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Strange Meeting: Wilfred Owen’s attitude to war

Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen

Strange Meeting: Wilfred Owen’s attitude to war

(Attitude to War)

 Q. Discuss Owen’s attitude to war as indicated in the poem, ‘Strange Meeting’

Answer: The First World War left its mark broad and deep on the literature of the world. Many writers turned to war for their theme in literature. Aldington’s The Death of a Hero, Edmund Blunden’s The Undertones of War, and the poetry of Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon are the most remarkable poets of the war literature. 

Among the writers, the attitude to war varies.  Rupert Brook was romantic in his attitude to war. He suggests in his war poetry that in spite of the devastating nature of war, it inspired the best in young men, who responded magnificently to the call for self-sacrifice on the altar of patriotism. Thus, it evokes the spirit of self-sacrifice which is the noblest quality of man. Wilfred Owen following Siegfried Sassoon is, however, the exponent of the mad folly of war. He is realistic in his outlook and exposes the pity and horror of war.

He states his protest against the dehumanizing ugliness of war with directness, which is the result of deep and sincere feelings. Owen had appalling personal experience of the war; he exposes the hollowness of any glorification of war by poets, politicians and by ‘neurotic cripples searching for their masculinity.’ In his poetry Owen celebrates the pathos of young men struck down on the threshold of ‘undone years’. His poetry is about the pity of war- the pity that war distilled.

Strange Meeting is a noble illustration of the “conjunction of pity and poetry”. The soldier poet dreams that he has passed into hell and meets the spirit of the German youth whom he killed the day before. Through the mouth of this dead soldier, the poet reveals the deep truth about the irrational waste of young life and their foolish passion for war, which "turns the progress of this backward world into a wall less fortress".

The poem shows the full-hearted pity for the loss of a young life, which might have done so much not only to fulfill its own urge of living but to teach the world a profound sense about the truth of war. The poet makes the prophetic utterance that nations will not yet listen to reason, but “when much blood had clogged their chariot wheels”, and then it would be time to pour the pacific spirit without stint.

In the meanwhile, ‘courage', ‘mystery’, ‘wisdom’, ‘mastery’ of promising youths who see the evil but are powerless to cure will go in vain. The living millions can offer no consolation to the dead millions deceived in the name of patriotism and nationalism. The pity causes not so much in the death, but in the deception, which flings these young men on their destined doom. The poet is, however, an optimist and believes that the tragedy of these young men will ultimately serve to reform the humanity.


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