Strange Meeting

by Wilfred Owen

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How does Wilfred Owen portray the enemy as a friend in Strange Meeting? What is the significance of the line "let us sleep now"?

Refer to lines 40-42 and line 44 in the poem.

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In "Strange Meeting ," Owen very much wants to show that the soldiers fighting on the German side are really no different to those who, like himself, are fighting for the British Army—indeed, they are all stuck in the same "Hell." Owen's choice of words emphasizes this: he imagines...

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the dead soldier he finds in the "dull tunnel" as someone sleeping, rather than dead, and he rises up as a "vision."

Owen's imagined conversation with this "strange friend" is not one of enemies conversing. On the contrary, he tries to console the other man, telling him he has no reason to "mourn."

Most significantly, Owen gives the majority of the lines in the poem to this vision—we are hearing not the words of a British soldier, but what Owen imagines to be the words of a dead German one. He emphasizes that his "life also" shared the same "hope" and "hopelessness" as Owen did. Like Owen, he had the same "wisdom" and "courage." The speaker reveals his internal life, and Owen's protagonist connects with him through the realization that the two are not dissimilar, but very much the same—it is only luck that means this man is dead, and not the British soldier in the tunnel. Owen carefully juxtaposes the words "enemy" and "friend"—"I am the enemy you killed, my friend." There is no real dividing line between friend and enemy in this war: they are all suffering in the same ways.

At the end of the poem, the dead soldier says "let us sleep now . . . " The line trails off, suggesting the slip from consciousness into sleep. Neither soldier can imagine how this situation can be resolved, but it seems likely that they will both die, and that German and British soldiers alike will become "sleepers" together beneath the guns and mud of France.

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Wilfred Owen`s `Strange Meeting' is a dream sequence narrated in the first person, in which the narrator, like Odysseus in the Odyssey, travels through the realms of the dead and sees those slain in battle, both his allies and his enemies. Among the sleepers in Hell is a man the narrator killed, but after death 'no guns thump' – i.e. the war is no longer real. Instead, what living and dead soldier share is the experience of war and killing and their common humanity. In this dream place, as in the ultimate reality of life after death (war as seen from a God`s eye view), there are no enemies, but instead a universal human brotherhood. Not only the persons of the poem, but war itself sleeps, or is put to rest, at the end of the poem.

The ellipsis is the end of the poem.

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