The Impact of Physical Disabilities on the Soldier's Life
Discuss about the Poetry Analysis for Penetrating Poetry.
That was Steven Wilson with Lazarus, I am your host (Name) and now welcome again to Penetrating Poetry. Our regular listeners will be aware that from this week we will be studying the genre of War poetry. Tonight we are going to discuss, Disabled by Wilfred Owen that reflects the tormented feelings of a young soldier after the World War I, written in 1917. The poet himself had served in the war and faced the traumatic experiences in the war himself. His poems totally reflect those experiences in the war. The poem is not only a reflection of the traumatic war experience of a young soldier, but it also focuses on the situations after war and how his individual dreams seem to be unattainable to him.
The poem originally was created in order to represent every men and boy who joined the army during First World War due to the false information and propaganda the government had served out. As soon as the victims of the false propaganda came to know the cruel reality, the horror and the destruction of ‘war’ had captured them by then. Every individual who had joined the army during the First World War did not have any personal agenda of joining the army; rather they were bothered about the glory that was entitled with that. The poem has the omniscient narrator and tells the story of the central character of the poem who looks at the life after returning from the Great War with severe injuries that are life changing for him.
The poem impacts on the readers magnificently because the poem depicts the past which we read in the history books. The poet was a high rank officer in the army and before witnessing the dire humanity he himself was a pro war poet so his opinion about the experience in war was not biased rather the journey from home to the frontline gave the readers a sense of respect and connection towards the narrator. In the first stanza of the poem, the author tells the reader about a soldier who represents each and every young man who have suffered from a physical or mental wound and said that he sat in the week chair waiting for the dark.
“He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Juxtaposition of Happiness and Sorrow
Legless, sewn short at elbow. …”
By using the phrase “sat in a wheel chair waiting for dark” in the introductory stanza the author puts emphasis on the protagonist of the poem and informs the readers that the soldier is now paralyzed and lost the control over his life, which apparently links back to the title of the poem. Owen has also used linguistic expressions like ‘sibilance’, ‘short’, and ‘sewn’ to portray an image of having the physical loss to the soldier and puts more emphasis on the physical disability of the young soldier. The words ‘wheeled’ and ‘waiting’ also added to the expressions of passiveness of the protagonist. Through the first few lines the author had transmitted the feeling into the readers’ mind and the readers start feeling pity towards all the young soldiers who have already thrown their lives in the Great War. The first stanza stands out and communicates with the readers saying that there is not any joy left in his life and all he can do is to wait for the death to take him away from the mundane life.
The second stanza of the poem is formed to contrast the pleasant and vivid images about the past life of the soldier and tells the reader about the joys and passions he had in his previous life that have been taken from him. The poet has juxtaposed the happiness and sorrow. The first three lines of the stanza are full of positivity and joy. This stanza gives the reader a joyful image. Through the phrases such as ‘swing so gay’, ‘girl glanced lovelier’ and ‘glow lamps budded’, a sense of positivity passes through the minds of the reader and represents a picture where the soldier is visualizing his previous life what he strongly wishes to be real again. However the cruel reality suddenly appears in front of his eyes with the brutal contrast “threw away his knees” that shows that even the soldier himself believes that loss was nothing but wastage. The time frame marker ‘now’ has been used to show the reader the brutal reality is in the present. Using the phrase “now he will never feel again” the poets gives the author a sense that he can never be able to have a girl and that feeling hurts the reader as this could have been a significant phase in the soldier’s life. His current physical situation haunts him every time while thinking about the past life. The poet have used the adjectives ‘warm’ and ‘subtle’ to show that how important they were in his life. However, now the girls “look towards the men who are whole”, this portrays the sheer pain in the soldier’s life seeing that how girls treat him with pity and opt for the physically strong men, even though some of them were attracted to him before this massacre happened in his life. This way poet describes the war, shows that the Great War is nothing but a tragic loss in his life.
The Effects of the War on the Soldier's Life
In the third stanza Own have used a metaphor that makes the readers understand how the young soldier has led his previous life before joining the army. The phrase “There was an artist, silly for his face” shows that previously many were attracted towards him because of his beauty like the artist, contrasting the fact that now he is old, even if he is still young and nobody is attracted towards him and pity him for his loss. In this part, the time before and the after the war are in a contrast. The poet has used the time markers to highlight the effect of the war on him and sympathize with the boy who was beautiful in the ‘last year’ but ‘now’ he looks like an old man. Here the poet also justifies the name of the poem as the disability plays a significant impact on the mind of the soldier and he feels useless and unimportant. The color ‘purple’ here symbolizes the life that shows that he no longer can have romantic relationships because of the severe physical loss at this young age and will never have someone to start a family with.
In the fourth stanza the soldier keeps on brooding over his previous life where he liked to play football and he was proud of the wounds he had that he had received while playing football. However, that is in total contrast with the wounds he has now. Through these lines the poet wants to depict how he was happy with his heroism previously and that sharply contrasts his mental state after being the real hero and others’ treatment towards him.
In the later stanzas Owen criticized the corrupted authority and how ‘smiling they wrote his lie’ and makes the reader sympathize with the boy seeing that he was entirely influenced while joining the army. He also criticized the glory attached to war as ‘smart salutes’ seem ironic to him as he does not have an arm anymore to salute. Later in the poem Owen makes a high contrast with the previous positive life with the present passive life all over again. The ‘cheers’ that seemed enthusiastic before the war now the soldier feels the crowd is unsure to react as there is no cheer for them who have come back from war. In the last stanza Owen again emphasized the passive life of the boy who “…will spend a few sick years in Institutes” and reinforces the idea that he has nothing more left to do in his life which again links back to the previous stanzas of the poem.
Disabled is a powerful poem that shows the strong anti-war message between the lines. The poem is a clear juxtaposition of the flashbacks from the past to present and with each flashbacks Owen has used a significant tone change where he realizes that his happy life has turned into a life emptiness and tragedy after war.. Owen have successfully highlighted the sense of depression in the victims of war and showed how the glory of war has been replaced with despair and darkness. Next week we will be discussing another war poet of this time and I hope you will be able to join me there.
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