“Disabled” by Wilfred Owen Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer


The disabled poem was written in 1917 and it was an expression of feelings and thoughts of a young soldier who left for World War when he was nineteen years old only. After coming from the war, the young soldier felt disappointed by the reaction from the people.

He seems to have thought that the people would appreciate him as a hero because he had gone to war but now they just appear to look at him with pity because he came back disabled from the war. This paper will look at the disabilities of the young man and those of the society at large.


The young soldier is portrayed as being bitter towards the army Generals “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years” (S3 l8). The young soldier in the poem felt that the army personnel and the society at large were aware of the potential dangers that he could face in the war but they still encouraged him to enter the army so that he could supposedly serve his country. The soldier did not have to beg the army personnel so that he could join were already in need of many soldiers (S3 l7).

The young man expresses what he feels was betrayal that the society had been happy when he joined the war so that he could go and represent his country, yet they did not seem as pleased when he came back from the war because he was now disabled. The young man expresses that when he came back, there were individuals who cheered for him, but it was the same kind of cheer that is given to a victor such as someone who cheers a goal (S 4 l1).

When the young soldier joined the army, the people in the society appeared to be very pleased as they cheered him on and played drums (S3 l6). This cheerful reaction that he got before he went to the war when he was not disabled is in contrast to the kind of reaction that he got when he came back home disabled and all that he got was a few cheers and a formal and dignified man who did not appear cheerful came to receive him and gave him fruits.

The man who brought him fruits also asked about his soul and gave him thanks (s4 l3). This portrays the society as being disabled in terms of not knowing how to give a warm reception to soldiers that came from the war being disabled. Instead of being positive and welcoming to the soldiers for having lost their limbs in their course of fighting for their country, the soldiers are portrayed as being pitied and even shown hopelessness.

This leaves the reader feeling sympathy for the soldiers because they gave their youth for the society but what they get in return for giving up their youth on behalf of the society is pity and rejection. The society is disabled in terms of not being totally prepared and equipped to prepare the young soldiers for what might happen in the war like the loss of limbs that could leave the soldiers disabled. Instead, only the positive side of the war is talked about (Kendall 118).

The young soldier talks about how someone told him that he would look good in the army uniform, and he also thought that he could impress the women when he joined the war probably because they would think that he was brave (s3 l6,7). People in the society had encouraged him and cheered him to join the war but now he wondered why he had joined in the first place.

The young men who were living for the war were encouraged to have a team spirit and they were reminded of the pay arrears that they would get after they were drafted to join the war (S3 15). The now disabled soldier knew that he would have to spend the rest of his life in institutions where he would get rehabilitated probably through physical therapy. The young soldier felt that the army would do what they felt was appropriate for the young soldiers that came from the war disabled. He felt that they only had pity to offer (s5 l 3).

The society is shown as being disabled in terms of it not having any means through which they can positively encourage and rehabilitate the soldiers so that they would stop feeling like they were of no use to themselves or to the society. The society should have first of all organized festive welcome home occasions so that the young soldiers could stop feeling like as if they had wasted away their youths and their whole lives for a lost cause in having gone off to the war to fight for their country (Kendall 119).

If the army was to look at the soldiers as heroes, there is no doubt that this feeling would be passed on to the whole society. The army is also shown as being ungrateful because of the different and unrealistic expectations that they seem to hold for the soldiers that go to war. They well know that soldiers might get injured or wounded in war and they should therefore put necessary measures in place to help the soldiers cope so that they can still lead normal lives. One of the reasons that soldiers feel depressed and hopeless is because of the views of the society towards them.

Although the soldier is not mentally disabled, he is physically disabled which made him feel devoid. The soldier sat in his wheel chair and began to reminisce about the days before he went to war as he looked at children playing and imagine that he would never interact with young ladies that he would have been able to interact with if he had not gone to war (S1 l2, 3, 4). He felt that the ladies that would have been attracted to him before he went war were now viewing him as if he had an illness.

The ladies, who were impressed because of the soldier’s kilts, were now viewing him as if he had a disease. The army personnel also viewed him with pity. This shows that the values of the society are not right. An individual should not be made to feel as if they are inadequate on the basis of their physical capabilities (Owen 44).

Individuals who have given their time to serve the country or society should be appreciated and made to feel as if they are important because of their noble deeds. The society is therefore portrayed as being full of pretenders, individuals that only want to be associated with other people when they are considered to be ‘whole,’ but once those individuals sacrifice themselves in whatever manner necessary in order to serve the society and for the greater good of the society, they turn their backs to those people (Cavzer 57).

Once the individuals that scarified themselves become disadvantaged as in the case of the soldier that became disabled after going to war, the society offers no hope to that individual.

The young soldier felt like he was living dead just because he had lost his life. If the society was more positive in the way that they received the soldier, they would even have encouraged the soldier to have some hope in life and start living his life positively. The soldier must have thought that in the same way that he got a cheerful send off, he would get a cheerful welcome (Kendall 89).

He must also have felt that since he had lost his limbs in the line of duty while he served his society, they would honor and appreciate him for his actions. But the soldier got the opposite of what he expected because he felt rejected, felt sympathy and hopeless. He felt that what was left of him to do was just do what was instructed by the members of the army who would be in charge of rehabilitating him (Cavzer 62).


Instead of glory, attention from women and respect for having honorably served his country, he got bitter, disappointed, depressed, no attention from women, disabled and he now had to be dependent on others to take care of him because he could not do it by himself.

Works Cited

Cavzer, Elna. Changing Perceptions. England: Sussex Academic Press, 1999. Print.

Kendall, Tim. The Oxford handbook of British and Irish War Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Owen, Wilson. Poems by Wilfred Owen. New Yolk. Forgotten Books, 1949. Print.

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