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Mental Cases Analysis



Author: poem of Wilfred Owen Type: poem Views: 34

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Who are these?  Why sit they here in twilight?

Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,

Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,

Baring teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked?

Stroke on stroke of pain, -- but what slow panic,

Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?

Ever from their hair and through their hand palms

Misery swelters.  Surely we have perished

Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?



-- These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.

Memory fingers in their hair of murders,

Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.

Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,

Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.

Always they must see these things and hear them,

Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,

Carnage incomparable and human squander

Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.



Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented

Back into their brains, because on their sense

Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;

Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh

-- Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,

Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.

-- Thus their hands are plucking at each other;

Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;

Snatching after us who smote them, brother,

Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.






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

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"Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous awful falseness of set-smiling corpses" Gives me the idea that 'they' have died with a torturous smile on their faces. The classical horror smile, usually put on the face of the murderer.

| Posted on 2014-10-20 | by a guest


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DUDEEE, READ DULCE ET DECORUM EST INSTEAD, ITS WAY BETTER :)

| Posted on 2011-01-28 | by a guest


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the poem is an interesting seight into the long-term effects on the men that fought. it attempts to tell the reader of the horror or war through the effects it had on those after. it is a reminder that the horrors of war never leave a mans mind. the title is a harsh label that evokes realisation.

| Posted on 2011-01-14 | by a guest


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thanks, this helped a lot. an interesting fact for you guys is that Owen had 5 categories in which he put his poems into before he died. his poem futility was put into the category of guilt, why do you think he put it there?

| Posted on 2010-10-05 | by a guest


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The poem is about World War One. Wilfred Owen was born on 18 March 1893, and died on 4 November 1918. How could it be about World War Two, which was 1939 to 1945?

| Posted on 2010-08-01 | by a guest


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you're all idiots it was the first world war. hence why it is in my revision guide entitled 'poetry of the first world war'

| Posted on 2010-06-04 | by a guest


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wondering if someone can help me understand the tone of the 1st stanza?

| Posted on 2010-05-09 | by a guest


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there are so many different techniques to write about in this poem from elipitcal style, pathetic fallacy to basic pararyhme and similies the structure of the poem is distored by the question marks to show the confusion of the soliders which reinforces the idea of them being mentally unfit, this makes the poems ryhtm stutter almost like the sound of a gun showing that everything is a constant reminder of war and death this is reinforced by the bit with sun and reference to blood the sun is the creator of all live and even at the break of dawn a new day all they can picture is the horrors of wars if you take your time whilst reading the poem its so much easier to analysis and then you wont be able to stop writing about it .

| Posted on 2010-04-27 | by a guest


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The poem is in fact about shell-shock. Owen himself suffered from it and he is describing the various symptoms that men with it undergo. Also to the person who said the US entered the war in the late 30s you're wrong. WW2 was between 1939 and 1945, the US didn't join until 1941 because of pearl harbour and germany actualy declaring war on them.

| Posted on 2010-04-03 | by a guest


.: :.

That damage to men's minds through war, was not more shameful than bodily wounds didn't always find ready acceptance at that time, and Mental Cases is both a powerful poem and a propaganda document. Owen's aim is to shock, to describe in stark detail the ghastly physical symptoms of mental torment. As is Dulche et Decorum Est and The Sentry, Owen shows men in their prime become senile wrecks.
Their abnormal condition he links to abnormality in nature.

| Posted on 2010-03-29 | by a guest


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The analysis that is promised on google is great, but thanks to the guest that delieved on this promised

| Posted on 2010-02-24 | by a guest


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well thank u all for giving an idea of the poem but how is that the title "mental cases " actully justifies the poem

| Posted on 2010-02-16 | by a guest


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lol .all i can say is that the techniques etc are really really good andd it has helped me get a better idea of the poems but just to fix up to first comments
owen died 9 days before the world war 1 ended which was i think 17 november 1918
he had sent this poems in letters to families , later on it was published and now we learn about it in our HSC well most. =]

| Posted on 2009-12-08 | by a guest


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Mental Cases is about Wilfred Owen showing the comparison between men going to war and after they have came back.
Owen says 'drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish' this hows how owen is comparing the men to animals, war has dehumanised them.

| Posted on 2009-12-05 | by a guest


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In fact, Owen did not live through the First World War. He died towards the end in his late twenties, I think.

| Posted on 2009-11-09 | by a guest


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For the person who said that this was written during the time period of WWII...it wasn't. WWII took place between the 1930's and 1945. The US didn't enter the war until the late 30's so Owen wouldn't have been writing about a fellow solider had he been a veteran of that particular war so you are wrong and he did fight in WWI.

| Posted on 2009-09-09 | by a guest


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can anybody tell me some techniques used by Owen in mental cases to reflect the theme of the poem ?

| Posted on 2009-08-01 | by a guest


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Please disregard anything that may seem incorrect as I obviously cannot read and am a complete moron. lol

| Posted on 2009-05-31 | by a guest


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I must also make a correction to my previous statement, where I said the period was the second world war. I am sure most of you would have pick this up but I must correct it in saying that it was during the fiorst world war that Owen wrote his poems.

| Posted on 2009-05-31 | by a guest


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Sorry but 'Mental Cases refers to a soldier during Owen's time in the second world war.
Not as said below

| Posted on 2009-05-31 | by a guest


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Mental Cases is the poem of a young lad during the 20th century, in a war. That is all you need to know.

| Posted on 2009-05-15 | by a guest


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Also there is the idea that Mental Cases looks like it has a solid structure, but inside there are lots of question marks and dashes showing the narrators questioning and confusion

| Posted on 2009-05-15 | by a guest


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thankyou guys this helped me so much on understanding how to analyse a poem!!!

| Posted on 2009-03-13 | by a guest


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the poem is thronged at the heart of WW1' horrors of fighting

| Posted on 2008-12-01 | by a guest


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Yeeeah I dont think it's about anger. It's about sorrow and regret that the men had to become such animals. "Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter"
Comparison of the soldiers before and after the psychological effects of the war is used here to emphasises the effects of the war

| Posted on 2008-05-07 | by a guest


.: :.

Very thorough but I believe that you are incorrect on one matter only. For one thing the tone of the poem is not "anger" throughout the entire poem, only in the last stanza. Also one of the main ideas of the poem is how dieing in war is horrid, yet there are more horrid things still. Wilfred Owne tells us that, not only did we kill so many young men by sending them to war, but perhaps we have dealt the ones who survived an even worse fate than death.

| Posted on 2007-11-10 | by a guest


.: www.ulster.ac.uk/thisisla :.

This poem was written to illustrate the effect of the war on the participating soldiers. The subjects of the poem are inmates in a military hospital. Macabre word choice is apparent throughout, for example, "Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander". By this approach the poet is hoping to make a distinct impression on the reader and it also reflects his intense passion about his opposition to the war. The subjects of the poem are almost blaming the rest of us for allowing what has happened to occur. They are now doomed to relive the terrible acts that they have witnessed on the battlefield. The mood of the poem is one of anger; this is shown overtly and covertly throughout.
The first verse attempts to give a description of how these ‘Mental Cases’ look, introducing us to the men the war has created. Through various rhetorical questions, he leads us into asking how these men came to be as they are now. The use of ellipsis illustrates this - "But who these hellish?".
The second verse illustrates the causes of the men’s madness, linking it with combat in the war. The poetry here is filled with emotion and shocking detail. "Shatter of flying muscles". The poet tries to suggest the humanness of the victims, as opposed to the thought of them purely as statistics. "Treading blood from lungs that loved laughter". The line "Memories finger in their hair of murders" is a metaphor that compares their memories to a woman, a femme fatale, whose deadly embrace smothers them from within, where they cannot escape. "Always they must see these things and hear them".
In the final verse he brings the last two verses together, now that we know both cause and consequence and the last line sums up the theme of the poem "Pawing up who dealt them war and madness". The poet again brings up the subject of collective guilt, making clear that by not stopping the war we become responsible for the results. "Snatching after us who smote them, brother"
Allow me now to focus on some particular lines in the poem. "Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous awful falseness of set-smiling corpses" This line suggests how although these men smile, it is just a sarcastic & ironic smile which hides what they really feel. Also note, if you will, the use of alliteration. In the lines "Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented…. Sunlight seems a blood smear" The men are trying to escape away from the memories, retreating from parts of their minds where they can maybe forget. "Surely we have perished sleeping" on the surface appears to say that the ‘Mental Cases’ are like figments of our nightmares, but the deeper meaning maybe, that while we lay safely in our beds these men will live in death for ever more. "Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication", tells us how the minds of these men have given way under the strain of the horrors they have witnessed.
This poem is a shocking reminder of the mental toll of the war. If ever there was a war poem that reflected the war in its writing style then this is it. The horrific language tries to breed horrific thoughts in our own minds and succeeds again and again.


| Posted on 2007-05-08 | by a guest




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