Summary and analysis of The Sentry by 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.


“The Sentry”  by Wilfred Owen is a composition of vivid imagery portraying the horrors of war and the trauma suffered by the soldiers. Many critics consider this poem as being a very personal composition for Owen and believe that the poem reflects his personal experience since Owen was a British soldier who fought in World War 1.


The poem is set on the battlefield during a stormy thunderous night with the speaker and his soldiers rescuing an injured sentry while being under attack. During the last stanza, it is revealed that the speaker was remembering that time and thus the setting of the poem becomes the house of the speaker.


“Burst” “Thumping” “Pummeled” “Crumps” “Thud”
“Guttering” “buffeting”
“And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell”
“And choked the steps too thick with clay to climb.”
“What murk of air remained stank old, and sour”


The speaker and his fellow soldiers find a sentry heavily injured lying in a trench. They try to pull the sentry out but the heavily falling rain has made the clay hard, they are covered with slime and are waist deep in water, the air surrounding them is sour and foul smelling, the atmosphere around is thunderous and horrifying. The speaker can smell the men who died fighting a meaningless war, their curses surround the den, their corpses are not present there though. They cross the area under attack of blasts and find a door where they head with the injured sentry. The sentry is wounded heavily and the soldiers believe he has died until the sentry cries out for help. He makes an anguished sound “I’m blind! I’m Blind”, the speaker brings the lit flame closer to his eyes, trying to calm the sentry. He tells the sentry that if he can see a blurry light, he’ll be alright but the sentry is unable to do so. Then the speaker has to leave the sentry injured to take his position as a guard for he is still on duty, he sends a fellow man to ask for help.
The speaker then remembers all the bloodshed he witnessed, one man trying to escape  the horrifying pain by drowning himself now seems to have tired suicide for his own good. The speaker then tells the readers that he tries not to remember those times for he does not wish to get stuck in the dread from which there is no coming back. The speaker remembers listening to the sentry’s moans, the chattering of his teeth and the sentry shouting “I see your lights”. To this the speaker remarks that the real light of their lives, their happiness and joys had died already.


The poem provides a very realistic and a horrifying description of what the brave soldiers suffer from, during and after the war. Even if they do survive, the light in their lives are destroyed by the trauma and the horrible memories.


The tone of the poem is chilling and terrifying, the vivid imagery and the words employed are successsful in drawing the harsh and a realistic picture of the battlefield.


“The Sentry” by Wilfred Owen is an amazing composition which  is filled with darkness and is successful in painting the horrifying image of the war. The skillful employment of words and literary figures of speech are the poem’s main highlights and are successful in invoking the emotions of sympathy and gloom, in the readers.
Contributor: Radhika Goel