Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen Study Guide
The poem “Strange Meeting” was written by Wilfred Owen. It is about the horrors committed during World War I. The poem was written in 1918 and was published following Owen’s death in 1919. The poem is narrated by a soldier who goes to the underworld to escape the hell of the battlefield and encounters the opposing soldier he killed the day before.
Summary of Strange Meeting
“Strange Meeting” is one of the most well-known poems of Wilfred Owen. He may have derived his title from a line in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Revolt of Islam (1818). Two soldiers are reconciled in life in Shelley’s poem, whereas Owen’s poem is more pessimistic: Only when both warriors have died and are no longer fighting for their respective countries, England and Germany, can they become friends. Owen implies that men and women will fight wars for as long as they live. The tunnel down which the speaker flees in the first stanza could represent a trench, the speaker’s unconscious, or the classical underworld, to which people were allegedly sent after death. Owen refers to this tunnel as having been “scooped” by numerous wars to emphasise that what he is saying in this poem applies to all wars, not just World War I. People have always recognised too late that the ostensible adversary was actually a friend, regardless of just how strange or foreign that adversary appeared at first. Owen’s choice of non-rhyming words highlights the deep anguish of war (“groined” and”groaned”) and compels readers to see the lines etched into human faces by death (“grained” and”ground”). At the same time, the fact that these phrases almost rhyme demonstrates how similar these sworn adversaries are in their vulnerability to grief and shared mortality.
The speaker recognises that he and his adversary experienced similar hopes during their lives and that each was, in a sense, the other’s hope: Everyone could have made the other guy laugh in camaraderie; each could have done something to make the world a better place for others if he had lived. Perhaps most significantly, everyone could have educated others about the reality of war, about how unglorious and pointless death is. Rather than that, both men are now dead, and with them the truth about war. The naive populace at home, unaware of the terrible horrors of war, will continue the pointless fighting. They will be fast to act, but in a reckless and fierce manner, like a thoughtless animal “swift with the tigress’s swiftness.” They will seek magnificent adventures, but through fighting, they will go on a return to savagery, a “trek from progress.” The poem concludes with the strange companion advising that he and the speaker should retire to sleep now that they have battled and murdered each other. At the very least, they are at peace in death. Fortunately, the truth about war’s misery does not have to perish along with them. Owen’s poem expresses this message and implores readers to feel pity for others and themselves—before it is too late.
Strange Meeting is a poem about war in which, despite the fact that the end of the war seemed no closer than the capabilities of a fight, scholars believe that neither side had any enmity – at least not on the level of the common soldier. Both British and German soldiers were subjected to appalling conditions, suffered from diseases that were similar, if not identical, and were treated in the same hospitals on occasion. There was even a period at the start of the war when German and British soldiers put down their weapons and played a friendly football match.
The poem begins with a reference to war; for Owen, a soldier’s natural habitat, instincts, and natural habitat are war. The beginning is unremarkable; escaping battle through a tunnel is not particularly strange (in the First World War, there was a British plot to try and tunnel into German territory, hence the recurring imagery of holes and tunnels).
Strange Meeting’s second stanza introduces the dead, who appear frequently in Owen’s work. The phrase “encumbered sleepers” implies a relatively peaceful passage, but the soldier awakens one of the sleepers as soon as he passes by them. Owen’s use of the word’sleepers’ is ironic because it connotes peace; however, the peace of the image connoted by sleepers is undermined in the third stanza.
This is one of Owen’s least bloody poems. He foregoes the in-depth study of brutalities that other Owen poems assert, instead of focusing on what was lost and ignoring the description of the injuries. The presence of war is still felt in the first two lines, despite the fact that there is no gore and the speaker is terrified. Strange Meeting is also noteworthy for being one of Wilfred Owen’s most silent works, with his onomatopoeic style eschewing speech in favour of silence. There are no whirling bombs or humming guns; only the dead’s silence.
However, the lack of blood and gore does not rule out the possibility that this is a war poem. The soldier’s death reverberates throughout the third stanza, and it is felt far more acutely now that the reader is aware of the circumstances surrounding his death: there is no glory in dying, only ‘the pity of war,’ and pity is the emotion that is most acutely felt in this stanza.
The speaker admits to the listener – we can assume this is Owen – that he is the ‘enemy you killed, my friend,’ and that he recognises him in the final section. Despite the fact that they were on opposing sides, there appears to be no animosity on the part of the man who died – it appears as if the war has expended all of his anger and violence if there ever was any. Strange Meeting concludes on a gloomy, almost Keatsian note, with the speaker inviting the listener to sleep with him, and it is assumed that they have both died. If there is one clear thing, it is that war does not solve anything. Nothing has been resolved by the end of Strange Meeting; the war has continued, and the men have perished.
Analysis of Strange Meeting
“Strange Meeting” was the culmination of Owen’s and other World War I soldier-poet’s metamorphosis. As their exposure to the war and trench life intensified, they underwent numerous alterations. Initially, they produced patriotic verses to assist establish a united front against Germany’s aggression. This swiftly changed as they became aware of the harsh reality and arbitrary nature of war. As their rage rose, they turned on those they viewed as benefitting from the war or misguidedly supporting it. Their last stage exemplifies the misery and waste of any conflict at any time, regardless of which side the soldiers and civilians are on. Owen was no exception; “Strange Meeting” is undoubtedly his most moving poem and most powerful antiwar work, crowning his brief career.
Owen, paradoxically, began composing poetry in the romantic tradition, with Keats and Shelley as his models. Owen may have written better poetry if he had a Romantic sensibility, but circumstances dictated otherwise. The war provided Owen with the subject matter, transforming his early poems’ romantic elegiac tendency into the deep feelings of sadness and compassion that define his later works.
The theme of the strange meeting is the futility of the troops’ sacrifice. It is, in fact, a poem about a visionary dream. The poet soldier imagines himself to have fled from battle and travelled to other parts of the world. As he continues to observe the bodies, one emerges with pitiful recognition in frozen eyes. The second man, who has a cadaverous appearance and is actually an enemy soldier, describes the horrors and frustrations of battle. He laments the fact that death took him away before he could pass on the information he had gained – the untold truth – the harsh experience on the battlefield – the pity war distilled. He also speaks out against the abstract and unjustified glorification of war. An antagonist in life becomes a friendly comrade in the land of the dead, and finally, after revealing his name, he bids a friend to join.
Strange Meeting is the most forceful of Owen’s imaginative descriptions of battle experience. It is his best poem, striking in its sharpness and brevity, that has earned him a “passport to immortality.” War is a form of organised savagery. Men are retreating from material growth and civilization as a result of war. The poem undoubtedly emphasises the miseries of war. It is also to determine timeless truths of love, amity, and goodwill. Nonetheless, his options are thrown into disarray due to the abrupt end of life. The poem Strange Meeting is an imaginary reenactment of a supposed occurring after death or possibly a process in the imagination of a live man after death. It is an enraging experience.
The dead man in Strange Meeting, on the other hand, is dissatisfied with the manner of his demise. Sacrificing one’s life for the sake of others is a noble deed, but glorifying war is both abstract and worthless.
The theme of universal friendliness, which Owen has consistently advocated, appears to be reserved for the world of death when antagonists become friends and engage in an open discussion of their concerns. The poem also emphasises the theme of “insensibility.” Soldiers have been deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly de It is contradictory that a sense of benevolence does not exist when it is most needed but does exist where it is least needed!
The death of a young soldier on the battlefield is nothing more than a total waste of his developing possibilities and talents, which he could have used to serve humanity had he not joined the waterfront to kill others and be killed prematurely by others. In the poem, the “other” laments the squandering of his years:
“Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled”.
Perhaps he could have undone the devastation caused by the battle, washing the blood-splattered wheels of the chariots with truth pulled from the unpolluted spring-well of our heart, which is the finest and deepest in the human spirit. The “other soldiers,” Owen’s mirrored self who kills and is killed in battle, emphasises the reality that when fighting in a war, every young soldier foregoes the possibility of great achievement to pursue a foolish, horrible, terrible end. Owen set out to depict the entire truth of war — the boredom, the hopelessness, the futility, the terror, occasionally the fortitude and self-sacrifice, but, above all, the pity of it – with a frank realism free of the fierce venom of so much of Sassoon’s poetry. Furthermore, no other poem has expressed the pity of war more truly or powerfully than Strange Meeting. Strange Meeting is a scathing parody of war, but he never loses his artistic elegance, and his most painful piece has great dignity.
To summarise, Owen’s “Strange Meeting” depicts the country’s splendour stagnating. This highlights the theme of war’s futility and depravity. The poem also depicts a psychological struggle occurring within soldiers as they fight, bringing up the theme of universal pain. The phrase “frowned” as the soldier “jabbed and killed” conveys a reluctance to fight since it implies that the soldier is fighting against his will and believes that killing is wrong. The theme reappears as the vision says, “let us sleep now” This phrase is ironic because there is no genuine rest for those who are still fighting in the conflict, only for those who have died. On the battlefield, the hell above still remains, and the “Hell” they are in can provide them perpetual sleep. Finally, the poem depicts a mystical, dream-like meeting between two soldiers who were adversaries in the horrible conflict above but are now friends in “Hell” Their talk demonstrates the futility of war, as well as the broken hopes and unfulfilled desires caused by conflict. Soldiers die with unsolved difficulties in their lives, emphasising the hopelessness of battle. War, too, causes sorrow to all because of the bloodshed and broad devastation and ruin.