Wilfred Owen’s presentation of war in “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and “The Dead Beat” is that of cruelty, the lack of respect towards the soldiers, how war deteriorates the life of a person (shell-shock) and the effects on the loved ones. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” highlights the cruelty of war that dehumanizes the soldiers and takes away their dignity. “The Dead Beat” tell us how the war kills the human spirit, both physically and mentally.
War is being presented as cruel. In the poem “Anthem of Doomed Youth”, soldiers are referred to as a ‘cattle’ being slaughtered like animals. This highlights the dehumanization of a living person whom sacrificing their lives to this war. The use of highly harsh language such as ‘monstrous’ describes how terrifying the war is. The soldiers can only hear bullets flying past their ears “wailing shells” and the other’s stuttering of words before their deaths “patter out their hasty orisons”. Their deaths are seen to be meaningless.
There is a lack of respect towards the soldiers in the two poems. The persona in “The Dead Beat” is presented as being disgraced by the other soldiers and their country. The other soldiers treat the persona who suffers from shell shock after the war harshly and violently. This highlights of the soldiers and even the countrymen changes of behavior in terms of a lack of care and humanity. When the persona is sent to the mental hospital, the Doc’s ‘ whiskied-laugh’ and his statement ‘the scum you send last night soon died’ highlights on their lack of care of understanding of what the persona is suffering that is shell shock and the persona is referred as a ‘scum’ which means a layer of dirt. This shows that how the persona is being ridiculed and mocked and as seen as a coward of breaking down on a battlefield.
In “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, the soldiers are not respected and honoured properly. The soldiers sacrificed their lives to this war for their country but after they die, their bodies are not treated properly and do not even
have their own funeral ceremony. “No mockeries for them” highlights the soldiers are not respected properly that they just end up dying like a ‘cattle’ waiting for slaughter. “Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs” highlights that the soldiers who died having been given nothing, not even respect or a choirs to accompany to tell their ‘goodbyes’.
War deteriorates the life of a soldier as exemplified in the “The Dead Beat”. The persona is presented as weak and as a coward of broke down in a battlefield. This can be highlighted in Owen’s use of simile such as “sullenly than wearily” and “Lay stupid like a cod, heavy like meat” in the first stanza. Owen is know to have experienced in shell shock and was sent to a hospital which can be referenced to this poem. He had seen so many soldiers that suffer from shell shock whom were sent to a mental hospital. In similarity of the persona whom had been treated harshly and with the lack of respect and compassion.
Lastly, war affects the feelings and emotions to the soldiers and their families. In comparison of the two stanzas, the first one creates a heavier, sardonic and cruel atmosphere which the speaker expresses anger whereas the second creates a lighter and soft tone, adopting a gloomy atmosphere. As seen in the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth” in the last stanza, usually ‘candles’ are held in the hands of boys during a funeral but during war, the soldiers only see the ‘candles’ in their ‘eyes’ and ‘faces’. This highlights the soldier who fought in the war cannot send their love and care to their family who are left behind.
In conclusion, the speaker expresses anger and hatred to the war on which can be seen in the two contrasting stanzas of how war can change a soldier behavior of treating a shell shock person badly and lack of respect, deteriorates a soldier’s life (changing their future of being in a hospital after the war than enjoying their life free from war) and how war is cruel to the mankind of which dehumanizes the human spirit.