The Question of Religion in Wilfred Owen’s Maundy Thursday and Soldier’s Dream

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

By: R.T Cardoso Date: 17/03/16 Poem Essay #2 “It would take a power of candle grease and embroidery to Romanize me,” written by Wilfred Owen in 1915. What evidence is there for this sentiment in Owen’s Poetry? Throughout his poems Owen shows his views of religion, which in various instances is discretely portrayed to be in direct conflict to his daily life. Owen can be noted as having had a strong criticism and dislike towards the power of Catholicism. Owen in addition often attempts to make his poems in a form to teach the reader about his views of religion. This is the case with ‘Maundy Thursday’ and ‘Soldier’s Dream,’ two poems written by Wilfred Owen. Owen wrote these poems so that he may illustrate the sentiment relating to his attitude towards religion. With illusions, symbolism, parenthetical statement and sarcastic language techniques in both poems there is a contribution to the establishment of Owen’s character at the time of war, a time when his sentiment towards religion was impacted so greatly.

Owen demonstrates to the reader his attitude to religious practice by referring to the setting in ‘Maundy Thursday’ in which “men came up lugubrious, but not sad.” The representation of the men as being mournful is in direct contrast with the following parenthetical statement, saying that they are “…not sad.” This contrast is not only beneficial in being source of aid in creating atmosphere of hidden objection to the church’s practices on the men’s side but also helps with the further contrast between them and the women in attendance “who knelt mourning [with meek mouths].” The action of the women is effective as they display the opposite emotion to the men. Owen uses this to his advantage in that he allows the reader to realize that the men are skeptical. This is important in proving Owen’s sentiment towards religion in that it reminds the reader that as they have fought in the war they have gained criticism towards religious faith, contrary to their feminine counterparts, who did not experience the battles of World War One.

Interestingly, Owen allows a possible sarcastic representation of praise towards theology relating to his view of indoctrination by the use of emotive language in ‘Soldier’s Dream’. This idea is supported as he says that he dreamed that “kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears” which caused “a permanent stoppage of all bolts,” creating a discrete mood of sarcasm by the use the of the basic modifier “kind”. Using this language with plosive sound technique the power portrayed by Jesus is enhanced. In addition, the use of the modifier “all” creates a mood of inclusion, referring to Owen’s own presence in this church, this accumulating into the benign emotive language. This consequently contributes to the possible sarcasm Owen has presented as this idea can be further backed up by as Jesus is said to have “rusted every bayonet with his tears,” with this unexpected shifting of emotion without symbolism nor foreshadowing there is further evidence for sarcastic tone and expression on Owen’s behalf. As this is the case Owen’s sentiment is further emphasized by discrete sarcastic tone he offers to the reader.

Furthermore, in ‘Maundy Thursday’ Owen elaborates on the power and superiority of the church built up by society, this is described in the poem by detailed symbolic language. Firstly, Owen states how the “Young children”, “came, with eager lips and glad,” the children being a symbolic representation of pure innocence. These quotes describe how those youths have absorbed religious teaching by their behavior in the church. This idea of indoctrination is further developed for the induced visualization of Owen’s emotions and inner conflict as he states that he “too, knelt before the acolyte”. By the use of the verb “knelt” a sense of unwilling submission is created. “Knelt” also relates to a previous instance of the text when Owen speaks about the men who did the same “reluctantly, half-prejudiced” also. Furthermore, the value of Jesus is diminished as the result of the noun “acolyte,” which creates a demotion of Jesus by stating that he is no god, but Saint. The depiction of “kissing the emblem of creed” is another way Owen uses allusion to Catholic practice to allow the reader to be assured that Owen is in a Catholic church. In summary this idea demonstrates further that Owen’s sentiment towards religion, specifically towards Catholic religion, is of great questioning.

Lastly, in ‘Soldier’s Dream’ God is portrayed cunningly by Owen to further emphasize Owen’s views on the reach of religion. He states that “God was vexed,” that the fighting had ceased as the armaments had been sabotaged by Jesus. God’s portrayal is displayed furthermore when Owen speaks about how God as he was annoyed “gave all the power to Michael,” who Michael himself had “seen to our repairs,” illustrating how the war would seem never-ending even after divine acknowledgement. The weight of religious context is enhanced in this manner by the use of Michael as an allusion to the archangel Michael, and too by how Michael had repaired the armaments before Owen had awoken, when he was asleep, as with caution and a sense of concealment from Owen’s view. The characteristic of concealment is symbolic in that it shows that Owen has not seen Michael, so he is not certain that Michael exists or what absolute effect he has on the war, this also emphasizes Owen’s idea of false hope of religious beliefs he speaks of previously and the subtle idea of “seeing what you only want to see,” relating to indoctrination. By these ways Owen further shows his view on the indoctrination of religion, by this contributing to his didactic intents to convince the reader of his sentiments toward religion.

Although it is true that Wilfred Owen exhibits strong objection by the use of these various language features such as in ‘Maundy Thursday’ and ‘Soldier’s Dream’ to criticize religious practice it can be noted that he is mostly focused on Catholicism. This is the case as across his poetic works there are frequent portrayals of how in Catholic beliefs contradicting practices have been incorporated. Overall his view on the world’s impact of religion written in his poetry can be too acknowledged of being of great consequence from serving in the war. This is the case as the result of his experiences with war’s bloodshed and harrowing horrors he had begun to lose faith in a truly benevolent and perfect god existing; this idea of God being one he would have believed in with little question before he began serving in the war efforts, summarizing idea of indoctrination which Owen stresses in his work.

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