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Anthem for Doomed Youth is an elegiac poem, which, while overflowing with a

lamenting sadness, Owen also uses to convey absolute derision for the brutality of
war and the immorality that defines it. Through its paradoxical nature, he expresses
the impact of the war by shattering the romanticized and distorted misconceptions
with the juxtaposition of his violent images that give an insight into the true
experience. These striking sentiments are further emphasized by Owens intriguing
exploration of the glorification of the deaths in the trenches, hinting at the futility of
faith and the lack of religious justification, leaving the reader with a resounding
conclusion of the perverse nature of war.

Immediately there is a sense of irony that is created in the poem, rooted in the title:
'Anthem for Doomed Youth.' Typically, an anthem is a patriotic song that symbolizes
the power in unity (also having religious connotations) therefore, in the presence of
the following phrase, 'doomed youth', a sense of incongruity arises - the irony being
that it seems a paradoxical celebration of such hopelessness, conveying the
depraved nature of war. Additionally, Owen's specification of the 'youth' is highly
emotive, revealing an unjustness that such corrupt brutality and inevitable 'doom' is
thrust onto such innocent and inexperienced people. This depicts the futility of those
who are victims of war, evoking pathos for the soldiers and expressing the true
heinousness of the experience.

Furthermore, the poem begins with the shocking rhetorical question: 'What passing
bells for these who die as cattle?' Already, this phrase introduces religious imagery,
however this is quickly is compounded by the violent simile which serves to
dehumanize the soldiers as 'cattle', emphasizing the merciless nature of the deaths
as well the sheer amount. With his clever use of diction in referring to the soldiers as
'these' rather than 'those', he creates more of an intimacy and closeness between
them and the reader, only to shatter this with the vicious depiction of their slaughter,
conveying a sense of loss. Interestingly, whilst this line holds sorrow, there is a
somewhat bitter subtext linking back to the abolition of the religious imagery of the
'passing bells' with the juxtaposition of the reality of war. This could be interpreted as
Owen hinting at the sinfulness of war, the lack of spirituality and mercy, perhaps in a
rather accusatory way. This is supported by aggressive, sensory imagery in the next
two lines: 'Only the monstrous anger of the guns/ Only the stuttering rifle's rapid
rattle.' These create a very vivid image of the war with the plosive phrase 'stuttering
rifles rapid rattle', which mimics the sound of the gun and therefore brings the
atmosphere of the war unsettlingly close to the reader. It is yet another line with
offers conflicting ideas of the war, what with the disjointed syllables reflecting the
instability and unpredictability of war while the continuance of the alliteration creates
an unbearable sense of monotony. As well as this, by using anaphora of the word
'only' at the beginning of these lines, it offers an answer to the previous rhetorical
question: there is a blatant lack of recognition or appreciation of those who died,
there is just the inevitable abundance of more violence and death. The

personification of the weapons, giving them very human states such as 'anger' here
is highly significant also, considering the previous dehumanization of the soldiers - it
gives a certain unjust supremacy to the guns, and the concept of violence emphasizing further the tragic futility of their battle.

Owen further delves into the idea of the ungodliness of war in the line, 'No mockeries
now; no prayers nor bells'. The referral to these spiritual things as 'mockeries' strips
them of their holy, solemn faade - here Owen may be trying to reveal these things
as ritual pleasantries - justifications of the deaths which he has set up as impossible
to justify due to their horrific, meaningless slaughter. In this way, the poem is very
much a parody of faith - expressing its idle presence in the face of such brutality. The
assonance of 'no' and 'nor', however, postulates a continual lack of such forms of
recognition and gives a sense of inertia - the never-changing status and under
appreciation of the men. This distortion of religion Owen has conveyed is continued
in what is one of the most arguably powerful lines of the poem: 'The shrill, demented
choirs of wailing shells' The extremely potent images here create irreconcilable
contrasts between the religious symbol of the godly 'choirs' and their distortion as
being 'shrill' and 'demented'. This onamatepaoic line uses an abundance of sibilance
and plosive sounds, coupled with the assonance of the long vowel sounds, imitating
the sounds of the shells and bombs themselves. Additionally, the use of the long,
muted word 'wailing' gives a sense of immense pain and suffering and these devices
collectively give an absurd and perverse view of the war.

In stanza two, however there is a change of tone as well as a change of setting rather than the violent, bitter atmosphere of the trenches, Owen transports the
reader to the melancholy life at home. Again, he asks a futile question: 'What candles
may be held to speed them all?' to which he answers 'Not in the hands of boys, but
in their eyes/ shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes'. Here, the idea of rituals has
been twisted into not the futile public shows of appreciation, but a more solemn,
private display of grief: tears. There is a soft sibilance throughout these lines which
gives it a much more sincere and gentle atmosphere reflecting the pure sadness of
what the tears and 'goodbyes' represent: fundamental human suffering and mortality.
This is a drastic change in tone; no longer is pathos being evoked through the
unjustness of corruptness, but in the poignancy of mellow grieving. The poem
concludes on the emphatic line: 'And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.' This
can be perceived as a symbol of death and loss - the metaphorical drawing down of
the blinds representing the final seconds of life, emphasized with the image of 'dusk',
something which occurs each day without fail which emphasizes the tragic
inevitability. On the contrary, this image could also refer to those at home and their
ignorance to accept the reality of war, their lack of insight into the true brutality.
However, Owen grammatically crafted this last line in such a way that there is no
subject - it is a passive sentence which demonstrates the unwillingness to take
responsibility for such a destructive thing.

Despite the clever use of imagery to depict the impact of the war, Owen also
incorporates the structure to do so. The poem is in Petrarchan sonnet form ironically a form usually used for poems that express love, the irony of which
emphasizes the absurdity of the war. This may also be a device in which he can
shatter the romtanicisation of the ideals of war in a form that is typically poetic and
romantic, conflicting it with its violent imagery. Furthermore, the overall meter is
iambic pentameter, of which the relentless rhythm mimics the monotonous and
tedious quotidian of the soldiers life, with nothing but continued violence. However,
Owen creates subtle irregularities in the iambs, for example the inverted first feet in
the first stanza, 'only the monstrous anger of the guns .' which suggests an
instability. Furthermore, the last line is completely regular, and slows down the pace
of the poem so as to finish on such a final, forceful note of the impact of the war - the
culmination of the lack of responsibility, appreciation and humanitarianism.

To conclude, Owen smothers this poem in irony - with the use of sonnet form and its
title as an anthem when in conflicts both these notions and its complex contrast of
concepts - the true irrationality and ultimate violence of war and its immorality
considering the futile nature of faith. In terms of the impact of the war, the covers a
wide scope exploring the physical and mental pain in the trenches and comparing it
to the somber emotional scars that come with loss back at home.
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