Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

Start Free Trial

How does Owen convey the futility of loss in "Anthem for Doomed Youth"?

Expert Answers

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

"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is about the devastation of World War I. The poem is very much focused on the violence and extreme loss of life due to industrial warfare, with reference to shellings and rifle fire. Its focus on the futility of the experience goes all the way back to the poem's opening line, where Owen calls the doomed soldiers "these who die as cattle," a very bleak commentary on their utter helplessness in the face of mechanized warfare. That sense of helplessness is further invoked when Owen writes:

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; / nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, / the shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells

Here we get a sense of the ultimate desolation of those losses, so far from home, where even the soldiers' deaths are ultimately overwhelmed by those instruments of industrial warfare. Throughout the poem, Owen describes the horrors unleashed by World War I, and in describing this subject with such brutal and unrelenting intensity, he is able to convey its ultimate futility.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial