Essay: Disabled – Wilfred Owen

The poem Disabled by Wilfred Owen scrutinises the consequences of war on those who experience it by contrasting the current life of an impaired soldier after war to what he was capable of doing before the war.
Owen creates a striking view of the soldier’s life by the depressing description of the soldier in the first verse. The verse starts off with a description of the soldier being an isolated man, in a wheelchair, alone, in a park, incapable of walking or relishing any of the activities taking place right next to him, which makes the soldier feel despondent and useless. Although he is dressed formally, his uniform is trimmed at certain spots which suggests that he has become handicapped, sitting down, while he waits involuntarily, concentrating on the voices of youthful children which dishearten him, as they force him to recall what he recklessly lost – just to be able to fight for his country to impress the ‘giddy jilts’.
In the second verse, Owen makes use of flash backs to compare how the soldier was before and after the war which creates a striking view of the soldier’s life. The soldier is made to remember how luxurious his life used to be compared to before the injury, which suggests that the soldier really wants to have his old life back and wishes that he hadn’t joined the army but unfortunately, he cannot change the past. He remembers how the women frequently approached him but he now regrets losing his legs as he now knows that he will never again be able to ‘feel’ their gentle touch as they only touch him now as they are required to, although they don’t want to, as if he is a bizarre irregularity that no one has ever seen before.
Owen also creates a striking view by making the soldier remember how it was before joining the army and becoming handicapped ‘ being a football professional and satisfied of the ‘blood smear down his leg’ which occurred from an injury during a football match, and how the crowd had hauled him across the pitch on their shoulders, publicizing his valour and excellence. It was because of this that the soldier thought of joining the army, to appear stronger and more capable to women. The reason behind why the soldier decided to join the army is examined, as he had never been patriotic enough to invade the Germans until the football match, and he had been too young to not understand the consequences of war which he is now experiencing. The young soldier had only thought of the adventure associated with war: the joy of holding a gun. Only ‘some cheered him home’ but ‘not as crowds cheer Goal’.
The young soldier discovers the nature of reality as he remembers the amount of people that applauded his departure, but to his shock, notices how there had been less crowds of people on his return, and all his achievements in the war were erased and the glory he had expected was denied to him due to being considered an ‘abnormality’. Only the vicar has time to visit him now as he regards the soldier as dead due to how society regards him although he risked his life, fighting for a country, that in the end, doesn’t reward him ‘ instead is shunned away from society.
Now the soldier starts to look at his current life, which he is forced to accept as the women glance at him and then to the men that are ‘whole’. The women’s glancing suggests that they are embarrassed to look at the soldier as he is constantly being rejected from society. He is also forced to accept that he will have to live the rest of his life following someone else’s rules, as he is not able to help himself. In the end, he helplessly wonders why no one has come to ‘put him to bed’ so he hopes and prays that someone will remember about him instead of following society and becoming ego-centric. Owen therefore creates a striking view of the soldier’s life as he has done all he can but society has let him down, even though he had risked his life protecting society.
The slightly frequent changes between the past and present create a striking view on what the soldier has had to surrender. Every verse starts with Owen depicting the soldier’s current life and circumstances, then compares it to the soldier’s past life but the last verse portrays his thoughts about his future: a life that he cannot manage, living a life on dependency and helplessness.
The soldier had been an egoistic man seeking glory by fighting in the war, thinking only about his looks, and the attraction that would have been shown by the women towards him, but ends up losing the chance to achieve his dreams. Unimaginably, the soldier does not get any medals on his return and there weren’t endless lines of people applauding: there is only a used wheelchair, waiting, gathering dust, and a small crowd of cheerless people. Instead of how he imagined, the people express their sympathy for the sacrifice he has made for his country rather than honoring his heroism towards the war, making the soldier feel pathetic and unworthy. This creates a striking view on the soldier’s life because it shows that he had joined the army whilst thinking emotionally rather than logically.

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