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Jesus Christ

Symbol Analysis

Oh, please, we'd never curse at you. We just wanted to point out that although Owen probably didn't intend to make this poem with a particularly religious focus, there is Christ imagery and symbolism scattered very subtly and sneakily throughout. Let's track it down.

  • Line 8: This dead guy is "lifting" his "hands as if to bless." You know who else did a whole lot of that in his day? Jesus. While it would be too simplistic to say that the dead soldier is a Christ figure, Owen is no doubt drawing the parallel between the soldier's sacrifice and unjust death to Christ's. 
  • Line 10: Relax. We know Jesus Christ is like the opposite of Hell in Christian connotation land. But it's important to remember that for a poem to include Hell (especially with the capital H) it probably believes in Heaven (capital H) also, and then for sure has some room for Christ. 
  • Lines 35-36: If you've ever read the Bible, or heard any Bible stories, there's this pretty big thing where Christ can "wash" you of your sins, or "cleanse" your soul. That's basically what's going on here. This dead soldier is saying that, if given the opportunity, he'd cleanse the soldiers who have killed in battle and "have blood on their hands" of their sins. That's some classic Christ-like behavior there. 
  • Line 39: Anyone ever heard of stigmata? According to Christian faith, Christ was killed by being nailed to the cross. He is said to have suffered wounds to the hands or wrists, feet, and sides, sometimes also on his forehead from the crown of thorns he wore. Stigmata is the occurrence of pain or blood in any of those areas where Christ was wounded with no actual presence of a wound (the person is said to be feeling the pain of Christ). This has made from some interesting television in recent years—how spooky would it be to see blood dripping from a wrist that has no wound? It's also been a source of symbolism in literature for centuries. In line 39 the foreheads of soldiers are bleeding, but there is no wound. Owen is portraying these soldiers as Christ-like—they're innocent and dying for the sins of others, specifically anyone who has ever participated or perpetuated war. 
  • Line 43: This one's a little shout out to line 8 when we first met speaker number two. To parry is to try to block. So we can see him lifting his hands again. As if to bless, perhaps? We're seeing the mirror image of line 8, for sure.

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