Wilfred Owen The Send Off Essay Outline
This essay intends to examine the poem “The Send Off” by Wilfred Owen. Owen wrote this poem while he was stationed at Ripon army camp. He was based there after being a patient at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, this is where he met Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. Owen was at Ripon between March and June, 1918 and died in action on the fourth of November 1918.
“The Send Off” is a poem about some troops that have just come from a sending off ceremony before departing by train, presumably to the frontlines of World war One. The poem has many themes running through it. Some of these are death, strangers, flowers, secretiveness and healing.
The poem opens with a very claustrophobic first line –
“down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way”
The words ‘down’, ‘close’ and ‘darkening’ provide the reader with a feeling of doom, claustrophobia and fear of uncertainty. The image of going ‘down’ provides the reader with the images of death, darkness, being buried, walking the trenches and going to hell. This opening line also provides a rather prophetic image of people being sent to concentration camps, by train, in World War Two. Further enhanced by ‘siding shed’. From the phrase “they sang their way2 there is an opposed feeling of happiness to the claustrophobia. However, the singing changes from happiness when the poem is read again and the other themes are considered.
Flowers are the next prominent theme displayed in this poem. They appear in line four, stanza one and line fifteen, stanza three.
“Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.”
The flowers are described as white and in wreath form, the reader may imagine in this line that white lilies are associated with funerals. The language in this line gives the impression that the troops are covered in white flowers and that the flowers are ‘stuck’ to their ‘breasts’ as in a coffin. This is further enhanced by the abrupt end to this line ‘dead’. The impression is that the soldiers are predresseed for their own funerals.
“Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.”
In this line the poet is asking if the women, who gave the troops the flowers, realise that the flowers are symbolising the reality of the horrors and the almost certain death that these troops are going to face in the frontline.
The theme of funerals is picked up again in stanza two –
“Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,”
The strangers, the porters, tramp, guard and women are all watching the troops, covered in flowers march from their army camp to the train station. The troops, in deliberately, are predressed for their funeral and there are no apparent cheers or voices in the poem as they depart, they are leaving silently, secretly and this leaves the reader feeling that it is a funeral convoy passing by and that the troops are experiencing foreboding of doom and may well be resigned to their fate on the frontlines.
“They sang their way dimly gay”
further shows that the troops are resigned to their fate and are singing their way to almost certain death..
interestingly, there is a large amount of secretiveness throughout this poem. It is first apparent in stanza three –
“So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.”
This line makes the reader question why the troops are departing so secretly, then in line thirteen the phrase –
“We never heard to which front these were sent.”
Shows that the troops and general public were not aware of where the troops would go to fight, or what the true nature of the realities would be when they got to their destination and that the public were not made aware of these realities and truths, in fact it was concealed from them. The secretiveness is also mentioned in stanza two, lines nine and ten –
“Then unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.”
Here the theme of secretiveness is displayed through the imagery of the signals nodded and a lamp winked, the reader feels conspiratorial messages conveyed through Morse code.
In the last stanza the secretiveness theme appears again, but this time, it is linked with the return of the soldiers. This stanza implies that only a few of these soldiers are likely to survive the war and return to their homes. However, they will ‘creep back’ implies that the soldiers may not wish to return as heroes and may need to heal themselves both mentally and physically.
In conclusion “The Send Off” by Wilfred Owen starts off as a poem about a sending off ceremony towards the end of the war but in fact goes on much deeper to discuss the differences between what people at home perceive the war to be and the actual realities that the soldiers face at the frontlines. The last stanza hints at healing, and suggests that those few soldiers who do return may wish to do so silently, and not as heroes, and may not wish to discuss the realities and horrors that they have experienced. Thus, the title is rather ambiguous.
Comparing The Drum by John Scott and The Send-off by Wilfred Owen
- Length: 908 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Comparing The Drum by John Scott and The Send-off by Wilfred Owen
Both writers have different ways of presenting their ideas about
slaughter and sacrifice. While in The Drum, John Scott plainly shows
that his feelings are that those who died in the war are being
slaughtered and not sacrificed. Meanwhile, in the Send-off, Owen shows
the ignorance of the people at home, who do not know the true horrors
of the war.
In the Drum, from the first line of the poem, John Scott immediately
let's the readers know his dislike of the war by saying
'I hate that drum's discordant sound,'
This is referring to the drum that is sound before the men go out to
battle. Therefore, John Scott associates the sound of the drum war. As
John Scott says he hates the drum he is showing is hatred of the war
and slaughter that goes on. As this line is repeated in the second
stanza, it emphasises the writer's hatred of the war.
Another way Scott effectively presents his ideas is by using different
language in each of the stanzas. In the first stanza it shows what the
drum means to the young lads who dream of being a soldier. This gives
a positive view on sacrifice, as it uses words like 'fall', which is
very romanticised language. This stanza gives the idea that is very
heroic and brave to die for ones country. In total contrast the second
stanza shows John Scott's views on war and he shows the death that
occurs is more slaughter than sacrifice. Instead of using romanticised
language he says
'And mangled limbs, and dying groans,'
This view gives a more graphic and realistic image to what war was
really like. The second stanza is used to shock the readers so they
can understand the true horrors of war. By using two contrasting
stanzas, Scott effectively presents his criticism on the way people
Another way John Scott presents his ideas is by creating strong and
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In the poem he uses personification to do this. In
the poem personification is used when it says
'And all that Misery's hand bestows
To fill the catalogue of human woes.'
This quotation immediately paints a chilling image of death. As
'Misery's' starts in a capital letter it instantly captures the
readers attention. It also emphasises the hatred of the slaughter felt
by the writer.
The poem similarly to the Send-off has an ominous feel to it. The poem
is also like a beat of a drum. The writer does this by at the end of
each line; Scott uses punctuation such as commas, to slow down the
pace of the poem. Another method that Scott uses to make the poem
sound like a beat of the drum is by using rhyming. One example can be
seen on the first lines of the stanza, where it says 'sound' and
'round'. The rhyme gives the poem rhythm, which makes the poem sound
like a drum.
In Wilfred Owen's poetry he presents the idea that sacrifice, is not
being fully appreciated. This can be seen at the beginning of the poem
when the soldiers are being sent off on the train. The lack of support
is suggested by the stillness of the poem. Especially when it says
'They were not ours'
Owen is trying to show that these men are sacrificing their lives for
their country, so therefore there should be some more support.
The Send-off shows the ignorance of the slaughter back at home. In the
poem there are clear differences between what people at home think is
happening in the war and the actual realities that the soldiers face
at the frontline. This can be seen by the idea of the flowers.
'Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray.'
The flowers here are supposed to be for celebration, however the
colour suggests something else entirely. The fact that the wreath is
white gives the impression of a funeral. This is showing that Owen's
view is that once the soldiers are sent off there is a slim chance of
them ever returning. However, the wearing of the flowers implies that
the people at home do not understand the full implication of the war.
This just makes Owen's criticism even bitterer.
In the last stanza, it shows the few soldiers that have survived the
front line have been affected by what they have seen. Their return is
a complete contrast to how they were sent off to war. In the poem it
'A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to village wells'
This is showing that the few soldiers, who do make it home, do not
wish to be treated as heroes. Instead they prefer to be left alone, so
they can cope with the suffering that they have seen. As the soldiers
return silently proves, that they do not wish to talk about the
realities of war and the mass slaughter they have witnessed. Owen's
view is that the soldiers will be forever scarred and haunted by the
Owen presents his ideas by given the poem a quiet tone. This gives the
poem a sinister feel to it. Down the 'close darkening lanes', creates
a image and sense of claustrophobia that the lanes are fatefully
closing in on them, implying that it is a point of no return. Owen
also emphasises his anti-war views by including an oxymoron in his
'And lined the train with faces grimly gay.'
Owen is showing that the people going to wave the soldiers off are
supposed to be happy. However as certain death looms for most of the
soldiers, it shadows the mood of the supporters.
I do not agree that Scott's poem is more effective than Owen's to
communicating its message. Though in Scott's poem, the writer clearly
shows it's anti-war message by mentioning
'And widows' tears, and orphans' moans;'
The contrast of the two stanzas makes these words even more powerful.
These two lines, clearly present Scott's view on the destruction and
damage, the war causes. As the poem is written in rhyming couplets it
effectively shows the writers message. The structure and content of
the poem is simple, which helps enforce the message. However, on the
other hand, I believe, Owen's message is far more chilling. Even
though Owen's message is not stated, the readers have a clear view on
Owen's view of the war. The mere mention of 'siding-shed' immediately
gives the readers the image of slaughterhouses. So the readers are
prepared for the soldier's fate. Scott's aim is for the readers to
know his hatred of the war, while Owen wants the readers to know the
truth about the war. Owen seems to want the poem to shock the reader,
which is why I think the short lines, that stand out are so haunting.
An example of this is
'In wild train-loads?'
The question mark really drives home about how many soldiers are not
returning, because of the sacrifice they have to make. Also as Owen
criticises people at home's view on the war, it gets the readers
thinking about how they too perceive the war. Therefore, I feel that
Owen's message is more effective than Scott's.