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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The setting is crucial to the message that Owen wishes to convey. Everyone is enjoying a day out at the park; all except the disabled veteran, that is, who sits there, shivering in his wheelchair, waiting for darkness to fall. As he reflects ruefully on the good old days before...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The setting is crucial to the message that Owen wishes to convey. Everyone is enjoying a day out at the park; all except the disabled veteran, that is, who sits there, shivering in his wheelchair, waiting for darkness to fall. As he reflects ruefully on the good old days before he signed up to fight the Germans, the old soldier becomes embittered at how he's been abandoned by a society that encouraged him to go off to war.

Where once young women were impressed by his courage, his heroism, and his awfully handsome kilt, now they avert their gaze whenever they behold the pathetic sight of this mangled veteran, preferring instead at look at men who still have all their limbs intact. Yet these women, like all the other civilians who enjoy their free time in the park, are only able to do so because of the enormous sacrifices made by those who risked life and limb for their country. In that sense, the setting of the poem is a microcosm of a Britain that Owen clearly feels has forgotten the extraordinary service rendered by the disabled veteran and countless others like him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team