The Pity Of War In Owen's "Strange Meeting"

1353 words - 5 pages

In Owen?s poem, ?Strange Meeting,? the theme of war is heavily emphasized, as the poet expresses complete disgust concerning the nature of war. Yet, rather than describing the violence of war in the battlefield, the poet chooses a most unconventional route to attack war by instead placing the soldiers in Hell, centering the poem around the civil conversation between two dead enemies. In doing this, the poet strips away the barrier between these two enemies, and as a result, he evokes not anger, but pity, compassion, and regret for both soldiers. By juxtaposing the tranquility of peace and the violent imagery of war and using precise diction and irony, the poet emphasizes the cruel, destructive pain war inflicts on mankind, as neither soldier triumphs but lies helpless in Hell because of his involvement in the war.In order to effectively draw sympathy for the soldiers, the poet first sets the tone of the poem. Rather than using rhyme or a distinct rhyme, he relies instead on diction to set the somber, regretful tone of the poem. He describes the narrator?s setting in the first stanzas as a ?dull tunnel? (2) toward the ?sullen hall? of Hell (9-10), and one can almost feel the heaviness of the ?granites? of the earth which ?titanic war had groined? (3) as the narrator travels deeper into the tunnel. Moreover, the poet uses phrases such as ?encumbered sleepers groaned? (4), adding to the soporific, death-like setting. By depicting Hell not as the traditional fiery pit of destruction but as a mind-numbing plain of existence, notably bereft of any strong feelings or emotions, the poet firmly establishes a setting to draw pity for the characters in the poem, rather than anger.Then, in stark contrast to the numbness in Hell, the poet moves on to convey the pain and regret of war using horrific imagery. Yet instead of anger, the poet evokes pain as a humanizing quality, and the reader cannot help but feel sorry for the second soldier. For example, the poet uses the metaphor of the carnal, vicious ?swiftness of the tigress?(28) to describe the violent attacks during the war, while the very picture of the second soldier?s face, ?grained? with ?a thousand pains? (11) stirs up much pity. Both these images serve to show the raw carnage of war and the ruthlessness of its attack on man. Moreover, this carnal ruthlessness is emphasized further, when the poet states that war distills ?pity? (25), for here the poet illustrates how war strips away man?s ability to reason and be compassionate. He also uses the terrible image of a dirty wound to describe war itself, for in the eyes of the poet, war serves only purpose: to mar mankind?s existence. To the poet, nothing is more painful or dirty that the ?cess of war? (38). As the second soldier bemoans his participation in the tragedy of war, he describes the ?blood? that ?clogged their chariot-wheels? (34); both literally and metaphorically, the soldier alludes to his regret for adding to war, now that he was aware of...

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