(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

To dramatize the terrible consequences of war, “Disabled” presents an ironic contrast between a strong-limbed, handsome youth eager to be a hero in battle and the wrecked body in a wheelchair that the man becomes as a result of being horribly wounded. In the first stanza, the voices of boys playing in the park can only sound sad to the disabled veteran, who feels the painful difference between their freedom and his forced immobility.

The next two stanzas bring memories of what a physically attractive young man the veteran had been. Only the year before, he seemed so very young, “younger than his youth” in terms of innocence and inexperience. Now, suddenly, he is old with a terrible wisdom, having learned of the destruction that war can do to the body. By saying that he “threw away his knees,” Owen emphasizes the carelessness with which the young man went to war, not giving a thought to the mutilation that might befall him. As a result of his injuries, women are now loath to touch him, as if his wounds were somehow contagious like a “queer disease.” Owen makes an ironic reference to love poetry when he describes blood from the man’s leg as a “leap of purple” that “spurted from his thigh.” This spurting is not the sign of a virile young man’s love. War is not the place where he proves his manhood; it is where he loses it.

Ironically, as the fourth stanza reveals, the young man seems to have gone to war in hope of...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Hibberd, Dominic. Wilfred Owen: A New Biography. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002.

Hipp, Daniel W. The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, and Siegfried Sassoon. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2005.

Owen, Harold. Journey from Obscurity, Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918: Memoirs of the Owen Family. 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Quinn, Patrick, ed. British Poets of the Great War: Sassoon, Graves, Owen. In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Documentary Series 18. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

Stallworthy, Jon. Wilfred Owen: A Biography. 1974. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

White, Gertrude M. Wilfred Owen. New York: Twayne, 1969.

White, William. Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918: A Bibliography. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1967.