Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

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What do the deceased soldiers get instead of flowers, shrouds, and candles in Wilfred Owen's poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth?"

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In Wilfred Owen's World War I poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth," the deceased soldiers do not receive prayers, bells, or songs from choirs. Instead, their deaths are marked only by the sounds of guns, the "rifles' rapid rattle," as Owen writes. Mourners do not light candles for the dead. Instead, there are lights "in their [the soldiers' ] eyes" that are like the farewell lights of candles. And instead of white shrouds on the soldiers' caskets, the dead are met with the "pallor of girls' brows." In other words, the women who wait for them at home will turn pale when they learn of the soldiers' deaths. Finally, instead of receiving flowers, the dead will be met with "patient minds," or sorrow, and instead of people pulling down their blinds, the dusk will cause shade to fall on the earth where the dead lie. 

In this poem, a sonnet, Owen subverts the rituals of the normal grieving process. Each element of the normal funeral rites is twisted by the destructiveness of war. Owen shows that war does not even allow the dead to be buried with dignity, and therefore the soldiers are not given the respect they are due. 

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