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Themes

The speaker of "Anthem for Doomed Youth" never says the words soldier or war. He never names a country or particular dispute. In a way, he's signaling to us that this poem is not about specific battles or individual loves lost. Nope, Owen is writing all about a much more universal topic: the terrible costs and realities of all wars, and the inability of our rituals to alleviate the death and suffering it brings about.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Although our speaker gives us a very clear feel for the battlefield, it seems to be all sounds—not sights. What's the effect of leaving out the visual imagery? How do you feel about the fact that no specific locations or people are mentioned? 
  2. Where does the emotion come from that our speaker ascribes to the guns (their "anger" and their "wailing")? Is this the anger and sadness of the soldiers, does it come from somewhere else, or is it something built into the guns themselves?
  3. Here it is, the Big Question: what's the speaker really saying about war? Is it all senseless? Is it ever necessary, according to him? How do you know (or not know)?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

This poem shows us that the suffering on the home front is equal to the suffering on the battlefront—albeit a little less violent.

According to our speaker, funerals for fallen soldiers are pointless, because they cheapen the sacrifice dead soldiers have made.

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