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...
(The entire section is 427 words.)