The dictionary meaning of disabled is having a physical or mental condition that limits movement, senses or activity. In Wilfred Owen’s poem Disabled through imagery, irony, tone, similes and contrasting the life of a soldier before and after war, Owen shows what it is like to be disabled by war. Owen uses imagery to help the reader picture the soldiers life post World War I. “legless sewn short at elbow” and “his back will never brace” help to demonstrate a clear understanding of how the soldier would look; sitting in a wheel-chair, unable to do simple everyday tasks without assistance.
Owen uses imagery referring to blood throughout the poem “leap of purple leaped from his thigh” which helps picture the brutality of war and what the soldier went through to end up disabled. The girls in the poem also help to demonstrate the difference in the soldier’s life pre and post war. Using imagery Owen shows the differing reactions of the girls. “to please his Meg” and “to please the giddy jilts” show that the reason for enlisting was to satisfy the girls. “The women’s eyes pass from him” show that post war he is no longer desirable and girls no longer look at him they way they did.
The use of irony in Disabled is used to portray the message that the propaganda and celebrations of war are all false. As stated before, he joined the army to please his girlfriend Meg, as in those days soldiers were attractive to women. However it is ironic that it is because of war that ‘he will never again feel how slim girls waists are’. The soldier was a football player before he enlisted and “one time he liked a blood-smear down his leg”. This is ironic because before the war the soldier was proud to be injured. However, he was wounded at war and feels not proud, but shame. Some cheered him home but not as crowds cheer goal” demonstrates that the glory he felt from soccer is nothing like the shame he gets from being a disabled war veteran. He was cheered off to war, however returning home just a torso wasn’t appealing to the people he knew and they celebrated a goal in soccer more than his return from war. Owen uses various tones throughout the poem to show the many different aspects involved with war. In the first stanza, the tone is negative, sad and depressed. Giving the reader a clear idea of how the soldier feels post ar and what he looks like.
In the middle stanzas (1-5) the soldier is reflecting on his former life and contrasting to what it is like now. The tone is envious of his old life as well as resentful of his mistakes. He is also bitter toward the enlisting officers who “smiling wrote his lie, aged nineteen” aiming blame toward them for not preventing him from being sent to the front. The middle stanza’s portray a tone of loss and deprivation. The sixth stanza is the soldier criticizing the war through the use of rhetorical questions “why don’t they come? The soldier is no longer able to put himself to bed and nobody is there to help him. Symbolling that the war has left this soldier all on his own, no football team, no Meg, no anybody. The most evident aspect of the poem is the contrast between the soldiers life pre and post war. Before the war he was young, fit and popular. He had Meg, his football team and was un-reliant on others for everyday tasks. He is now an old, physically disabled and mentally depressed man, who is unable to put himself to bed.
Owen uses similies to help support the contrast “all of them touch him like some queer disease” this helps show his present life and is contrasting o the previous lines where he talks of his old life when ‘town used to swing so gay’. In the poem Disabled Wilfred Owen successfully uses contrast, irony, tones and imagery to portray the idea that war is not all glory, and for millions of men it was the end of their life. Through his own war experience Owen was able to demonstrate what it was like for a World War I soldier to be disabled by war.