|Soldiers are often tormented by the atrocities that they've witnessed.|
Wilfred Owen Exposing Psychological Trauma and Physical Disabilities Soldiers Endure After War
"Disabled" by Wilfred Owen is a poetic analysis of war that exposes the struggles of adjusting to civilian life. A deeper analysis of "Disabled" reveals the irony of war; a soldier's fight for his country's freedom which results in the sacrifice of his mental and physical freedom. The soldiers and their families suffer from the scars and traumatic events of the war daily, while those that benefit can remain in oblivion of their suffering. Owen’s "Disabled" gives the readers an intimate poem detailing the tragic loss of humanity that a soldier suffers. Because of the war, the soldier has been reduced in mind and body. His friends, essence, memories, desirability, physical strength and admiration all ripped away from him without warning. This poem could universally apply to all the soldiers or even people in similar situations. This why the main character remains nameless and the title, Disabled, broad enough for a wide audience to identify with him. The feelings expressed through poems during World War I enable readers to get a deeper perspective of our emotional aches and pains. In "Disabled" the character's thoughts and actions reflect his desire to be free but instead he is trapped, disabled, oppressed, and repressed inside of his own body, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Unlike the ego and super ego that according to Freud prevents us from seeking unrealistic or unmoral desires for instant gratification, it is the soldier’s disability that prevents him from living the life he truly desires. He is no longer whole, but instead he sits in darkness, left waiting with almost no control of his destiny. His mind is focused on his legs; he wants to be able to provide for himself yet he is maimed & disabled. His legs remind of his youth, when he still had dreams, a purpose to fulfill, play time, and the ability to make himself happy. Unfortunately the war stole the best years of his life and left him in the darkness. Because of his appearance he cannot obtain companionship. In his opinion, he won’t be able to settle down with a woman and be truly loved, touched but instead they “touch him like some queer disease.” He refers to himself like a disease. His appearance and lack of mobility causes him to feel like a burden, unwanted and deathly.
|Wilfred Owen suffered from|
shell shock after almost losing his
life on two separate occasions.
In his depressed reflections, he has a dreamy, flashback revealing his subconscious thoughts which compare his lowly, disabled state to his triumphant younger days. Now the war has aged him tremendously internally and externally. He no longer has a strong back bone figuratively and literally. Life hasn’t always been this way, which further worsens the fall. His blood and spirit that run through his veins and were drained from his thighs and pain. The war has left him as a walking dead man. The instant that the “purple spurted from his thigh” his life changed forever. He remembered when seeing blood on his leg meant that it was a job well done and that he would receive more praise for his hard work.
His popularity and the company of women used to cloak him unlike his “ghastly suit of grey” that he now is forced to wear. He didn’t feel like a disease but instead a desired member of a powerful team, he was not desperate but controlling his own destiny. Even when he lied about his age to join the army, he was naïve yet fearless. He felt triumphant to the sound of cheerful, supportive drums, with the company of other young soldiers. It depresses him that he was admired more for his glory days in football than for coming out alive after such a horrible war. Now when he needs comfort and validation the most it’s denied. Instead the “solemn man” brings his physical food but no emotional nourishment. The popularity with the ladies has left and now “he noticed how the women’s eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole”. He remember how it was to be a strong man physical. But sadly his is now trapped in his own disabled body which has resulted in a sharp decline in his mental and emotional strength.
The physical disability is wearing down on the solider internally and once again he is oppressed within his heart and mind. He feels incredible amounts of loneliness, which causes the world to seem dark even though he is near a park. The overwhelming depression over his disability causes “voices of boys to rang saddening him like a hymn”, the usual joyful sounds are clouded by his dark view of the world. He has an intense longing for a friendship without pity or disgust. He hates being ignored or forgotten which is intensified by his own sadness. At the end of the poem we are left with him pleading “How cold and late it is! What don’t they come and put him into bed? Why don’t they come?”
Wilfred Owen was wounded during World War I. His
traumatizing experiences and encouragement from
Sassoon inspired him to become a war poet.
He is also in a sense sexually repressed; he cannot aggressively pursue the desires of his id. “Now he will never feel again how slim girl’s waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.” The constant repression is causing the increased sadness and pain. His fondest memories we usually focused on girls and the attention that he received from them. “About this time Town used to swing so gay when the glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees, and girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, - In the old time, before he threw away his knees.” Perhaps the most drastic change in his life is the lack sexual interest he gets, which is perhaps a huge attack on his already diminished self-esteem. Those times when “someone has said he’d look a good in kilts,” and his ability to use physical appearance and masculinity to please members of the opposite sex has passed.That change represents to him how useless, damaged and hopeless his life seems. Everyone has a quality about themselves that defines their identity and a social role that normalizes them. His obsession on women symbolizes something deeper. The fact that his leg affects one of the most significant aspects of his being such as his sexuality causes overwhelming resentment. He often attempts to relive those moments but instead it causes his sadness to grow deeper and his depressing realities more poignant.
The soldier’s id or primal instinct wants to make his own rules in life, fearlessly without inhibitions or severe hindrance. While for many it can be social norms or morals that hinder us from doing exactly what we desire, he has a different struggle. His last thoughts are the most harrowing but also most hopeful since he considers his stay to be “a few sick years in institutes” even though his disability is for a lifetime. Overall this poem is a reflection of him wanting to break free but instead there are so many factors that are preventing this. Even the institutions that provide physical care are forcing him to “do what things that rules consider wise and that whatever put they may dole.” This thought about the confinement temporarily distracts him from the larger issue at hand, until the very end when his id rises up and reminds him about women. The reminder of how the women pass over him, once again reminds him about his loneliness and lack of control over his own life. He doesn’t have the strength that women admire to warm and put himself to bed, nor the friends that would do it out of love rather than duty.
Literature illustrates to us tragic situations and explores social issues that are difficult to fully understand through statistics. Wilfred Owen gives us a grim image of this soldier’s life to introduce us to the horrors and realities of war. The questions are asked “Are the numerous sacrifices of lives really worth it and is every war a necessary evil? Do we truly appreciate our freedoms and the people that fight for our freedom, even people that are not soldiers?” Although in the future he may be able to take back his life despite his traumatic injury, Owen wants to focus on the sad journey before conquering the disability. In a sense Owen was also telling us a story about our lives when we are experiencing our darkest moments and when oppression can become so depressing that it’s unbearable. When we've made sacrifices for others only to get hurt and our own needs or wellbeing forsaken. Wilfred Owen challenges us to not take our freedoms for granted, to find truth, happiness, and fulfill our destiny at every point of our lives.
I hope you find this analysis helpful! Tweet me if you any questions.
I hope you find this analysis helpful! Tweet me if you any questions.