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Anthem for Doomed Youth

Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

Analysis: Speaker

Our speaker is disembodied. No, we don't mean he had his head chopped off in the heat of battle. We mean, he doesn't seem to be physically present. He's not there to experience any of the things he's chatting about. There's no "I," "my," or even "our." And yet he clearly associates himself closely with the soldiers and has an intimate knowledge of the sounds and terror of a soldier's life. 

We get the impression that our speaker is a soldier who has stepped out of himself for the time being. Whoever he is, he definitely knows the ins and outs and awfuls of trench warfare. But he also knows something of what goes down on the home front, because he knows all about the ways in which the noncombatants try to mark the loss of their men in battle. And he knows, or at least believes, that their rituals and ceremonies can't ever come close to the terror of war.

What's so great about having a disembodied speaker is that he's got a sort of bird's-eye view. He has no trouble jumping from image to image, and he can bound with the greatest of ease from the battlefront, to a church funeral, to a house where the blinds are closed. He sees it all, knows it all, and isn't afraid to share it all.

We think it's also safe to say that our unflinching speaker is outraged by the costs of war and what he sees as the inability of religious rituals to address the real suffering that's going on.

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