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Symbol Analysis

According to 60s Motown star Edwin Starr, war is good for absolutely nothing (we're submitting this retro video as evidence and entertainment). Wilfred Owen had already come to this conclusion a good handful of decades beforehand, but we bet he would have been down with this video (definitely the message of it; we're not sure what he'd think of that outfit). So much of this poem is dedicated to highlighting the hopelessness and destructiveness of war. Reading this poem with that message, and knowing that Owen fought for so long and died in battle is especially heart wrenching.

  • Lines 2-3: While wars of the past probably didn't carve out an actual tunnel through all that hard stone to create a special place in hell, Owen is getting at the fact that all the wars in history have had a deep, lasting (and not at all positive) impact on the world.
  • Line 25: Owen uses a pretty slick turn of phrase (Jay-Z would be proud) to convey how war itself is a pity and that it causes so much pain. 
  • Lines 26-27: War's not only bad for those that live through it (though it's pretty awful for them), but it's bad for the future generations to come. War "spoils" the world, and in a spoiled world people can't be content, so they start another war. It's a completely vicious cycle. 
  • Line 29: This is a continuation of the idea in line 27. War is a vicious cycle, and even though it's good for "absolutely nothing!" and just forces countries away from progress, we keep fighting. We're starting to think Wilfred Owen would have been an awesome peace-loving hippie if he'd lived in the 60's. 
  • Lines 32-33: According to Owen, war just takes you further away from the world into a horrible and unprotected place. And for what? To sacrifice your life? If war only makes things worse, then the soldiers who die in battle die in vain. That sounds like a pretty raw deal.

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