Summary and analysis of Arms and The Boy by Wilfred Owen

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INTRODUCTION TO WILFRED OWEN-

Born on 18 March in the year 1893, in Shropshire, Wilfred Owen was a British soldier. He is considered as one of the most important English poet of the time of World War 1. Wilfred was killed during war at the age of twenty five and most of his poems were discovered and published after his death.

ARMS AND THE BOY-

“Arms and The Boy” by Wilfred Owen is a poem about a boy who is too young to be a soldier, let alone be fighting in a war. At the age of enjoying his childhood, he is being told to handle guns and fire bullets.

SETTING OF ARMS AND THE BOY-

The poem is set in a training camp where young British boys are being taught to handle guns and bullets, they are being prepared to fight in a war. Viewed through a larger angle, the poem is set amongst the brutality and cruality of World War 1.

POETIC DEVICES IN ARMS AND THE BOY-

HEROIC COUPLETS-

“Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade

How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;

Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;

And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.”

 

“Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads

Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.

Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,

Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.”

 

“For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.

There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;

And God will grow no talons at his heels,

Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.”

ALLITERATION-

“Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade”

SYMBOLISM/IMAGERY-


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The poet mentions many sharp and lethal objects capable of killing and hurting like teeth, blade, antlers etc. These objects are symbolic of war and the bloodshed the war leads to.  

METAPHOR-

“zinc teeth”, a metaphor for bullets.

PERSONIFICATION-

“Bayonet-blade…hungry for blood”, the blade being personified as a living being.

SUMMARY OF ARMS AND THE BOY-

The speaker asks to let the young boy feel the “bayonet-blade” he has been armed with, to let him feel the coldness of the steel, the edge of the blade which is hungry for blood. The speaker asks to let the boy feel how excited and keen the sharp blade is to draw blood, to satisfy its thirst for flesh. The speaker tells someone to help the boy “stroke” (as if lovingly, ironical use of the word) the blunt heads of the bullets which are meant to spear the hearts of people.  The speaker asks for the boy to be given the cartridges of “zinc teeth”, here a metaphor for bullets. These zinc teeth are sharp enough to cut and cause pain and grief. The teeth of the boy, though are not sharp, “they seem to be laughing around an apple”. The boy has no sharp claws, that is, the boy is very young, he is not meant for handling bullets and blades. The speaker empathizes with the young boy forced into the cruel war field. The speaker is well aware that God won’t help the boy on the battlefield, he would not be given talons or antlers to protect himself from the ever present danger.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ARMS AND THE BOY-

The poem is a sharp reminder of the repercussions of the war. It is a dark and gloomy composition which makes the readers empathize with the young innocent souls who had their childhoods and lives stolen from them.

TONE OF ARMS AND THE BOY-

The tone of the poem is dark and sad, apt for expressing its thematic concerns.

CONCLUSION-

This poem by Wilfred Owen is a harsh reminder of how cruel the humanity is capable of being and the destruction that wars lead to, seen from the eyes of a soldier.

Contributor: Radhika Goel

 

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