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"The Show" represent's Owen's reflections just before entering battle, which British soldiers called, sardonically, by that name. In the poem, Owen takes the point of view of a spirit, surveying a battlefield from a "vague height" with "Death" flying beside him. From this vantage point, Owen sees horrific sights across a landscape he compares to the moon. Like the moon, the battlefield has a face, complete with a razor-wire beard and pocks and craters from bombs. Owen notes that little caterpillar-like creatures, which are actually soldiers, crawl and writhe on this hellish landscape. The poem is full of imagery suggesting broken human bodies, coming to an end with these chilling lines:
Death fell with me, like a deepening moan/And he, picking a manner of worm, which half had hid/Its bruises in the earth, but crawled no further/Showed me its feet, the feet of many men/And the fresh-severed head of it, my head.
With this poem, Owen, perhaps as much as in any of his other works, means to convey the horrors of war by portraying themas they really are: disgusting, foul, brutal, and often seeming only vaguely human.
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"The Show" is a poem depicting a soldier's out of body experience upon dying in a battle in World War I. In this poem, as in other poems, Owen's "increasing disgust at the carnage of battle [is] amply evident" (eNotes) and underscores the dream-like characterization of inhuman struggle, inhuman violence and inhuman suffering in battle.
The fact that soldiers in the poem are described as "thin caterpillars," "abundant spawns" and worms is indicative of the poem's conceit that the method of battle is indeed inhuman.
The poem begins with the narrator poised above the scene "from a vague height with Death" and ends with the narrator returning to his body from which the head has been severed. Starkly violent and negative in its imagery, "The Show" puts forward a gruesome picture of the trench warfare of WWI.
The only line that posits some humanity for the soldiers is suggestive of the tragic irony of war. Soldiers are not born to fight and die in battle, but instead are transported there by circumstance and political need.
All migrants from green fields, intent on mire.
Set down in the battle, as it were, these soldiers seem to be "intent on mire" though their real homes are elsewhere in "green" and more innocent places.
The poem is dark and gloomy in its tone and in its content and also offers a comment on the apparent incomprehensibility of trench warfare.
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