The Send Off

– Wilfred Owen Essay, Research Paper

The Send-off

War is the main theme in all of Wilfred Owen s poems and in The send-off it focuses on the response of the people at home to it s events. The title itself is ironic for a send-off is usually a happy occasion of farewell and the send-off to war is more often than not a celebrated event. But Owen s poem deals with harsh realism and argues that there is nothing to celebrate for the facts are these men will either be killed or return home as broken men. In the poem the troops are being sent off most likely to their death and yet the people fail to understand the full implication of the event, which adds bitterness to Owen s criticism.

At the beginning of the poem we are presented with the image of a typical rural scene, with soldiers merrily singing through the streets to their farewell. The excitement in the words of they sang their way is compensated by the notion of the fatefulness of the occasion. Down the close darkening lanes , creates a image and sense of claustrophobia that the lanes are fatefully closing in on them, implying that it is a point of no return. Their send-off march is clouded in the oncoming darkness as they bid farewell, but it is this darkness, which is a metaphor of the dark destiny that awaits the soldiers. In the oxymoron, grimly gay, the men s expressions as seen in the train windows emphasises the uncertainty of their departure and the beginning of recognition of the implications of their destiny.

The would-be hero s are adorned with flowers, Their breasts were struck all white with wreath and spray some of which the women have pinned to their uniforms. But this seemly gracious act is clouded in negativity for the flowers remind Owen of wreaths found on the body of corpses. For Their breasts were struck all white the verb struck adding brutality in sound and sense. This mere decoration has an underlining to it, for the flowers are pierced to their breasts suggesting it is piercing their hearts like a wound and symbolising what their grave future holds for them. The second stanza ends with As men are, dead. Dead being a monosyllabic word whilst being placed at the end of the sentence after two pauses really emphasizes the word itself and makes the necessary impact.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp Stood staring hard, Sorry to miss them from the upland camp. Dull railroad porters who have seen so many men go this way and a casual tramp who s lowly stare is somewhat regretful, are the only ones around that witness the departure of the soldiers making the whole departure process devoid of human emotion.

Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp Winked to the guard. The verbs come into play for the lifeless signals, essentially unmoved in terms of emotion physically nods. A lamp winked to the guard , through the use of personification it suggests the lamps knowing wink implies that it is all too familiar with such a situation, it knows the destiny of these men, where as they themselves don t.

The second half of the poem reflects on the destiny of the soldiers whilst expressing Owen s moral condemnation of war. The simile wrongs hushed-up creates the sense of shame that is shrouded in secrecy. So secretly, like wrongs hushed up, they went. Suggests the unknown amount of men sent to war. That they were not ours implies the poets concern for all those that went to war. We never heard to which front these were sent conveys the uncertainty of their location and of their fate.

Stanza six examines how the troops views might change after being exposed to war Nor there if they yet mock women mean Who gave them flowers. the motives of the women who urged them to fight and decorated them, with flowers, in advance, might be perceived differently.

The rhetorical question Shall they return to beatings of great bells in wild train-loads? makes the reader stop and consider the question. The use of alliteration and the strong b sound of beating and bells gives it more of an impact due to the sharper effect of the sounds, and conveys Owen s strong feelings to the peoples naive understandings of war. The beginning of the answer A few, a few, too few for drums and yells slows down the pace of the poem and uses repetition to stress the enormity of the massacre

The last stanza, even though it is composed of two lines bares the brunt of the emotion in the poem. For it shows that even though war might be over in the physical world to those who have experienced it, it will cease they will never know peace. May creep back, silent, to still village wells up half-known roads the softer sound of s and the repetition of the l within the words creates gentleness about the words. May creep back suggests that their innocence is forever lost and all they are left with is guilt and fear for they survive the carnage and now live with shame for having even taken part in the War and to be living when so many of their comrades had died.. Silent are they for sorrow and misery forbid them to talk of their experience and no longer can they return to their former lives Up half-known roads.

The poem has a pulse to it that flows and ebbs due to its design of three-lined stanzas, and followed by two line structures.

The Send-off deals with the ideas of war itself, the effects of war on those who experience it first hand and ordinary peoples naive understandings of war. These ideas are conveyed through different means, such as language devices, sound devices, sentence structure and the overall structure. By using these techniques Owen has beautifully expresses his criticism of the slaughter of young men in the First World War.


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