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What techniques are used in Wilfred Owen's poem "Disabled"?

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In Wilfred Owen's "Disabled," various literary techniques are employed to convey the grim realities of war and its impact on soldiers. Techniques such as juxtaposition of light and dark imagery, alliteration, metaphor, rhetorical questions, and exclamatory sentences enhance the poem's thematic depth and emotional intensity. For instance, light and dark imagery symbolically contrast the soldier's life before and after the war, emphasizing his loss and transformation. Alliteration quickens the pace of reading, reflecting the sudden changes in a soldier’s life. Metaphors and personification vividly depict the soldier’s sacrifices and the societal response to his plight, while rhetorical questions and exclamatory sentences highlight his isolation and despair.

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One technique used in this poem is the juxtaposition of light and dark imagery. For example, in the first stanza, Owen describes the soldier "waiting for dark" and dressed in a "ghastly suit of grey." The darkness suggested by these images is symbolic of the soldier's feelings of hopelessness and misery now that the war has ruined his life. In the second stanza, however, in which Owen describes the soldier's life before the war, he describes "glow-lamps budd[ing] in the light-blue trees." This image connotes light and color (in juxtaposition to the darkness of the previous stanza), which symbolizes the happiness and innocence of the soldier's life before the war. This juxtaposition of light and dark imagery thus presents, visually, the changing emotional state of the soldier.

This point is emphasized in the third stanza when Owen writes that the soldier, metaphorically, "lost his colour... down shell-holes till the veins ran dry." The "colour" here is suggestive of light, as opposed to the darkness implied by the absence of color. The "colour" in this quotation is also a metaphor for the soldier's blood, which in turn symbolizes his life. The implication is that the soldier poured his life into the war and emerged from the war, for all intents and purposes, lifeless and drained.

In the final lines of the final stanza, Owen uses two rhetorical questions: "Why don't they come / And put him to bed? Why don't they come?" These rhetorical questions emphasize the loneliness of the soldier. His pleas for help (and perhaps for company) go unanswered. The rhetorical questions also suggest the soldier's helplessness and confusion. He doesn't understand why nobody comes to help or comfort him.

Immediately before these rhetorical questions, Owen also uses an exclamatory sentence: "How cold and late it is!" This exclamatory sentence emphasizes the soldier's physical discomfort and anguish, which in turn emphasizes the severity of the confusion and loneliness implied by the subsequent rhetorical questions.

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In his poignant poem "Disabled," Wilfred Owen makes use of several literary techniques. Much like other poems of Owen's, this poem is an exposé of the horrors of war and the complexity of the return to the home front for many soldiers. Owen chose to write about these aspects of war rather than about its false glory. 

One salient feature of this poem is its use of alliteration, a technique in which the poet repeats initial consonants. The effect of such alliteration is a hastening of the reading of the line(s). In "Disabled," Owen's use of alliteration helps to express the swiftness with which a soldier's life can change. 

In the first stanza, there is much alliteration: The first line repeats the /w/ with "in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark." The second line repeats the /g/ with "ghastly suit of grey." And the fifth line repeats the /p/ with "play and pleasure."

Then, in the second stanza, the second and third lines repeat the /g/ introduced in the first line with "gay":

"And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim"

In the third stanza, all but two lines contain some alliteration:

line 15: /y/ "younger than his youth, last year."
line 16: /b/ "his back will never brace; 
line 19: /l/ "lifetime lapsed"

There is much figurative language in this poem as well. For instance, Owen writes in line 10, "In the old times, before he threw away his knees." 

This veteran has lost his legs and sits in a wheelchair. The use of the verb "threw" suggests the soldier has had some active part in this injury. Perhaps Owen, who enlisted himself, envisions the tragic effects of such an unwise decision. 

In the final stanza, Owens personifies the word "rules":

"Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise
And take whatever pity they may dole...."

"Disabled" is typical of the poems Wilfred Owen wrote about war—the loss of lives, the loss of the will to live, and the loss of any reason to live.

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There are a variety of poetic techniques Wilfred Owen employs in "Disabled." Some of them are listed below.

In the first stanza, Owen uses a simile, and then a metaphor:

Through the park 
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,


Voices of play and pleasure after day, 
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

There is the use of irony as well:

And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh. 

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, 
After the matches, carried shoulder-high...

Whereas cuts and bruises were something to be proud of after a football game, the loss of blood in war is totally different, and there will be no celebration after this injury.

Repetition is used several times in the poem. At the beginning we see the phrase "voices of..." and later, at the end of the poem, "Why don't them come?"

Finally, Owen's use of imagery is extremely impactful:

He's lost his colour very far from here, 
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry, 
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race 
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

Owen, a soldier and poet in World War I, who was himself killed in that war (one week before the armistice was signed), humanizes the experiences of the battlefield and the sacrifices made there, timelessly memorializing such actions, regardless of the era.

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Are there any examples of imagery in the poem "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen?

"Disabled" by Wilfred Owen depicts the life of a young man who has lost his arms and legs in World War I. It draws a sharp and drastic contrast between the young man's life prior to joining the Army and after having been injured. 

Owen uses skillful visual and aural imagery to underscore his meaning throughout the poem. In the first stanza, he describes what the soldier looks like: he is sitting in a wheel chair listening to children play. Owen captures the image of the soldier by describing his suit as "ghastly...grey" and then describing how it is sewn: without legs and with the arms cut off and stitched at the elbows. This is an interesting choice for the poet because it is far more profound to consider the suit than it is to be told "a man with no legs and no arms sits in a wheel chair." As readers, we can defend ourselves against such direct communication, but it's harder to ignore the atrocities of this man's life when his suit is described because the portrayal begins benignly with color and pulls the reader into the man's world. 

The process of the man becoming injured offers striking visual images that suggest that the soldier was complicit in his own wounds. He is described in stanza two as having "[thrown] away his knees" and having poured his own blood "down shell holes" in stanza three. By using this imagery, Owens forces the reader to see the absurd image of a young man actively getting rid of his own body parts. At the same time, the imagery sets up the next scenario, which describes the man's life before the war and his reasons for signing up to go. It also reflects how a critically injured person might feel guilty for having become wounded. This visual technique is also an extension of the technique Owen used in stanza one. If he truly described the carnage, some readers would turn off from engaging with the poem. Instead, he puts the incidents in these preposterous images. 

The soldier's life prior to the war and his reasons for signing up for the Army are described in the longest stanza. We see a young man who has fallen for the lies about war (see Owen's poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est"), who was underage and who signed on in order to impress his girlfriend. 

In the next stanza, it becomes clear that no young woman will be impressed because he notices women's eyes as they move from him to uninjured men. Just this one visual image, about the eyes, captures the entire tragedy of a young man who goes to war for glory and then discovers that war is actually a hellish catastrophe. 

Owen fought in World War I and did not survive it. He knew firsthand what war was like, in contrast to what he and his school friends had been told about it a few short years earlier. He was a gifted poet who knew how to communicate horror to those who have never experienced it themselves and who could not be counted upon to engage continually with the enormity of it. He pulls us into this world image by image and challenges us to consider how many more young men we should send to such a fate. He would have considered it an even greater calamity that we have yet to figure out how to stop this unending process. 

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