerful poem, S. I. W. by Wilfred Owen is! This poem is a masterpiece of war literature, and it is one of the most moving and impactful pieces of poetry I have ever read. Wilfred Owen, a British soldier and poet, wrote this poem during World War I, and it reflects the anguish and despair of the soldiers who had to go through the horrors of war. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will discuss the themes, literary devices, and the significance of this poem.


The central theme of S. I. W. is the senseless sacrifice of young men in war. The title of the poem stands for "Self-Inflicted Wound", which refers to the act of injuring oneself to avoid going back to the front line. The poem describes the process of a soldier who has shot himself in the hand, and the aftermath of his action. The soldier is taken to the hospital, where he is treated for his wound, but he is later executed for cowardice. The poem is a scathing critique of the war and the leaders who send young men to fight and die for a cause that is not their own.

Owen's poem is an indictment of the glorification of war and the propaganda that portrays soldiers as heroes. He exposes the reality of war, which is the brutal and senseless killing of young men who have no stake in the conflict. The poem challenges the idea that war is a noble endeavor and shows the consequences of war on the soldiers who are forced to participate in it.

Literary Devices

Owen uses various literary devices to convey the central theme of the poem. One of the most striking devices is the use of imagery. The poem is filled with vivid and graphic descriptions of the soldier's wound and the treatment he receives in the hospital. Owen uses words like "gouged" and "seared" to describe the wound, which creates a sense of physical pain and discomfort. The imagery of the hospital is equally powerful, with its "white-washed walls" and "sterile corridors" that highlight the clinical and impersonal nature of the treatment.

Another literary device that Owen uses effectively is symbolism. The soldier's self-inflicted wound symbolizes the futility and desperation of war. He has reached a point where he would rather injure himself than go back to the front line. The wound is a metaphor for the emotional and psychological trauma that soldiers experience in war.

The poem also contains irony, which is the use of words to convey a meaning that is opposite to their literal meaning. Owen uses irony to highlight the hypocrisy of the military leaders who glorify war and valorize soldiers, but at the same time, execute them for cowardice. The soldier's act of shooting himself is an act of cowardice, but it is also an act of defiance against the war machine that has forced him to participate in a senseless conflict.


S. I. W. is a significant poem in the context of war literature. It is a searing indictment of war and the leaders who perpetuate it. The poem challenges the romanticized view of war and exposes the reality of the human cost of conflict. Owen's poem is a call to action, urging us to resist the glorification of war and to demand an end to the senseless killing of young men.

The poem also has a personal significance for Owen. He was a soldier himself, and he had firsthand experience of the horrors of war. Owen's poetry is a reflection of his own experiences and his desire to speak out against the injustices of war. In S. I. W., Owen shows his empathy for the soldiers who were forced to participate in the war and his anger at the leaders who sent them to their deaths.


In conclusion, S. I. W. is a powerful and moving poem that exposes the reality of war. Owen's use of imagery, symbolism, and irony creates a vivid picture of the soldier's experience and highlights the futility and senselessness of war. The poem is a call to action, urging us to resist the glorification of war and demand an end to the senseless killing of young men. S. I. W. is a significant poem in the context of war literature, and it is a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers, but also a condemnation of the forces that lead them to their deaths.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry S. I. W. by Wilfred Owen: A Haunting Depiction of the Horrors of War

Wilfred Owen’s Poetry S. I. W. is a haunting and powerful poem that provides a vivid and disturbing depiction of the horrors of war. Written during World War I, the poem explores the experiences of soldiers who have been injured and are being treated in a military hospital. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, the poem highlights the physical and emotional toll that war takes on those who fight in it.

The poem begins with a description of the soldiers as they lie in their hospital beds, their bodies broken and battered by the violence of war. Owen describes them as “men whose minds the Dead have ravished” and “bodies that are bent and broken”. These lines immediately set the tone for the poem, conveying a sense of despair and hopelessness that permeates the entire work.

As the poem progresses, Owen provides a detailed description of the soldiers’ injuries, painting a vivid picture of the physical toll that war takes on the human body. He describes “the ghastly suit of grey that hides the all-tracked wounds” and “the bandages that wrapped their shuddering limbs”. These images are both graphic and disturbing, and they serve to underscore the brutality of war and the toll it takes on those who fight in it.

But it is not just the physical injuries that Owen focuses on in this poem. He also explores the emotional toll that war takes on soldiers, describing them as “men who went out to battle, grim and glad”. This line captures the conflicting emotions that soldiers often feel when they go to war – a mixture of fear, excitement, and a sense of duty. But as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that these emotions are quickly replaced by a sense of despair and hopelessness.

Owen’s use of language in this poem is particularly powerful. He employs a range of literary techniques, including alliteration, repetition, and metaphor, to convey the horror and brutality of war. For example, he uses the phrase “the hell where youth and laughter go” to describe the battlefield, a metaphor that captures the sense of loss and despair that soldiers feel when they are confronted with the reality of war.

Another powerful image in the poem is the description of the soldiers’ eyes, which Owen describes as “the eyes that mock us when we die”. This line captures the sense of betrayal that soldiers often feel when they are injured or killed in battle, as if their sacrifice has been for nothing.

Overall, Poetry S. I. W. is a powerful and haunting poem that provides a vivid and disturbing depiction of the horrors of war. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, the poem captures the physical and emotional toll that war takes on soldiers, and it serves as a powerful reminder of the need to work towards peace and understanding in the world.

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