The Development of Ideas in “Wild with All Regrets”
In “Wild with All Regrets,” Wilfred Owen effectively conveys the emotions of a hopeless soldier through the development and progression of thoughts. The poet uses various parallel trains of thought simultaneously, such as the past, present and future, magnifying people and then inanimate things, wandering into what could have been and having to return to what actually is. Such techniques highlight the soldier’s gradual distancing of himself from himself. The form, structure, and language of the entire poem and of the individual stanzas all contribute to the development of ideas and to a reader’s understanding of the turns taken by the persona’s mind.
In the first stanza, Owen takes the persona’s memories to the past; here, the reader finds the language pleasant. Words like “spring,” “lilac shoots,” and “boyhood” create this atmosphere of repose. Owen also uses mild, gentler words for negative thoughts as well, including “awful” and the expression “my buck!” As thought moves to the present in the second stanza, the words get harsher, “lugged” and “coffin,” “blood” and “dirt,” until finally in the third stanza the words are torturous, an inevitable “chill,” “sobs,” and unpleasant emotions that “climb” through the persona. This difference in language between stanzas reflects the slow deterioration of the persona, gradual loss of hope and the feeling of a harsh reality. Over time, the persona ceases to find comfort in the hypothetical.
Similarly, the length of the stanzas also reflects the loss of hope over time. The past had potential but was wasted and the persona cannot “renew” it. The second stanza, being present, offers little hope but the persona still holds on to it, he “thought” he could be a sweeper or orderly and in the third stanza the reader finds no reference to the hypothetical, but instead a definite will. Also to be noted in the last stanza is the lack of reference to God or an afterlife which suggests the persona has dismissed any hope of peace or rest for the future. This is seen in it having the fewest number of lines.
The poem starts off with the fading of the persona’s spirit, moving from “mutinied” to “fidget” to “stiff” and in the first stanza he looks back on all his life could’ve been, but was stopped by reality. The development of ideas is brought about by repetition. The word “old” is used in context of the persona fearing growing old and then, later wishing for it. Similarly, hitting, shooting and hunting are referred to as sport of youth and spirit, until later they have become horrors of war.
Yet another path of a developing idea is presented, and this one to emphasize desperation. Owen brings up “the arts of hurting” when looking into the past, but appeals to God for “spring” later. This shows the persona’s regret but also his willingness to give up what society considers fashionable, for life. He would envelop himself in beauty, not killing, should he have a chance at boyhood again. However, in the second stanza, he dwells less on himself, instead magnifying things around him, both human and inanimate, making them more significant and personal. This is first seen in reference to the “orderly” some nameless man without connection to the persona, yet the persona in his pain, wishes to be him. Owen goes through the details of being the orderly, “sweep,” “bustle,” and “dirt.” He them zooms into the hands of the orderly, then further to the dust on his hands. This shows the persona escaping his own body and making large the things he craves.
Furthermore, depicting his desperation, are his exponential claims. First the persona would “like to kneel” play a humble submissive role, which he then claims he would do “for ever.” His sacrificial offers only build up as the stanza progresses. He offers to take “no nights off” and then, even when the “bustle” was over, not rest after the hardest hour. This development of offers carries off from his plea to God in the first stanza- he is wishing to exchange his situation for anything. Finally, to top off his series of sacrifices, Owen says the persona would “enjoy the dirt,” for it would be better than where he is. It is also interesting to note that Owen explores the situation the persona is facing as humbling, or as a punishment for his boyhood of killing. In this light, the persona is asking for forgiveness and offering to condone for his sins in any way but this. However, Owen again suggests a loss of hope, and God, because the God that the persona is appealing to, does not heed the persona and by the end of the poem, becomes invisible even to the persona himself.
All through the first two stanzas, the persona is distanced from himself gradually, the poem starting with “my” the first person and moving to “we” and ”your.” In the second stanza, the persona is utinto the mind of the orderly, focused on the hand and then the dust. This progression comes to a peak, when Owen puts the persona in relation to the flea. The phrase “if one chap wasn’t bloody” shows the most distance as is does insensitivity. The persona has gone from being the bloody chap, to the flea that infests him. This contributes to portraying the regret and hopelessness on the persona’s part and also extreme desperation. Also, a trend in the first two stanzas are the rhetorical questions. This emphasizes that whatever thoughts explored or situations experienced, the doubt and question carries on. Consequently, the lack of question in the final lines suggests that all doubt has been extinguished, and the persona has come to accept the harsh reality. Similarly, the pararhyme that is sustained throughout the poem reflects the constant undercurrent uneasiness and feeling of being stuck. Subtly, Owen revels, through the sustenance of pararhyme through the end of the poem that the resolve and expelling of doubt has come to a very unfortunate and disturbing conclusion.
Owen uses a reflective style of writing, with long pondering sentences, and structure to show the development of though accurately. He takes the reader on a credible trip through the mind of a disturbed regretful man, by eloquently reflecting train of thought on paper. The specific language and the connections between words, their connotation and their implications help to mark the paths taken by the persona’s mind and aid the readers’ understanding of it.
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In “Wild with All Regrets,” Wilfred Owen effectively conveys the emotions of a hopeless soldier through the development and progression of thoughts. The poet uses various parallel trains of thought […]