Wilfred Owens poem, Arms and the Boy, is a subtle
criticism of war that asks deeper questions about
violence in human society. Man is born with little
that could be used as a physical weapon of
violence. His teeth seem for laughing round and
apple and there lurk no claws behind his fingers.
Despite this lack of natural weaponry, human
beings create themselves powerful, destructive
weapons of steel and zinc that are far more deadly
than any natural teeth, claws, talons, or antlers.
Owen makes use of vibrant imagery and articulate
language to aid in both making the poem
pleasurable to read and to better portray his
meaning. He also makes frequent use poetic devices
which appeal to the ear such as rhyme and
alliteration. To best understand Wilfred Owens
poetry, you must understand Wilfred Owen. He was
the son of a railway worker, born in 1893.
Although he had previously regarded himself as a
pacifist, Owen entered World War I, commissioned
as a 2nd lieutenant.
It was during the war that he
wrote his poetry, so it should not be a surprise
that he wrote serious, contemplative poems on war.
Owens earned the Royal Military Cross in battle,
an honor that was given to less than 3000 British
soldiers. Wilfred Owen was killed by machine-gun
fire in 1918, a week before armistice was signed.
As a pacifist who fought in the Great War Owen was
likely to have suffered from daunting moral
questions and reservations. In fact at one point
he suffered from Shell shock, siting for days in a
bomb crater with the mangled corpse of a fellow
officer. While recuperating at a war hospital,
Wilfred Owen met people who encouraged him in his
poetry and helped him publish it. In his poem,
Arms and the Boy, Owen expresses himself with a
reserved, but critical attitude towards the
subject of weaponry and violence. This is
evidenced by the quantity of harsh words that he
uses, such as malice, famishing, sharp, death, and
Wilfred Owens poem is unusual in that it
makes use solely of slant rhyme. The final
consonant sounds of the words at the end of the
lines rhyme, but not the vowel sounds. The rhyme
pattern is a simple a /a b /b c /c d /d e /e f /f.
The poem would doubtless maintain its meaning
without this, but it would not be as pleasurable
to read or as appealing to the senses. The rhythm
is mainly an iambic pentameter, but with
variations of 9 and 11 syllables. This likewise
creates an even sounding poem that is beguiling to
the reader. Owen makes frequent use of
alliteration to add emphasis to his imagery.
phrases bayonet-blade, blind, blunt, bullet, and
famishing for flesh are good examples of
alliteration. This creates a pleasing affect to
the ear, and simultaneously gives greater import
to the particular image. The poet also uses
repetition, which is similar to alliteration,
except whole words or phrases are repeated, and
they do not have to be close together. The words
sharp and teeth are repeated in the poem for the
effect that they create. Arms and the Boy contains
vivid, captivating images and figurative language
that brings the poem to life. The personification
in the second line of the poem helps create an
image that sets the somber tone of the poem and
foreshadows the theme.
How cold steel is, and keen
with hunger of blood appeals strongly to the
tactile senses with the words cold and keen. The
lines Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth /
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death
contain two bold metaphors. The first line
compares the bullets to fine zinc teeth, while the
second line compares their physical sharpness with
the emotional sharpness of grief and death.
Wilfred Owen utilizes many descriptive, powerful
verbs like stroke, nuzzle, and lurk in creating
these masterful images. The poem Arms and the Boy,
is a short poem offering one mans perceptive
insight into war and violence in human society. It
is a pleasure to read for the mind and the senses
owing to his stimulating and innovative use of
imagery, figurative language, and other poetic
devices. Owen does not directly present the
insights of his poem, but rather he asks difficult
questions and lets the reader contemplate the
answers for him/herself.
Why does man, born
without talon or claw, create steel blades blue
with malice and zinc teeth with the sharpness of
grief and death?.
Research essay sample on Meaning And Use Of Literary Techniques In Wilfred Owens Poetry