Wilfred Owen – Term 2 Essay

2033 words - 9 pages

Wilfred Owen – Term 2 Essay

‘Owen struggled with religion throughout his life’. How are these struggles shown in the two poems that we have studied?

In Wilfred Owen’s poem, ‘The Unreturning’, the audience is concerned with Owen’s perspective of the nature of death. Catholicism was a faith that Owen struggled to have faith in; his philosophy in ‘life after death’ was part of his life long plea to find truth in religion. ‘Maundy Thursday’ uses the differing responses to the act of veneration, perhaps altering the reader’s view of Catholic doctrine. These struggles captivate the audiences necessary attention through negative connotations and dark undertones to make the experience much more ...view middle of the document...

The “remnants over cloud peaks, thunder-walled” suggests that the sound of nature separates the dead from the living. To be held against his will and to never touch ‘her’ again, this shall be his curse as he is one-with-nature, neither divine nor dead - numb, a “stillness” ensues. Participating with the despair Owen feels whilst processing imagery such as hurling, underlines the idea that death is a frightening process. Like bile, it is a toxin which is not easily managed or swallowed, and the nature of death is that you are expelled from those you love. The tone is negative, coupled with the concept of death’s nature, widows, and victims of death in the audience can relate to his pessimistic attitude that “the far gone dead” may never “return upon this world” – happiness after death is but a hoax. This invites the reader to experience Owen’s innermost thoughts, by negative connotations he employs us to feel his struggles, his pain and misery.

Stanza two of ‘The Unreturning’ focuses on his sense of isolation from the dead and his unsuccessful attempt at communicating with the soul of his loved one. “No ghost woke” in the deceased; no ghost visited the “thunder” of his calls. This summons Owen’s audience to his reality that the soul is not free from bodily distractions, treating the ghost as being ‘one-with-the-body’. This adds another layer of struggle: should this ghost feel as its body does, enslavement and torture accustomed by God may mean an eternal life of suffering in the afterlife… To add to this complication “each one [of] whom life exiled, [Owen] named and called”, expresses his doubtfulness of a rewarding afterlife, this heaven we all want to obtain may be all a hoax. The deceased are “all too far away” not “one fared back to him”, Owen’s self-confidence plummets with relative suddenness and with it his heart. In a more universal sense, those who are “exiled” never to see the ones they love, and on top of the fact is they also will not to return to is just a taste of the rejection we have all experienced, we can sympathize on a much deeper level with Owen.

The dawn that is created from the darkness brought about by death mirrors Owen’s discomfort and negative perception of religion. As “indefinite, sad [and] weak limned” as is, the energy taken through his “vacant gloaming mind” portrays yet another struggle he feels with coming to terms with the death of his loved ones and their transition to the divine power, God. Long vowel sounds such as vae and loe in “vacant and gloaming” echoes the emptiness of this unholy dawn and what he feels inside. To the emotional mind, Owen’s feeling of hollowness numbs the pain of questioning the care in the afterlife, and provides a sense of relief for this audience that has had to digest all of the blood Owen spills onto the page. “Gagged by smothering Wings” is consistent with the poem’s biblical theme; the capitalization of Wing seems to refer to Christianity as all references to God are...

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