Anthem for doomed youth is a poem by Wilfred Owen in which there is a sinister atmosphere evoked by the poet’s use of imagery, rhythm, alliteration, symbolism and structure. This sinister atmosphere add to my appreciation of the poem by the effectiveness of these techniques at bringing me closer to the emotions and allowing me to consider the impact of such event on real people.
The poem has an ironic title, an anthem being a celebratory song whilst doomed has negative connotations of death and sadness. It is set in the trenches of World War One and compares the realities of death on the battlefield with the traditional, religious funeral service. The poem is split into two parts, first part, an eight line octet evokes the noises of battle, whilst the second part, a six line sestet, deal with the settled grief left behind after a death. Throughout Owen skilfully evokes a sinister atmosphere by using various literary techniques to suggest the cold, ominous and sinister atmosphere of a funeral.Order now
In the first line of this sonnet Owen refers to the dead soldiers as “those who die as cattle”, this simile introduces the idea of death and compares the deaths to those of cattle to suggest for the first time his theme that death in such circumstance is not glorious, but futile. He then further develops the sinister atmosphere by introducing the thought of a funeral, by using the word “bells” in the first line, this is then developed by mentioning “orisons”, which are prayers at a funeral, in the forth line.
With the thought of a funeral firmly now in the mind of the reader, Owen goes on to compare the noises of war to the songs and prayers of the funeral service. He emphasis the cruel noise of gunfire by using the alliteration “rifles’ rapid rattle”, and further compares the sounds of battle to a service by using the metaphor “The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells”. The impression of these sounds of war, add to the ominous and sinister atmosphere by the clever use of alliteration to bring the sounds to life and transport the reader to the battlefield and get a sense of the horror, fear and death that lies there. The metaphor of the choir again reminds the reader of death and the atmosphere at a funeral.
Owen then link this initial octet to the sestet by the symbol of a bugle, which is played both on the battlefield and at a military funeral. The focus is shifted front the battlefield to the “sad shires”, symbolising the homes of the soldiers where their loved ones wait.
The rhythm of the poem continues reminding the reader of a slow military march carrying a coffin, with its regular beat. We are then brought to a church scene by the words “candles” and “in the hands of boys” which suggest a choir of young boys, and “holy” which has connations of a church. The sinister atmosphere is further developed by the “pallor of girls brows” which bring to thought of sweethearts pale faces at the funeral, and Owen states that their pale face will act as the funeral “pall”. These thoughts of a funeral and of the sad mourning of love ones focus the readers mind on the sad reality of the death of the soldiers and on the lasting effects on those left behind.
This sinister atmosphere allows the reader to imaging the horrors and sounds of the battlefield, and the reality of death brought home by the analogy of a funeral. This combined with the sympathy for those left behind evoked by the second half of the poem put me in a much better position to contemplate Owen’s theme of the futility of the deaths of the first world war, which many believe was unnecessary.
In summary I found this poem very effective in conveying Wilfred Owen’s message of the futility of war. The skilful use of imagery and rhythm at creating the impression of a funeral added a sinister atmosphere, which was enhanced by the use of alliteration and symbolism to evoke the noises and sights of a battle. This sinister atmosphere aroused my emotions and allowed me to identify with those who needlessly suffered, and those left to mourn. This resulted in the poem having a strong impact on my and my grasp of Owen’s themes.