Anthem for Doomed Youth Analysis

Anthem for Doomed Youth

The title of this poem is ironic. Usually, an anthem is a religious or celebratory song. This image is then contradicted by the phrase 'Doomed Youth', which is very negative. There is also irony in the structure of the poem. It is a sonnet, which is generally a love poem, so it is strange that Owen uses the form for a dark, mournful topic. The poem is about the lost generation of young soldiers in World War 1, who were 'doomed' from the moment they signed up to fight. Owen himself wrote this poem while recovering from shell-shock in a Scottish hospital, only to die in battle less than a year later.

Stanza One

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

     Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Owen refers to the soldiers as 'cattle'. This immediately dehumanises them as they were dehumanised in battle. Their identities did not matter and those that were lost are still seen only as a number. Owen draws attention to how they were slaughtered in the same way cattle are. He personifies the guns, giving them 'monstrous anger'. This is also dehumanising, as it takes away any emotion the soldiers may have and gives it to an inanimate object, a gun. Owen suggests that there is only the sound of battle to mourn the dead, no funeral bells. They have no loved oned left to mourn; or, if they do, they do not know of their sons' deaths because there are simply so many of them being lost that they cannot keep track of those who are killed.

      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

The alliteration of the 'r' sound creates the noise of rapid gunfire, setting the atmosphere of a battlefield. 'Orisons' is another word for 'prayers'; 'patter' means to talk quickly. Owen shows here that the sound of the rifles drowns out their prayers so they cannot be heard. He uses the word 'hasty' to suggest that they are hurrying; they know they do not have much chance of surviving long in such a bloody battle.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 

     

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