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Insensibility Analysis

Author: poem of Wilfred Owen Type: poem Views: 11

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Happy are men who yet before they are killed

Can let their veins run cold.

Whom no compassion fleers

Or makes their feet

Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.

The front line withers,

But they are troops who fade, not flowers

For poets' tearful fooling:

Men, gaps for filling

Losses who might have fought

Longer; but no one bothers.


And some cease feeling

Even themselves or for themselves.

Dullness best solves

The tease and doubt of shelling,

And Chance's strange arithmetic

Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.

They keep no check on Armies' decimation.


Happy are these who lose imagination:

They have enough to carry with ammunition.

Their spirit drags no pack.

Their old wounds save with cold can not more ache.

Having seen all things red,

Their eyes are rid

Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.

And terror's first constriction over,

Their hearts remain small drawn.

Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle

Now long since ironed,

Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.


Happy the soldier home, with not a notion

How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,

And many sighs are drained.

Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:

His days are worth forgetting more than not.

He sings along the march

Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,

The long, forlorn, relentless trend

From larger day to huger night.


We wise, who with a thought besmirch

Blood over all our soul,

How should we see our task

But through his blunt and lashless eyes?

Alive, he is not vital overmuch;

Dying, not mortal overmuch;

Nor sad, nor proud,

Nor curious at all.

He cannot tell

Old men's placidity from his.


But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,

That they should be as stones.

Wretched are they, and mean

With paucity that never was simplicity.

By choice they made themselves immune

To pity and whatever mourns in man

Before the last sea and the hapless stars;

Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;

Whatever shares

The eternal reciprocity of tears.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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| Posted on 2017-01-29 | by a guest

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He talks about how war desensitises the individual, enforcing that the brutal occurrences that happen during war can mentally scar an individual. Along with this, the soldiers repress their emotions and thus become "stone", emotionless and with no regard for their own lives. As seen when he repetitively says "happy are" and says very contrasting qualities that should not lead to happiness.

| Posted on 2015-09-29 | by a guest

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Insensibility, by Wilfred Owen is one of his most well-known poems. The poem is about a group of soldiers who have become immune to the horrors of the war. Wilfred uses irony by having the poem in a form of an Ode, which is usually for romantic poems. Owen's main message is that war is futile, and brutal. He believed people at home should not have romanticised it.

| Posted on 2015-02-18 | by a guest

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may only be an analysis of the writing. No requests for explanation or
general short comments allowed. Due to Spam Posts are moderated before

| Posted on 2014-10-13 | by a guest

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idk but i think that Owen kinda expresses his mockery for those who doesn't know anything about the horrors of war? i mean, look at the title: insensibility ( meaning: unaware/inappreciative) and also at the last stanza there's this word where he calls the people for being " dullards" for being ignorant of what is in the war and think of it as normal(as if its a game?)??? i can basically relate the last stanza to his other poem "miners"(because the people "will not dream of [us] poor lads / lost in the ground") or "anthem of doomed youth" ( the fact that the whole poem kinda summarizes to the lack of recognition by the people and giving those people who died in the war, an improper burial)

| Posted on 2014-03-18 | by a guest

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(Looking at stanza VI)
Within Insensibility, Owen illustrates how although it is easier to be emotionally barren, or void of all feeling -- a necessity due to the cold brutality of war -- those who are, are \'cursed..that they should be as stones.\' For those soldiers become trapped in the vortex that is war, and once trapped, all humanity is lost, and thus \'by choice they made themselves immune\', which further magnifies that to survive war, one must first be blind to its horrors. For if you truly see its nightmares, its hell, then it will tear sanity from you. Thus now, there is only the \'eternal reciprocity of tears\', of those who mourn loved ones who lost their lives to war, or worse, those who lost their humanity.

| Posted on 2011-04-25 | by a guest

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If it seems straightaway that it is a curse it is in fact a blessing. However, reiterating between curse or blessing is going to see you going a path less ventured. That is what this poem is about, set in the period of WWI. It is truly tragic but always choose the one closest or furthest away from you. No matter what.

| Posted on 2011-04-20 | by a guest

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The poem \"Insensibility\" is a remarkable insight into the mentality of the common soldier within World War One. As the title so plainly suggests, the soldiers Owen depicts have had to purge themselves of all emotion in order to cope with the sheer scale of horror that they wittness on a daily basis. Lines such as, \"their heats remain small-drawn\" further emphasis this point. The language and overall tone of the poem reflect this loss of emotiona and humanity, as in the vast majority of cases the language is very simple, cautious even. The afore-mentioned ideas of the poem\'s seperation into sections giving it a far more mechanical feel and the view of the soldiers being automotons I think are equally important - further exhibiing the dehumanising effect of war on the soldiers.
The title of the poem itself is perhaps ambigiuous, as it can be taken to mean simply the present mentality of the soldier\'s or the ineptitude of the people that they have given their humanity up for.
The motif behind this poem is very similar to others in the collection, most notably \"Exposure\" and \"Dulce Et Decorum Est\", it being that war is not as the romatanticists had depicted it; war is truly despicable thing. Undoubtabely Owen includes the dehumanising effect of war to emphasise this, but also his subtle yet potent use of irony does too. As mentioned by several others, many comparisons can be made between the structure of this poem and the structure\'s of the romantic\'s poems i.e. Keats.
However, all is not so gloomy within this poem. In the latter two stanzas, Owen seems to convey a message to the soldier\'s that they must not give up their humanity to be saved from the horrors of war. Instead they must hold onto it through all of their experiences, as losing your humanity is perhaps worse than losing your life.
Ultimately, I believe that Owen\'s purpose in writing this poem is to dispel the glorification of war and the commonly used idea of war hardening men and turning them into heroes.
Ben, 17

| Posted on 2011-03-21 | by a guest

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I dont understand this poem?
I\'m doing half of this poem for English, my dumb twat of a teacher sent us to do:S. And i dont understand it at all HELP?
Happy are men who are yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers.
But they are troops who fade, not flowers,
Men, gaps for filling:
Losses who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers

| Posted on 2010-11-24 | by a guest

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The fact that each stanza is numbered gives the poem a mechanical structure. This enhances the idea of the soldiers being like robots with no feelings, emotions or clear thoughts and therefore further dehumanises the soldiers.

| Posted on 2010-11-09 | by a guest

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I fink dat dis poem is wel bad, cos i dont even understand haff de werds dey r sayin

| Posted on 2010-09-28 | by a guest

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The poem echo's the beatitudes with a recurring motif of religion leading each stanza. Euphemisms like "Losses" in place of 'Death', reenforce this religious beatitude style poem. Some lines reflect other poems by Owen. Lines such as "but no one bothers" compare with "but nothing happens" in his poem, Exposure. The second stanza presents the idea that if a solider accepts death is his fate, then he is able to cope with the stress, irrational thoughts, and fear that heavy artillery, from the opposition, can bring. "The tease and doubt of shelling" suggests that death is playing with the men, teasing and provoking them, antagonistically fluttering grenades around the men, no place is safe. The present tense stanza opening "Happy are these who lose imagination" makes this applicable to any soldier in any present war to the reader, he makes it current and more personal. This opening line suggests that man is dehumanised by war, the loss of imagination. We then move through Owen's war semantics and recurring motif's throughout his poems in the next stanza. The reader is surrounded with "wounds","cold","ache" and "blood". The poem offers the reader a contradiction to romantic poetry and war poetry by writers such as Keats and Jesse Owen that our poet obligees we see past the glorification of war patriotism.

| Posted on 2010-06-07 | by a guest

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Insensibility was written in response to William Wordworth, who wrote almost a century before "Who is the happy warrior/ Who is he/ That every man in arms should wish to be".
Owen's cynical attitude towards War is reflected when he contradicts Wordsworth by repeating 'Happy are these.. who lose imagination'(etc) Owen's sarcasm therefore suggests that the soldiers were, in fact entirely unhappy, as their experiences in war made them void to all feeling.

| Posted on 2010-06-07 | by a guest

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The poem is in the form of an Ode, which ironically is usually associated with the Romantic Poets, such as Blake or Keats (Ode to Autumn) etc. This however is contradictory, as Ode's are only really written in praise of something/someone so this could be an ironic reflection of perhaps the glorified nature War is percepted to drag out of many people as a way of the Goverment in maintaing moral and patriostism of the nation; this is shown in the line 'He cannot tell
Old men's placidity from his'. Furthermore the title 'insensibility' is almost too genteel and this mirrors the rather simple and rather neutral use of adjectives, such as 'happy' which is repeatedly used throughout the poem. This emptyness shown by such simplistic language follows the line 'alive he is not vital' and 'dying not mortal' giving us a taste of nihilism which seems to convey itself not through graphic and disturbing visually pictured poetry, but through poetry which is just like the title, so soft and simple it almost makes us readers unresponsive to stimulation, or lack of 'sensibility'. Viki,17 -sorry for the spelling/grammer mistakes!!

| Posted on 2010-06-03 | by a guest

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the poem insensibility, has an ambiguous meaning, could refer to soldiers who have lost all their senses.

| Posted on 2010-05-15 | by a guest

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Irony is present in the poem. The form of the poem is in itself ironic, as it echoes the beatitudes of St. Matthew's Gospel (Christ's sermon on the Mount). However, here Owen is stating that it is blessed to have the very opposite of those qualities which Christ praised and admired. Just as the good and bad aspects of life for the soldiers have been distorted by the war, so too have these desirable qualities expressed in the beatitudes been distorted within the context of war.

| Posted on 2010-05-07 | by a guest

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consider the reference to the reccurent theme of sensibility in Romantic poetry

| Posted on 2010-03-12 | by a guest

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the fact that the title enables the audience to be able to scensitise with it and be able to come up with loads of different meanings within the text contrasts with how different people persue the war and how soldiers are belittled and how they never get the respect or never have the life that they thought war was going to be like especially with the propaghanda and how they thought that it was sweet and right to die for the country because what they have to go through and what they have had to do with themselves and be able to jeopardise even having their own feelings now and how this has become more relistic and envolves the readers more because they are now emphasysing with the soldiers and how just within the title you can establish this.

| Posted on 2009-12-13 | by a guest

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the poem suggests the soldiers of world war one had to transform into brutes as a typical means of survival! it was a testimony to the survival of the fittest and in order to survive, a soldier had to dull the senses, numb the heart and 'let his veins run cold' to stay survive another day! too, the title can suggest ambiguity! 'insensiblity' may be attacking the homefront at that period and how they were unable to withhold the capacity of understanding and support these men amoungst their brutality!

| Posted on 2009-05-16 | by a guest

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I think that the title of the poem is ambiguous. It could be refering to the soldiers who have lost all sense of feeling from fighting in the war or the people who don't give enough respect to all those who have died in the war.

| Posted on 2008-10-06 | by a guest

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