'Disabled' by Wilfred Owen
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He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.
There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. - He wonders why.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,
That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He drought of jewelled hills
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Heartbreaking Reality of War: An Analysis of Wilfred Owen's "Disabled"
"Disabled" is a powerful poem written by Wilfred Owen, a World War I poet who served as a soldier in the British Army during the war. In this poem, Owen explores the devastating effects of war on a young soldier who has been disabled and left powerless to live a normal life. Through vivid imagery, powerful language, and a haunting tone, Owen captures the heart-wrenching reality of war and its impact on human lives. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze "Disabled" in detail, exploring its themes, motifs, symbols, and poetic devices.
Overview of the Poem
"Disabled" is divided into seven stanzas, each with a different number of lines, ranging from one to eleven. The poem is written in free verse, with irregular line lengths and no consistent rhyme scheme. The speaker of the poem is a young soldier who has been disabled in the war and is reflecting on his life before and after the injury. The poem begins with a description of the soldier's physical appearance, highlighting his loss of limbs and his physical dependency on others. As the poem progresses, the soldier reflects on his past life, his experiences of war, and the loneliness and isolation he now feels as a disabled person. The final stanza of the poem is a heartbreaking plea for understanding and compassion from the reader, as the soldier wonders if anyone will ever view him as a whole human being again.
Themes in the Poem
The overarching theme of "Disabled" is the devastating impact of war on human lives. Owen portrays the war as a destructive force that not only leads to physical injuries but also causes emotional trauma and mental distress. The poem highlights the human cost of war, emphasizing the loss of innocence, the destruction of relationships, and the sense of isolation and loneliness that many disabled soldiers experience. Another key theme in the poem is the idea of identity and self-worth. The soldier in the poem struggles to come to terms with his new identity as a disabled person and feels that he has lost his sense of self-worth and purpose. The poem raises important questions about how society views disabled people and how they are often marginalized and excluded from mainstream society.
Motifs and Symbols in the Poem
One of the key motifs in "Disabled" is that of time. The soldier reflects on his past life and the experiences he had before the war, highlighting the contrast between his former self and his current disabled state. He remembers the way people used to look at him, the way he used to be able to walk and run, and the way he used to feel like he was part of something bigger than himself. The poem also makes use of several powerful symbols, including the image of the "dark" and "lonely" streets that the soldier now roams alone, as well as the contrasting image of the "gay" and "glowing" streets he remembers from his past. The contrast between these two images emphasizes the loss of hope and joy that the soldier has experienced since his injury.
Poetic Devices in the Poem
Owen makes use of several poetic devices in "Disabled" to create a powerful and haunting atmosphere. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of vivid imagery. The description of the soldier's physical appearance is particularly powerful, with the use of phrases such as "legless, sewn short at elbow" and "shivered in his ghastly suit of grey." The use of alliteration, such as "sharp, sudden" and "saddening like a hymn," also contributes to the poem's overall impact. Owen also makes use of repetition, both in individual lines and in the structure of the poem as a whole. The repeated phrase "why don't they come?" highlights the soldier's sense of isolation and the lack of support he feels from those around him.
Interpretation of the Poem
"Disabled" is a profoundly moving and emotional poem that captures the devastating impact of war on human lives. Through vivid imagery, powerful language, and a haunting tone, Owen portrays the war as a destructive force that not only leads to physical injuries but also causes emotional trauma and mental distress. The poem highlights the human cost of war and raises important questions about how society views disabled people and how they are often marginalized and excluded from mainstream society. The soldier's sense of isolation and loneliness is particularly poignant, as he struggles to come to terms with his new identity as a disabled person and feels that he has lost his sense of self-worth and purpose.
Overall, "Disabled" is a powerful and important poem that deserves our attention and respect. As readers, we are called upon to empathize with the soldier's pain and to recognize the devastating impact of war on human lives. The poem is a reminder of the human cost of conflict and of the importance of compassion and understanding in our interactions with others.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Wilfred Owen's "Disabled" is a powerful and poignant poem that explores the devastating effects of war on the human psyche. Written during World War I, the poem tells the story of a young soldier who has lost his limbs and is now confined to a wheelchair. Through vivid imagery and emotive language, Owen captures the sense of loss and isolation that the soldier experiences, as well as the indifference of those around him.
The poem begins with a description of the soldier's former life, before he went to war. He was a young man, full of energy and vitality, who enjoyed playing football and flirting with girls. However, his decision to join the army has changed everything. He is now a "legless, sewn short at elbow" and "waiting for dark". The use of the word "waiting" suggests that the soldier is now passive and helpless, unable to take control of his own life.
The second stanza of the poem focuses on the reactions of those around the soldier. He is now a "queer disease" that people avoid, and he is no longer the object of admiration and desire that he once was. The use of the word "queer" suggests that the soldier is now seen as abnormal and strange, and the fact that people avoid him highlights the sense of isolation and loneliness that he feels.
The third stanza of the poem is particularly powerful, as it describes the soldier's memories of the war. He remembers the "jolly" soldiers who encouraged him to join up, and the "drums and cheers" that accompanied his departure. However, he also remembers the horror and brutality of the war, and the fact that he has lost his limbs as a result. The use of the word "shivered" suggests that the soldier is now haunted by these memories, and that they continue to torment him.
The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most heartbreaking, as it describes the soldier's longing for the past. He remembers the "town used to swing so gay" and the "girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim". However, he is now "old" and "cold", and he knows that he will never be able to recapture those moments of happiness and joy. The use of the word "cold" suggests that the soldier is now emotionally numb, and that he has lost the ability to feel anything.
Overall, "Disabled" is a powerful and emotive poem that captures the sense of loss and isolation that many soldiers experienced during World War I. Through vivid imagery and emotive language, Owen brings to life the devastating effects of war on the human psyche, and reminds us of the sacrifices that soldiers make in the name of duty and honor.
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