Student Question

Does the poem "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen expose the myth that war is glamorous?

Quick answer:

Wilfred Owen's poem "Disabled" certainly seeks to dispel the myth that war is glamorous. Owen depicts a victim of war, "legless" and without arms, and draws a contrast between the world he once knew, of pleasant evenings when people were "silly for his face," and the new world in which girls "touch him like some queer disease." There is no glamor in going to war and becoming untouchable, and the man is not even received as a hero.

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Wilfred Owen's poem "Disabled" certainly does not present war as glamorous. On the contrary, it uses the image and experiences of a "legless" and armless young man who was once "a god in kilts" to present the absolute lack of glamor that results from having been wounded in battle. Far from returning from the war as a hero, this young man is "old" within the span of only a year. He now "wonders why" he'd ever thought it was a good idea to join the army, given how difficult his life now is. Girls who once admired him "touch him like some queer disease."

Owen does not shrink, either, from pointing out the fact that many young men did believe that war was glamorous and joined for that reason. The young man in the poem joined partly "to please his Meg" because he felt that girls would admire him more if he was in uniform. But the outcome for the boy who was not even nineteen has been quite the opposite. He thought only of "esprit de corps" and of the salutes he would receive and the pay he would earn as a soldier. He never considered the reality of the situation, which might mean spending years sick in institutes and living on others' pity.
The life the young man in "Disabled" will lead has been cut short before it began. Owen leaves the reader in no doubt that his decision to join the war effort has cost him dearly.

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