English Literature
/
Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

Wilfred Owen: A Reflection on the Life and Death of a Poet Soldier in World War I

Born in 1893 in Oswestry, Shropshire, Wilfred Owen was both a poet and a soldier during World War I. His experiences on the battlefield and beyond inspired powerful poems that brought to light the agonies and hardships faced by soldiers. While Owen's works often conveyed anger and criticism towards those responsible for these agonies, they also carried a strong message of empathy and compassion for his fellow soldiers. Let's dive into the life, death, and poetry of Wilfred Owen.

Early Life and Education

As a child, Wilfred Owen attended Birkenhead Institute school before transferring to Shrewsbury Technical School. He then pursued higher education at University College in Reading and later at the University of London. After completing his studies, Owen moved to France and became a language tutor.

The Outbreak of War

When World War I erupted in 1914, Owen returned to England from France and enlisted in the military. His time in the war had a profound impact on him, leading him to write about his experiences in both letters and poetry.

Coming Home and Tragic End

In a letter dated February 4, 1917, Owen expressed his thoughts on the war and its conditions:

"Everything is unnatural, broken, blasted, and the sight of dead bodies outside the trenches all day, all night, is unbearable. In poetry, we may call them glorious, but to live amongst them every day and night..."

Just a few months later, in 1917, Owen was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment for shell shock (now known as PTSD). It was during this time that he met another soldier and poet, Siegfried Sassoon, who greatly influenced his work. After his stay at the hospital, Owen returned to the war in 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery.

The Tragic Death of Wilfred Owen

On November 4, 1918, just one week before the Armistice was declared, Owen was killed in action while crossing the Sambre-Oise Canal in France. He was only 25 years old and is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery in Ors, France.

Owen's Poetic Legacy

Owen's most famous poem, 'Dulce et Decorum Est', vividly portrays the horrors of war and challenges the idea of glorifying death for one's country. He uses graphic descriptions to dispel the myth of honorable death and calls out those who promote it, forcing readers to confront the harsh realities of war.

If you could see, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (l. 21-28)

In 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', Owen reflects on the futile ceremonies and tributes given to fallen soldiers, comparing them to cattle being slaughtered without thought. He also emphasizes the tragic loss of young lives, a theme that later took on a poignant irony as Owen himself died at the young age of 25.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? -
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

The Compassionate Words of Wilfred Owen: Honoring the Struggles of Soldiers in World War I

Wilfred Owen, a British soldier and poet, was known for his powerful and impactful works that shed light on the realities of war. In his poems, he addressed themes of loss and death, while also exposing the futility of war. However, what truly set Owen apart was his empathy and understanding of the struggles and suffering endured by his fellow soldiers.

Owen's anger towards those who turned a blind eye to the plight of the soldiers is evident in his writing. He saw them as expendable pawns in a futile war, rather than the celebrated heroes portrayed by society. In one of his famous lines, he writes, "But they are troops who fade, not flowers," comparing the soldiers to fading troops rather than blooming flowers.

Sadly, Owen's poetic voice was cut short when he was sent to the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment for shell shock. It was during his time there that he met fellow soldier and poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon's influence on Owen's writing was significant, as they shared a similar perspective on the horrors and futility of war. Tragically, Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, while crossing the Sambre-Oise Canal in France.

Key Takeaways from Wilfred Owen's Legacy

  • Wilfred Owen was a British soldier and poet who bravely wrote about his experiences in World War I.
  • Owen's poems often carried anti-war sentiments and sought to expose the brutal realities of war.
  • He was sent to a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers, where he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon.
  • Owen died while serving in the First World War on November 4, 1918, crossing the Sambre-Oise Canal in France.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wilfred Owen

  • What is Wilfred Owen's most famous poem?

Owen's most renowned work is 'Dulce et Decorum Est', a powerful depiction of the harsh realities of war.

  • What was Wilfred Owen's main goal in his poetry?

Owen's main goal was to bring attention to the horrors and futility of war through his writing, drawing from his own experiences as a soldier.

  • Who was Wilfred Owen?

Wilfred Owen was a British soldier and poet, born on March 18, 1893.

  • When was Wilfred Owen born?

Wilfred Owen was born on March 18, 1893.

  • How did Wilfred Owen pass away?

Owen was killed while serving in World War I on November 4, 1918, crossing the Sambre-Oise Canal in France.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime