Marxist Criticism of “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen
I am going to describe how successfully he uses poetic techniques to present the true effects of war in his poem. The main technique used in the poem is contrast, as well as other techniques. Which makes the fate of the young man more pitiful. The use of irony, word choice, and powerful images, all create the sense of atmosphere in each stanza. The contrast of mood and tone is used in the first and second stanza, which creates a change of mood. In the first stanza words like "ghastly" and phrases like, "saddening like a hymn", are used by Owen to create a dull and depressing mood.
The poem Disabled by Wilfred Owen scrutinises the consequences of war on those who experience it by contrasting the current life of an impaired soldier after war to what he was capable of doing before the war. Owen creates a striking view of the soldier’s life by the depressing description of the soldier in the first verse. The verse starts off with a description of the soldier being an isolated man, in a wheelchair, alone, in a park, incapable of walking or relishing any of the activities taking place right next to him, which makes the soldier feel despondent and useless. Although he is dressed formally, his uniform is trimmed at certain spots which suggests that he has become handicapped, sitting down, while he waits involuntarily, concentrating on the voices of youthful children which dishearten him, as they force him to recall what he recklessly lost – just to be able to fight for his country to impress the ‘giddy jilts’. In the second verse, Owen makes use of flash backs to compare how the soldier was before and after the war which creates a striking view of the soldier’s life. The soldier is made to remember how luxurious his life used to be compared to before the injury, which suggests that the soldier really wants to have his old life back and wishes that he hadn’t joined the army but unfortunately, he cannot change the past. He remembers how the women frequently approached him but he now regrets losing his legs as he now knows that he will never again be able to ‘feel’ their gentle touch as they only touch him now as they are required to, although they don’t want to, as if he is a bizarre irregularity that no one has ever seen before. Owen also creates a striking view by making the soldier remember how it was before joining the army and becoming handicapped ‘ being a football professional and satisfied of the ‘blood smear down his leg’ which occurred from an injury during a football match, and how the crowd had hauled him across the pitch on their shoulders, publicizing his valour and excellence. It was because of this that the soldier thought of joining the army, to appear stronger and more capable to women. The reason behind why the soldier decided to join the army is examined, as he had never been patriotic enough to invade the Germans until the football match, and he had been too young to not understand the consequences of war which he is now experiencing. The young soldier had only thought of the adventure associated with war: the joy of holding a gun. Only ‘some cheered him home’ but ‘not as crowds cheer Goal’.
The young soldier talks about how someone told him that he would look good in the army uniform, and he also thought that he could impress the women when he joined the war probably because they would think that he was brave (s3 l6,7). People in the society had encouraged him and cheered him to join the war but now he wondered why he had joined in the first place. The young men who were living for the war were encouraged to have a team spirit and they were reminded of the pay arrears that they would get after they were drafted to join the war (S3 15). The now disabled soldier knew that he would have to spend the rest of his life in institutions where he would get rehabilitated probably through physical therapy. The young soldier felt that the army would do what they felt was appropriate for the young soldiers that came from the war disabled. He felt that they only had pity to offer (s5 l 3). The society is shown as being disabled in terms of it not having any means through which they can positively encourage and rehabilitate the soldiers so that they would stop feeling like they were of no use to themselves or to the society. The society should have first of all organized festive welcome home occasions so that the young soldiers could stop feeling like as if they had wasted away their youths and their whole lives for a lost cause in having gone off to the war to fight for their country (Kendall 119). If the army was to look at the soldiers as heroes, there is no doubt that this feeling would be passed on to the whole society. The army is also shown as being ungrateful because of the different and unrealistic expectations that they seem to hold for the soldiers that go to war. They well know that soldiers might get injured or wounded in war and they should therefore put necessary measures in place to help the soldiers cope so that they can still lead normal lives. One of the reasons that soldiers feel depressed and hopeless is because of the views of the society towards them. Although the soldier is not mentally disabled, he is physically disabled which made him feel devoid. The soldier sat in his wheel chair and began to reminisce about the days before he went to war as he looked at children playing and imagine that he would never interact with young ladies that he would have been able to interact with if he had not gone to war (S1 l2, 3, 4). He felt that the ladies that would have been attracted to him before he went war were now viewing him as if he had an illness.
For the most part, the author also successfully highlights the feeling of despair and darkness, which enveloped the victims in that era. All the honour and glory and admiration are all chucked aside and replaced with the cruel reality. The destruction that war inflicted is perfectly contrasted with the hopes and dreams of the boys that joined the war and the cruel reality that awaited most of the boys that survived it when they returned home. The hopes, glory and admiration are replaced with disfigurement; passiveness and dependence, making the victims seem child likely bitter and nostalgically desperate to return to the days before they joined the army and for them to never have joined.
Cavzer, Elna. Changing Perceptions. England: Sussex Academic Press, 1999. Print.
Kendall, Tim. The Oxford handbook of British and Irish War Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Owen, Wilson. Poems by Wilfred Owen. New Yolk. Forgotten Books, 1949. Print.