When Wilfred Owen wrote the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ his purpose was to warn us of the effects of war and how it can affect soldiers and their loved ones. He achieves this by comparing the horror and danger on the battlefield, to the respect we show to our loved ones at their funeral when they die. He list objects such as prayers and candles and twists them into the equivalents of war. Owen splits the poem into two parts, the octave and the sestet.
The octave is set on the battlefield. It starts with, “What passing bells for those who die as cattle? In this the line, the passing bells are signalling what the cannons sounded like on the battlefield. I think this is a good comparison as bells and cannons both have the same rhythm of sound coming from them. He also describes the sound that comes from the riffle, to be like the constant flow and rhythm of prayers been said aloud. The second quatrain contrast the sound of wailing shells with the sound a choir makes. I imagine that Owen tried to describe the wailing shells to be like the high voices in a choir, singing over the rest of the singers just like the wailing shells would block all the rest of the sounds on the battlefield.
The octave ends with the word “shires” which leads us on to the sestet. The sestet is set at home and begins with the rhetorical question, “What candles may be held to speed them all? ” The candles in this, represent young boys with tears in their eyes also offers the reader pictures of substitutes only there is no horror in these, as there was in the octave, but we are reminded that no proper mourning is possible for these soldiers. Candles become tears in the young soldiers eyes; a winding sheet becomes the shocked pale face of a young girl who has lost someone she loved; flowers become the growing memories that loved ones cherish.
The octave and the sestet both start with a rhetorical question and the word ‘shires’ joins the two paragraphs together by taking us from the battle field, to home, where all the families wait for their loved ones to return. Owen also handles the rhythm of the sonnet very effectively. He has written the poem to give each line the suitable amount of syllables and words to suit its tone and the message he is trying to get across. The rhythm of the first line is slow and gives the impression of a bell, swaying back and forth.
By using alliteration in the third line we get the effect of a rifle gun and the noise, which it makes. We also get the impression that the gun is out of control as there are lots of short words after one another. In the line ‘The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells,’ Owen describes how the shells move and recreates the sound that they make by only using ten syllables. In the sestet, the rhythm is much more steady and slow compared to the octave. This is because he is dealing with mourners at home and people waiting for loved ones.
He describes everything to be like a funeral and so the rhythm is very sad and slow especially in the last line, ‘And each slow dusk a drawing down of he blinds’ where monosyllables make the line seem very long to lets us know that days feel like forever. Owen uses devises all common to poetry in this poem. He uses structure and rhythm very well but his most effective technique is his word choice. In line one he compares the dead soldiers to cattle, which allows the reader to compare home life with that on the battlefield.
The dead soldiers and the cattle are alike as they were both born to die a horrible death; when they are killed there bodies are thrown on a truck or just left on a field; the people who kill them do not feel regret. He uses ‘monstrous anger’ to describe the guns. This is effective as it gives us an image of an ugly monster out to destroy everything just like guns, which are usually made to destroy people. ‘Stuttering rifles rapid rattle’ gives us the effect of what the rifles sound like and the constant drilling of the gun.
All of these create an impression of a terrifying war full of death and destruction. His word choice also allows us to experience what sort of emotions families at home were going through. Candles create a very vivid picture of the families having no where to place candles as they do not even know where their loved ones body is. ‘The pallor of girls` brows shall be their pall,’ this line invites sympathy because we see images of young women waiting for their fianci?? s to return but secretly knowing they won’t be or mothers waiting for their sons to come home.
The flowers the tenderness of silent minds,’ gives a beautiful and clear image of family members thinking about their loved ones and their thoughts growing like a flowers and eventually dying. By using all these devises, he achieved his purpose to warn us of the effects of war and how it can affect soldiers and their loved ones. Through his word choice, he let us know how devastating war really is. Hopefully by writing this poem, people realise the truth about war and how it hurts families just as much as soldiers.