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Mental Cases Analysis

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Luke McGlashan

on 28 May 2015

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Transcript of Mental Cases Analysis

The main meaning and concept of this poem is to open peoples eyes to the damage that war has on people, That injuries can be deeper than just physical. The experiences of war can truly destroy a person until they diminish into nothingness
Extended metaphor:

The extended metaphor in this sees Owen

continuously refer to the patients as living corpses.
The falseness of their appearance emphasises that they have been dehumanised.
Owen uses varying amount of literary techniques within this extended metaphor to emphasis the way these soldiers have been dehumanised through the horrible experiences they've had fighting in the war.
Omission of word people and alluding to patients as cases:

In this poem Owen quite frequently refrains from referring to the veterans as people.
He often talks about just body parts instead of the entire human being.
This amplifies the dehumanisation of these people. It tells us that they are so mentally broken that they should no longer be classed as people.
He also makes use of the word "cases" instead of saying "patients". The word case further suggests this idea of these people not being "human" any more.
That they are metaphorically nothing more than an empty "case" just a shell of a human being due to the devastating after math of war.

Stanza 2
-These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.
Stanza 3
Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
-Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.
Stanza 1
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jays that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands' palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?
Mental Cases - Analysis
Nameless state of the subjects of the poem
'Who are these' - Rhetorical question
'who' , 'why', 'wherefore'- Querying tone
'Purgatorial existence'- Metaphor
'Drooping tongues' and 'slavering jaws'- Imagery
'teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked' -Simile
'Stoke on stroke' - repetition of active verbs
'slow panic' - Oxymoron
'Misery swelters' -personification
- Repetition of the word murdered.
- Death imagery - impact of death
- contrasting alliteration
- Internal rhyme
- beastly imagery, comparing to animals
- emotive language
- medical terminology mirrors the subjects situation
The use of "Therefore" as a conclusive statement
"Tormented" - emotive language
Assonance of the 'buh' sound due to the repetition of the letter 'b'
"Night" - metaphor for death
Use of times of day "sunlight... night... dawn"
"Hilarious hideous" - oxymoron
"Set-smiling corpses"
"Their hands" personified through the verbs "Plucking... picking... snatching... pawing'.
"Us" - Repetition
"Smote" - biblical imagery
"Brother" - Collective term
Explanation of Techniques
"Therefore" informs the audience that stanza 3 is the conclusion
"Tormented" emotive language utilized to force the reader to emphasize
The Assonance of the 'buh' sound refers the image of blood splattering
"Night" is a metaphor for death
"Sunlight... Night... Dawn" refers to the repetitive cycle that the veterans live through, the repetition of their living death
"Hilarious Hideous" is an oxymoron, that is used as imagery to portray the deranged smiles the veterans wield. When juxtaposed with "Set-smiling corpses" an interpretation can be made that although these soldiers are alive they are mentally incapable of living
Effect of Techniques
The final stanza of 'Mental Cases' can be defined as the conclusion as "therefore" depicts. Alongside with the utlisation of the times of day, "Sunlight... Night... Dawn" connote the repetitive cycle the soldiers face of their debilitating lives. This informs the reader that the veterans are stuck in a cycle of living death. "Therefore" they are living through death alive.
Night in particular, which is a metaphor of death informs that the cycle ends at night and is subsequently the worst part of the day.
The assonance of the 'buh' sound emphasizes the sound of blood splattering and forces a gruesome feeling upon the reader
"Hilarious Hideous" is an oxymoron used in unison with "set smiling corpses" to give the horrific impression of the living dead which are the soldiers

Explanation of Technique
Effect of Technique
Nameless subjects, are the soldiers who experienced the horrors of war. The use of rhetorical question further enhances this.
'who', 'why' demands a considered response.
'purgatorial shadows'- represents the hellish existence of soldiers lives
'Drooping tongues' and 'slavering jaws' imagery that represents the dehumanised appearance of the soldiers.
'teeth that leer like skulls' teeth are giving a look of disgust, which is compared to skulls
'stroke on stroke with pain' active verbs are repeated / recurring pain.
'slow panic' a contradictory statement (oxymoron), with panic normally associated with moving quickly whilst panicking.
'Misery swelters' personification of misery.
"Their hands" when personified through "Plucking... picking... snatching... pawing" denote that the hands of the soldiers do not belong to them anymore, they move and act on their own accord. This implies the lack of control of their own body due to the haunting images that plague their minds
The repetition of "Us" and the collective term "brother" connote the ideology of the soldiers, they are in this together and together they are cursed with the memories
The word "smote" is a biblical allusion that implies that the soldiers are being punished both with the lost of their friends and now by God by being left to live
Explanation of Technique
- Repetition of murdered, reinforcing the severity of crimes that have been committed against and by the soldiers.
- "minds the dead have ravished." Death imagery, showing the effect death has had on these soldiers, "ravished" which is animalistic imagery, comparing them to beasts.
- Internal rhyme is utilised mirroring the battle.
- "Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless" People omitted.
- Contrasting alliteration "Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter". Emphasises juxtaposition.
- "Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these mens extrication". "carnage" and "squander" are examples of emotive language, extrication is also medical terminology.
The personification of "their hands" through the actions "Plucking... picking... snatching... pawing" connote the grim and monstrous images of the soldier's hands existing as an object rather than part of their bodies
The collective terms "brother" and "us" enforce the connectedness of the soldier's. They all suffer together for the memories of their past. This effective demonstrates the soldier's shared pain
"Smote", the biblical allusion gives the audience the effect that the veterans are religiously exiled for their actions and are spiritually dead to the living
The nameless state of the soldiers gives the reader the impression that their humanity has been stripped from them.
'who' and 'why' are said in a querying tone, which demands a considered response, asking for a reflection on the casual relationship between the horrors of war and mental breakdown.
'purgatorial shadows' representing a hellish existence that war creates, while also referencing and enhancing the idea of the soldiers being stripped of their humanity. This technique is further saturating the idea of dehumanised soldiers with 'drooping tongues' and 'slavering jaws'. The soldiers are stripped of their humanity leading them to becoming described as corpses, which builds into the extended metaphor.
'Teeth that leer like skulls' simile of between teeth that act like humans, which are similar to skulls, which builds upon the extended metaphor.
'stroke on stroke' the repetition emphasises the amount of emotional wounds that led to them becoming like this.
'slow panic' makes the reader focus on emotional stress that has been accumulated within the soldiers. It makes the reader think about what they have witnessed. 'gouged these chasms' around their 'empty sockets'
Mental Cases

Written by Wilfred Owen in 1918, it focuses on men who were hospitalised after World War 1, not just with physical wounds but also with extensive psychological damage to render them as 'cases' no longer living and trapped between two worlds.
Wilfred draws on his own experiences of war and shell shock now known as post traumatic stress to influence his writing after meeting one of his literary heroes Siegfried Sassoon in a Hospital in Edinburgh. Sassoon gave Wilfred Owen guidance on his work and encouraged him to utilise his experiences within his work.
Wilfred's intentions were to shock the readers and describe the horrific physical symptoms of mental torment.
Effect of Technique
-The repetition of murdered amplifies the imagery, allowing the audience to see and immerse themselves into the scene, bringing them in to the crimes committed against the soldiers.
- Death and ravished placed in conjuction throughout this line is used to describe how death has truly 'torn' through these men in an animalistic way.
- Internal rhyme for the sounds of the battle utilises onomatopoeia. Sound words bringing the audience on to the battle field.
- "Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless" The word 'people' is omitted from this line due to their current mental state, which has drastically altered to no longer being human.
- Contrasting alliteration "Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter" The 'l' sound that is used which appears nowhere else in the stanza contrasts all other words used due to it being a much lighter sound, this technique really brings across the juxtaposition between what their lungs were originally meant for and now only Gargling blood.
- "Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication". emotive language is shown through carnage and squander and the horror of war is then brought before the audience, also the use of these men's extrication. Shows that they cannot be Retrieved from this place that they are in. Extrication like the word cases is medical terminolgy which once again brings about the dehumanising effect.
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