An Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting
Analysis of a working manuscript for Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting" provides the student with insight into the creative process. Owen's original wording coupled with his subsequent revisions illuminate how he may have intended the poem to be understood by the reader. Owen's revisions show a determination to accomplish three apparent objectives. First, Owen paid close attention to the connotative meanings inherent in his diction. Equally as important, Owen attempted to refine his language mechanics to enhance the esthetic quality of his work. Finally, there is evidence of a concerted effort to universalize the poem for readers of diverse experience.
In contrast to prose writing, diction must be sparing and more powerfully effective in poetry. Each word must serve a specific purpose beyond the creation of basic meaning. Word connotation must remain foremost in the poet's mind.
While different words may mean virtually the same thing in general terms, the intricate nuances of meaning and imagery associated with specific words goes far beyond generic lexical definitions. Connotative meanings contain the real power to evoke identification and emotional response in the reader. Owen's revisions to "Strange Meeting" show his desire to achieve the best synergy between lexical meaning and connotative imagery.
Line 11 of "Strange Meeting" contains two interesting word revisions. In the manuscript Owen wrote the word "fears" over some word impossible to decipher. Over that word, Owen wrote another word, probably "ways", which he later crossed out. The Norton Anthology of Modern poetry has published the line with the word "pains". Apparently Owen spent significant energy determining the precise meaning he desired. Few if any mental images are conjured by the word "ways", while "fears" brings distinct meaning to the line. If the face displays "fears", the reader can assume some attributes of the person and the situation of his death.
"Fears" also brings some life to the image, which may be why the Norton version uses "pains", which are not only easier to envision on a corpse, but also attribute different characteristics to the person. If the person felt fear, the reader is less likely to empathize with him. If he felt pain, then the reader may tend to ennoble the person, and understand in a very different way the situation of his death. Later in the same line, the word "creatures" is replaced by "visions". This change brings more humanity to the subject removing the connotation of bestiality, while reinforcing the fact that the person is dead. The appearance of the dead man as a "vision" brings an unearthly quality to the scene without compromising the humanity of the soldier. Line 14 contains a similar change in wording. Owen substitutes "strange" for "my". The dead soldier is not in actuality the speaker's friend, so "my" is not a good word choice because of its personal nature. "My" also...