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Metaphor in Anthem for Doomed Youth

Owen uses metaphor throughout his poem to achieve several ends: to describe the senselessness of war, he likens soldiers’ deaths to the slaughter of cows; to describe the intensity of bullets, he compares them to “shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells”; to describe the girls’ grieving, he writes that their brows are their “palls”; and to illustrate the end of the day, he describes blinds closing. These metaphors contribute to create a sense of disillusionment with the war in the first stanza and the mourners’ perpetual sadness in the second.

Metaphor Examples in Anthem for Doomed Youth:

Text of the Owen's Poem

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"slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds...."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

This image, which likens nightfall to the “drawing-down of blinds,” evokes both the end of a day and, more broadly and metaphorically, the end of a life. Dusk falls slowly, perhaps indicating that the process of grief is long and fraught. Grief is interminable, and as night falls and dawn emerges, the grieving process begins all over again the next day. The image of dusk descending into night echoes the lyrics to taps: “Day is gone, gone the sun, from the hills, from the lake...fades the light.” Owen connects the two stanzas together by concluding this stanza as he does the last—with the sound of taps to signal an ending.

"The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
..."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

The adjective “shrill” indicates that the bullets are like high-pitched, piercing screams, whereas the terms “demented” and “wailing” add a dimension of bedlam. The “wailing shells” come as a “choir,” meaning that the bullets whiz past incessantly and without rest. These word choices serve as auditory imagery to emphasize how the bullets whip past the heads of soldiers, who are perhaps crouched inside trenches. Additionally, the metaphor of the shells constituting a choir underscores the poem’s broader conceit concerning the sacrilegious, graceless nature of warfare.

"cattle..."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

In saying that the soldiers die “as cattle,” the speaker creates a simile which compares the value of their lives to those of cattle. Cattle are domesticated creatures, bred for slaughter or the production of milk. In this simile, the speaker asserts that these men are without autonomy or power. Their leaders send them to war—like cattle to pasture—where they die vainly and without commemoration.

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