What are some of the techniques used in the poem, "Disabled," by Wilfred Owen?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his poignant poem "Disabled," Wilfred Owen makes use of several literary techniques. Much like other poems of Owen's, this poem is an exposé of the horrors of war and the complexity of the return to the home front for many soldiers. Owen chose to write about these aspects of war rather than about its false glory. 

One salient feature of this poem is its use of alliteration, a technique in which the poet repeats initial consonants. The effect of such alliteration is a hastening of the reading of the line(s). In "Disabled," Owen's use of alliteration helps to express the swiftness with which a soldier's life can change. 

In the first stanza, there is much alliteration: The first line repeats the /w/ with "in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark." The second line repeats the /g/ with "ghastly suit of grey." And the fifth line repeats the /p/ with "play and pleasure."

Then, in the second stanza, the second and third lines repeat the /g/ introduced in the first line with "gay":

"And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim"

In the third stanza, all but two lines contain some alliteration:

line 15: /y/ "younger than his youth, last year."
line 16: /b/ "his back will never brace; 
line 19: /l/ "lifetime lapsed"

There is much figurative language in this poem as well. For instance, Owen writes in line 10, "In the old times, before he threw away his knees." 

This veteran has lost his legs and sits in a wheelchair. The use of the verb "threw" suggests the soldier has had some active part in this injury. Perhaps Owen, who enlisted himself, envisions the tragic effects of such an unwise decision. 

In the final stanza, Owens personifies the word "rules":

"Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise
And take whatever pity they may dole...."

"Disabled" is typical of the poems Wilfred Owen wrote about war—the loss of lives, the loss of the will to live, and the loss of any reason to live.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a variety of poetic techniques Wilfred Owen employs in "Disabled." Some of them are listed below.

In the first stanza, Owen uses a simile, and then a metaphor:

Through the park 
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,

and...

Voices of play and pleasure after day, 
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

There is the use of irony as well:

And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh. 

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, 
After the matches, carried shoulder-high...

Whereas cuts and bruises were something to be proud of after a football game, the loss of blood in war is totally different, and there will be no celebration after this injury.

Repetition is used several times in the poem. At the beginning we see the phrase "voices of..." and later, at the end of the poem, "Why don't them come?"

Finally, Owen's use of imagery is extremely impactful:

He's lost his colour very far from here, 
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry, 
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

Owen, a soldier and poet in World War I, who was himself killed in that war (one week before the armistice was signed), humanizes the experiences of the battlefield and the sacrifices made there, timelessly memorializing such actions, regardless of the era.

awirboy | Student

A Caesura is used 

"He thought he'd better join. -He wonder why."

haharman | Student

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