Guilt and Blame Theme
We're not really experts on the subject, but it's hard to imagine you could have an easy time killing someone (regardless of whether or not it's justified through war) and not feeling any guilt whatsoever. It's also hard to imagine that you could live in constant fear for your life, and for the lives of your fellow soldiers and not want to blame someone for all the craziness you've witnessed. While Owen does a good job of showing the forgiveness and compassion of these fallen soldiers, he also balances it with a healthy dose of guilt and blame in "Strange Meeting." They're angry they wasted their lives on war. And, honestly, who can blame them?
Questions About Guilt and Blame
- Do you think Owen wants to make us feel that the soldiers are to blame for their own suffering? If not, who is to blame? How can you tell?
- Do you think it's possible for speaker number one to feel both guilt for killing enemy soldiers, and the desire to blame someone or something else—the war?—for his guilt? How might he be able to feel both of these conflicting emotions?
- Do you think the guilt the soldiers feel is warranted? Why or why not?
Chew on This
Part of the suffering the soldiers have to endure in hell is feeling guilty for all of the killing they had to do, which sort of equates to experiencing your worst punishment. Over and over again.
Although Owen recognizes that the soldiers will feel guilt for killing their enemies (and that there's no way around that, sorry guys), he feels the real blame is on those who make the decision to go to war in the first place.