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Changes Made To The Draft Of Strange Meeting

1898 words - 8 pages

Changes Made to the Draft of Strange Meeting

        Reality in warfare and the painful truths that accompany war are skillfully presented in

Wilfred Owen's war poem "Strange Meeting."  Owen's poem is more powerful thanks to

revisions the poet made as he struggled to understand the devastating effects of war, both

emotionally and socially.  "Strange Meeting" underwent changes during its composition that

signify changes in Owen's understanding of warfare and human interactions.  As he states in a

draft of a preface to a book of poems, "My subject is War and the pity of War.  The Poetry is in

the pity" (Ellmann and O'Clair 542).  Throughout the development of this poem, one can see

Owen's concept of this pity change from a personal tragedy to a more universal waste.  Owen

made several important changes to his poem "Strange Meeting" that enabled this universal pity

to be more clearly presented.  He made the scene of the poem less dream-like and more like an

actual encounter, he eliminated references to the identity of the enemy, and through this, the

universality of his poem, the pity of war, is more plainly and powerfully conveyed.


The original version of "Strange Meeting" portrays the moment captured in the poem as

a sort of dream sequence.  Several changes were made to the poem to make the setting more

plausible and realistic.  The first line was altered from "It seems that from my dugout I escaped"

to "It seems that out of the battle I escaped" (Owen 541).  This change is not a minor one.  It is

one of the most significant cues about the location and nature of the action within the poem

given to the reader.  Owen's change makes the setting more ambiguous.  We are not certain if

the persona has arrived in an abandoned enemy dugout, a friendly dugout, or some other sort of

tunnel in "No Man's Land" between the lines.  The actions that have occurred before the poem

begins are also altered by this change to the first line.  The persona, the unknown soldier, does

not leave the relatively safe confines of his dugout to have this conversation with a strange

soldier, rather, he escapes from the immediate brutality of battle to this quiet, dull, dark

cave-like tunnel deep under the ground.  He comes to this place seeking refuge, not seeking a

change of scenery.  This creates a new connection between the two soldiers.  They both arrive in

this quiet place after escaping the horror of battle for just a little while.  The are both in need of

shelter.  The persona has escaped from the fury of battle only to be faced with the harsh reality

of war, to meet this strange soldier in a strange place.  He escaped mortal peril for a moment, but

is confronted deep in the tunnel by the even harsher problem of war, the waste, the pity of war,

or as Owen refers to it in line...

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