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Tone in Anthem for Doomed Youth

A Mix of Satire and Sincerity: Throughout the poem, Owen satirically contrasts the imagery of battle with solemn funerary rites to illustrate the incompatibility of religion and combat. In the first stanza for example, the tone is satirical; the soldiers fight and die without receiving the proper religious commemoration for their sacrifice, their deaths marked by gunfire instead of bells, and the burial rites of the Church are described as “mockeries.” In the second stanza, the tone shifts from satire to sincerity. The “sad shires” lack the means to bury their honored dead, without the traditional items for funerary rights. However, this lack reveals genuine grief, which is powerful and original.

Tone Examples in Anthem for Doomed Youth:

Text of the Owen's Poem

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"in their eyes
 Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
..."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

The speaker takes the dark, deathly funerary images from the first stanza and recasts them to describe the other side of war: the grieving process. Instead of bullets and death, the speaker envisions the mourning boys whose tears glimmer in their eyes. By describing the other side of war, the speaker creates an introspective, meditative tone. He establishes that the mourner’s grief is spiritual and perpetual, unlike the earthly, finite scenes of the first stanza.

"sad shires..."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

The final line of the first stanza announces the transition from the foreign war zone to the home country. The bugles call for the soldiers from “shires,” regions or counties in England under the rule of a governor or bishop. In the second stanza, the poem takes on a sombre tone and shifts to the grieving, or “sad,” homes of the fallen soldiers.

"passing-bells..."   (Text of the Owen's Poem)

The word “passing-bell” refers to a church bell rung following a death to signal a moment of mourning and prayer. This word choice serves as auditory imagery, evoking the sound of bells rung for funerary service. Thus, the speaker immediately establishes a somber tone to the poem, one which contrasts sharply against the backdrop of war.

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