Wilfred Owen

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What is the summary and analysis of Wilfred Owen's "Insensibility"?

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"Insensibility" by Wilfred Owen is a searing anti-war poem that graphically describes the plight of common soldiers while at the same time condemning those who send them off to fight. Wilfred Owen experienced the terrors of war firsthand as a British soldier, and on November 4, 1918, he was killed in action in France just a week before the war's end. In stanzas I, II, and III, Owen illustrates the horrifying mindset of those who are in the midst of battle. In stanza IV, he writes of the ignorance and misinformed attitudes of soldiers at home who have not yet seen war. In stanza V, he writes of the pointlessness of a soldier's death. In stanza VI, he condemns the people safe at home who are responsible for the death of soldiers in war.

In stanza I of "Insensibility," Owen says that men in battle are happier if they lose their emotion and compassion. He writes of "alleys cobbled with their brothers." In other words, there are so many dead bodies that they fill the alleyways end to end. In stanza II, Owen says something similar: that soldiers become dull and stop feeling. In stanza III, he writes that it is best if soldiers lose their imaginations because their wounds will ache less if there is not such a weight on their spirits.

Stanza IV changes settings, and Owen writes that soldiers at home are happier in their ignorance, because they have not yet encountered the darkness of battle. Stanza V changes settings once again as Owen moves back to the battlefield and writes of soldiers dead and dying in no man's land, and their deaths are all the more tragic because they are meaningless.

Stanza VI relentlessly exposes "dullards whom no cannon stuns." He calls out their cowardice in saying, "By choice they made themselves immune." In other words, while they choose to remain at home safe, they send forth their countrymen to "leave these shores" and face danger and death.

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