Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

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How does the poet convey his attitude towards war in "Anthem for Doomed Youth"?

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Wilfred Owen conveys his anti-war attitude through the central metaphor around which the poem is organized. The poem asks how the young soldiers who died on the battlefields are being memorialized. The first line of the poem asks where the "passing-bells" are for the dead soldiers. "Passing-bells" are bells rung right after someone has died, indicating that it is time to say a prayer for the deceased. The rest of the poem answers that instead of passing-bells to commemorate the way in which the soldiers have sacrificed their lives, there are only the rattling of the guns and the explosion of shells. These images emphasize that the soldiers will not be commemorated, and, in what amounts to a travesty, the war only continues after their deaths.

In addition, Owen uses word choice and metaphors throughout the poem to emphasize his anti-war sentiment. For example, in the first line, he compares the dead soldiers to cattle in a simile. The use of the word "cattle" implies that the soldiers are being butchered and that their lives are worth very little. He later uses a metaphor to compare the sound of the shells to the sounds of a choir singing for the dead. The replacement of a choir with shells is a mockery of the sacrifice the soldiers have made. In the second stanza, he uses other metaphors, such as the pallor, or whiteness, of girls' brows when the deaths of the soldiers are announced. This whiteness stands in as the soldiers' pall, or the cloth spread over their coffin. Instead of having candles, the soldiers only have lights in their dead eyes. This series of metaphors emphasizes the futility of war and the way in which it degrades those who have died fighting it. 

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