Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

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Why is "Anthem for Doomed Youth" described as anti-war?

"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is described as anti-war because it reveals the true, horrific nature of armed conflict. War is presented by Owen as something that condemns young men to die as cattle, unmourned amidst the sodden fields of No-Man's Land.

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Though Wilfred Owen was a participant in the First World War, he was never under any illusions about the true nature of armed conflict. Not for him was the romanticized portrait of war presented by official propaganda. Not for him was the grotesque notion that war was heroic and that...

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Though Wilfred Owen was a participant in the First World War, he was never under any illusions about the true nature of armed conflict. Not for him was the romanticized portrait of war presented by official propaganda. Not for him was the grotesque notion that war was heroic and that it was the very height of heroism to give one's life fighting for one's country.

On the contrary, Owen knew war to be a veritable hell on earth, and throughout his poetry, he gives us the unsparing details of just what it was like to be caught up in such a deadly inferno of death and destruction.

"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a prime example of this. It is unmistakably an anti-war screed, simply by virtue of the truth of its portrayal of the First World War and its catastrophic effect on the cream of British youth. These young men have been utterly dehumanized by their experiences, reduced to cattle as they are slaughtered in their droves by the "monstrous anger of the guns."

For these men, there are no angelic voices to serenade them to their graves, no prayers or bells; just the "shrill, demented choirs" of wailing shells. Here, as elsewhere in his work, Owen is attacking the romanticization of World War I, the widespread belief that there is something inherently noble about the mechanized slaughter of the trenches. In contrasting bells, choirs, and prayers with the "rapid rattle" of rifle fire and the "monstrous anger of the guns," he is showing us the stark difference between the romanticized view of war and its sordid reality.

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