Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Disabled’ is about the experience of war on the common soldier. War leaves soldiers mentally and physically disabled. Men go to war feeling brave and nationalistic but come back mentally scarred due to the brutality of war. This is revealed by Owen’s use of repetition about blood-shed and the consequences of war on life. Owen also uses constant rhyme and rhythm to show the vicious cycle of life after war. Firstly, Owen presents the reader with the depressing image of a hopeless man.
He can’t walk as he lost his legs due to war and is trapped with sadness in his disfigured body. This is shown by him “waiting for dark … in his ghastly suit of grey”. Owen uses multiple adjectives and colour imagery to vividly describe this man’s sacrifices such as his manly youth and happiness. The simile ‘ the park of boys rang saddening like a hymn, of play and pleasure after day’ shows that the man did not enjoy the voices of the young boys as it reminded him of the good life he once had.Order now
The fact that it was a “saddening… hymn” it gives us funeral imagery which reminds us of the lost young lives. The words, “dark”, “shivered”, “ghastly” and “grey”, as shown in the first stanza, reveal how isolated he is. This is a contrast with the second stanza, where “Town used to swing so gay” and “glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees”, this creates an atmosphere of romance and excitement. This suggests that this feeling of happiness will merely be a memory and something he will not feel again.
This leaves the reader feeling sympathy for him as it makes him sound lonely and hopeless. “ he threw away his knees”, “girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim”. The use of personification with “as the air grew dim” shows how the air will only get dimmer and will not go back to its old ways of being bright. He regrets losing his legs as women now find him strange and he’ll never be with a girl again as they all ‘touch him like some queer disease’. This makes the man seem as if he was an abnormality to society even though he was just like them once.
His depressive appearance gives the reader the impression that he is regretting his original decision to join the army. This reveals that the man did not consider all the consequences of his actions. Young lives are wasted for the sacrifice of war. “He’s lost his colour very far from here”, this metaphor can show that the man lost his happiness or in the literal sense the colour red due to all of the blood-shed, all wasted where bombs exploded during war, with this Owen creates a sense of blood imagery.
Half of his life disappeared as a consequence of war; it was a waste of a life physically and mentally. The two words “lifetime lapsed” makes the reader feel guilt for sending all those young men to war as they didn’t come back with pride but with misery. At this point of the poem, the tone shifts to nostalgia. Owen emphasises this stanza by making it different from all the others, he does this by making the stanza bigger by using more lines and focusing on the happy part of the man’s life.
He does this to show the background and explain life before enlisting. Owen glorifies football and then compares it to war. This is ironic because they are completely different. Football uses adrenaline and physical contact. When “a blood-smear down leg” it makes them feel like a man compared to war where the physical contact leads to disablement and death. The army would glorify war and leave out the consequences, the brutality of war. Just from a little bit of pride an ordinary man can go as far as lying about his age to join the war.
He didn’t have to beg; they wrote his lie”, this shows that army officials do not mind as they need men with that state of mind. Owen highlights this stanza because he wants to show how much false hope and pleasure is told for people to join the war. The man saw the soldiers of Austria and Germany, not as individuals but as a country. ‘Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt, Austria’s, did not move him’, only after the war would he realise that the soldiers of Germany and Austria were just like him, individuals with a life to live.
He wasn’t even afraid of fear itself, he thought he’d be strong enough to not feel it as ‘no fears came yet’. Before he could think about what he was really doing he was already drafted out to war. The consequences are always left out and never truly understood until the last moment. After the war finished he wasn’t greeted with applaud and didn’t receive the same admiration as he did when he played football. People forgot his accomplishments and didn’t care about what he’d been through. ‘Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer .
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits him; and then inquired about his soul. ’ From all the people in his town only a simple fruit seller gave him any notice but all it was was pity, he didn’t really understand what the man went through. Owen does this to show that the glory of war wasn’t genuine but something in their subconscious minds and this is revealed after facing the blood-shed.
Only now, sitting alone in the park all by himself, he notices how women look over him and go for the men that are whole physically and mentally, those who haven’t been to war. Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes from him to the strong men who were whole’. This shows that he misses the attention he used to get, and the pain and suffering he had to go through was not worth it. He’ll spend the rest of his life in mental institutes listening to them pity him and not understanding the situation and he’ll listen to them and do what they want him to do. ‘ will spend a few sick years in institutes, do what the rules consider wise, take whatever pity they may dole’.
This shows that he will be the one who will actually end up pitying them as they will feel sorry and say if only I knew what you went through but he’ll just hear them but not listen. At the beginning of the poem the rhyme is not as obvious as the end, but near the end the rhyme is clearer. The two words “Goal” and “soul” are used in the 5th stanza and they rhyme with each other. The rhyme makes the contrast between the two words more effective as the word “goal” associates with victory and “soul” associates more with death. Owen uses a rhetorical question to end his whole poem.
Although he only repeats the question twice, it is very effective. The speaker feels sympathy for the man as he asks “How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come put him into bed? Why don’t they come? ” With this Owen reveals that when times are hard no one will come and save you, all you’ll be doing is waiting, waiting for the time where it gets better, but it just won’t come and the ultimate last resort happens to be death. The pain, torture, sacrifices and blood-shed isn’t worth the little glory you get at the end of war.