What is significant in the setting of "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen?

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilfred Owen was a young poet who was interested in the idea of beauty.  His experiences as a soldier in World War I, however, taught him that beauty is short-lived.  Owen himself was killed in combat in 1918.

At the beginning of Owen's poem "Disabled," the setting is a park, near the end of a day.  A disabled man, crippled in the war, sits in a "wheeled chair" and hears the "voices of boys" and the "voices of play and pleasure."  The disabled man can only observe, because he is "legless" and "sewn short at elbow"--missing the lower part of an arm. 

The poem describes his life before the war, when he was a football hero popular with girls.  He joined the army because he thought he would "look [like] a god" in his uniform.

Near the end of the poem, Owen informs us more clearly of the setting.  The disabled man is now in some kind of "institute" for the handicapped.  Here, he will "spend a few sick years," taking "whatever pity they may dole."

As the poem ends, the disabled man wonders why his caretakers have not come to take him back inside:

Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

He seems to have reached the ultimate in helplessness.  He cannot participate in the fun that the young people in the park are having; yet neither does he have the physical ability to move away from them.  He is stuck, pathetically watching others live pleasant lives.