Anthem for Doomed Youth Analysis by Wilfred Owen

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Youth is a curse when you have to go to war. Anthem for doomed youth by Wilfred Owen talks about sons, husbands and fathers who have fallen prey to the vagaries of war. The term “Anthem” rings a bell and calls out different meanings which plays and ploys with the minds of the readers. The fact that Wilfred Owen has seen the war from close quarters during World War I is well depicted throughout out the summary of Anthem for doomed youth by Wilfred Owen. The poem deals with the idea of the death of a soldier and how the sad news reaches his family. An “Anthem’ is a song to arouse a movement, or to make a beginning of something extraordinary that stands tall and strong for over years. However, in a poetic alternative, Wilfred Owen pens down the horrific picture of the battle which makes it the idea of Anthem for doomed youth.


Wilfred Owen was himself a part of World War I and had witnessed how young people fall prey to death without knowing the reason for which they had been fighting. “Passing-bells” refers to the toll of the bell when a soldier dies and his soul moves out of his body. The passing bells also ring the beginning of a funeral ceremony when the soldier’s dead body is laid to rest. The “Anger of guns” is a fine instance of personification that attributes human qualities to reckon with an object of force; a killing device. In other words, the soldiers die without getting to hear the bells of heaven as the sound of the guns are too loud. Moreover, they don’t die a silent death. They die from bullets or bombs in the war field where they are surrounded by other rotten corpses. The guns decide the fates of the soldiers and create”demented choirs” as there are plenty of guns roaring and firing at the same time.The idea of Anthem for doomed youth is to portray the horrific face of the war where people take each other’s lives without getting to know the real reason and in the process they get killed themselves and the story of their life ends in a flash. The lives lost could have been joyous and fruitful if not for war, but the hungry demon wants them all and leaves no one to escape.


The poet talks about “Shires” which are English countries and he talks about “bugles” that are generally used to pass on orders to soldiers. However, the “sad shires” personifies death as it is devoid of any human feelings or emotion.Line by line explanation of Anthem for doomed youth reveals how Wilfred Owen has tried to pen picture the catastrophe in a strangely beautiful fashion that finds its relevance in a battlefield, where religion loses its meaning of peace and love and guns rules the roost. Even after the soldiers die and their bodies are laid to rest, the poet feels that it is useless to bury them with all rights as they were originally trained to kill and have behaved as expected. The poem reveals how the soldiers are doomed to sorrow, no matter what; dead or alive. They tend to forget the sounds of their loved ones as they are more used to the sounds of blazing guns and bugles. The fellow soldiers who carried the death news to the family of the dead, often stood silent on the doorsteps and the very moment was enough to make them understand what has happened. The “pallor”or the cloth that is wrapped over the coffin symbolizes heavy gloom and grief and the “drawing-down of blinds” signifies death.

In this summary of Anthem for doomed youth by Wilfred Owen depicts the war in a poetic narrative which talks about youth gone to waste. The word “Anthem” is an alternative term that is not glorifying rather degrading to anyone who has been in a war and taken a bullet in the name of the country. What’s ironical is that the youth who dies for the sake of their motherland is often ignorant about the reason that had raised the war. Anthem for doomed youth by Wilfred Owen takes the shape of a sonnet that talks about how the funeral of a fallen soldier can be held. The tone is reminiscent of Brooke’s sonnet where England and its chauvinistic patriotism is glorified in a mocking reality. Anthem for doomed youth by Wilfred Owen begins in its octet with a rhetorical note where soldiers are said to die like cows with no one paying much attention to it. What follows is a remarkable play of sound symbolism, imagery and personifications where the fate of the youth is decided at the mercy of guns and the sestet ends in melancholy as the “pallor’ wraps up the coffin and the youth’s body is laid to rest on earth.

It’s good to know

  • In return for a free lodging along with some tuition for entrance exams, Wilfred Owen worked as a lay assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden.
  • Owen’s sexual development and concerned matters were deliberately removed from his letters by his brother Harold Owen, who found it “discreditable”. Andrew Motion also wrote of the Owens’ relationship with Siegfried Sassoon where he said, “On the one hand, Sassoon’s wealth, posh connections and aristocratic manner appealed to the snob in Owen: on the other, Sassoon’s homosexuality admitted Owen to a style of living and thinking that he found naturally sympathetic.”

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