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Tainted Arms Essay

1369 words - 5 pages

Alfred Owen’s poem, “Arms and the Boy,” presents war and how it changes a young boy. “Arms and the Boy” is a powerful illustration of innocence versus experience. By showing how the bayonet blade possesses human traits, the blade’s symbolism is not simply an actual representation of demonstrative agency of murder. The bayonet blade’s role is to express experience, that knowledge is what corrupts the boy and thus leads him to lose his innocence. Further, while the “bullet-heads” in stanza two take over the role of experience, stanza three depicts the boy as innocent through biblical imagery that illustrate innocence as a God given characteristic. By the end, the first two stanzas contradict the last stanza since the first two encourage the boy to experience the unknown and the last stanza conveys reasons on why he cannot experience the unknown. Signifying that man made weapon imagery is what is desired and God given characteristics do not flow with manmade materials.
The bayonet blade takes up the role of experience in the poem by illustrating personification. In the first line, Owen uses alliteration to amplify internal rhyme, in order to stress the bayonet as a destructive tool "bayonet-blade”. That stress gives importance to the bayonet blade, thus giving it the role of experience. It is significant that the blade is given the role of experience because it is a man made material. In return, it possesses characteristics of the unknown and curiosity. Owen further illustrates internal rhyming in line number two, to create importance to characters that have human qualities to personify bayonet blade like "keen" and "steel”. If “keen” is used as a noun, it is an Irish song that laments for the dead (OED). This is significant because the steel possesses sadness and that is an experience that is given again to manmade weapons. The word “blue” is also used in the 3rd line of the poem, blue is interesting because it could possibly be referring to two different things. Blue can refer to the actual coldness of the steel and lastly, it could be something like sadness or indecent which alludes back to the desire of knowledge or experience. This is also significant because there is pattern that is revealed in the poem and that is that man made materials possesses experience, knowledge and curiosity. The desire of wanting to know the unknown is similar to biblical stories like Adam and Eve. The tone or indecent refers to the temptation of Adam and Eve in Eden and the tree of knowledge, which their curiosity brought the downfall of humanity. Is Owen trying to send a message to his readers through the imagery and personification? Yes, all the desire to want to know the unknown and experience it is what will be the down fall of the boy. Further it leads to imply that weapons will be the down fall of the boy who represents humanity. Further, the third line reinforces the human characteristics of the bayonet blade by expressing a simile "like a madman's flash"...

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