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Strange Meeting

English 12

Jacob De Gelder

on 18 October 2012

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Transcript of Strange Meeting

by Wilfred Owen

Analysis Analysis Pt.2 Analysis Pt. 3 The keystone of the poem interestingly is not
spoken by the narrator, in fact the narrator becomes the listener, while the dead soldier becomes the orator. "Here is no cause to mourn/None, save the undone years" (line 15) says the soldier. I.e. the only cause of mourn is the years of our lives we never got to live. The soldier continues to point out that at one point they both had similar dreams of adventure and happiness, drastically cut short by the atrocities of war, however it is better to be dead than to live and fight in the war. The soldiers monologue on the war is really Owen reaching out to the reader, trying (very effectively) to explain what really goes on in war; that soldiers are not superheroes, but rather our brothers exposed to a living hell, often coming home with disorders and broken/missing limbs and destroyed families. There is so much gore and blood, that " Forheads of men have bled where no wounds were." (line 39). Owen perfectly paints a gruesome and revolting scene, and creates a wonderful exemplum to illustrate the realities of war. "Strange Meeting" by Wilfred Owen can be somewhat hard to understand if the authors background is not first understood. Owen fought in the second world war after leaving his previous occupation of a teacher. He became a part of Artists Rifles Officers Training Corps, and was sent off to europe. All changed for Owen when he was blown into the sky by a trench mortar, eventually landing on the cadaver of a fellow soldier. Owen was diagnosed with shellshock and sent to a military hospital where he met Siegfried Sassoon, who deeply influenced Owens life and poetry, and encouraged him to write of the atrocities of war. Poetic Devices and Structure "Strange Meeting" consists of 44 lines of Iambic Pentameter, divided into three irregular stanzas (like paragraphs). Pararhyme, half-rhyme, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, as well as simile and metaphor. Pararhyme is when the stressed vowel sounds are different, but are flanked by identical or similar consonants; the second rhyme usually has lower pitch than the first, which produces the effect of dissonance, and failure. E.g. "Groined/Groaned" lines 3-4. This sound of "failure" is key to illustrating the gruesome reality of war. Due to the fact that "Strange meeting"
contains so many literary devices, most noticeably metaphor, simile, and personification, it can be hard to understand the intended meaning of the poem. At first glance, it seems as if the narrator is descending into a trench, momentarily escaping the battle only to encounter injured, dying men. One of which raises their hand to him with a "dead smile", which is somewhat of an oxymoron. They share their thoughts, and realize their similarities; "whatever hope is yours/is my life also" (line 16). This, along with other reflection on the atrocity of the war leads the reader to believe that the soldiers were once enemies...how is it possible that the narrator can be in enemy trenches without being shot? Upon rereading, one might discover an entirely different underlying meaning. The narrator begins with "it seemed" giving the reader a sense of uncertainty, like it may all be a dream. He then states "out of the battle I escaped" (line 1), but how is it possible to escape the battle if one is not injured and sent home, captured, peace declared, or killed? The most likely option is the narrator was killed, since we know by the rest of the poem that he was not captured, and we know though history that peace was not declared at that time. So, "down some profound tunnel" (line 2) leads the reader to believe that the narrator is descending into hell.
"Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned" (line 4)
These "sleepers" are really other dead soldiers, though they are all companions now, it is unclear whether the soldiers were friend or foe. "Encumbered" means they are not only weighed down by their kit but also by their sins; their guilt. The "sleepers" seem to be waiting upon acceptance into hell. One sleeper however, raises his hand to the narrator, and offers a "dead smile" (line 10), an indication of the emptiness of their souls.
"Strange friend, there is no cause to mourn" (line 14)
These words spoken by the soldier of the "dead smile" launch him into the beginning of his monologue, in which he explains the keystone of the poem. The Last Stanza "I am the enemy you killed, my friend
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried, but my hands were loathe and cold.
Let us sleep now--" (Lines 40-44) One might argue that this final stanza is the most important in the poem. It is the last brick in the bond between narrator and soldier, and though the narrator stabbed the soldier to death the day before, the tone is not spiteful, nor vengeful. The tone is that of forgiveness, as if though the narrator took the life of the soldier, the soldier didn't want to live that kind of life anyways. He "parried" means he made an attempt to block the knife, but his hands were "reluctant and cold". Instinctively, the soldier felt as if he should make an attempt to block it, though neither his mind nor his body backed his instinct. THE END
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