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Biography of WILFRED OWEN - 1893-1918

Wilfred was the eldest of four children in lower middle class Anglican family. His  father was a poorly paid railway executive. He was close to his mother (Susan) who discouraged his interest in girls and encouraged him to be a scholar (clergyman or teacher).

Owen became a clergyman’s assistant (Sunday School teacher) and elementary school teacher

He became a tutor in France (Bordeux). He was here when war broke out so he was not part of original fervour in England.

He was not inclined to join up until a year later and enlisted October 1915 – then spent 14 months training in England.

Owen was commissioned into Manchester Regiment (1916) as second lieutenant.

He was in France in worst winter of war. His total battle experience on which poems are based was four months with five weeks in the line.

He was Injured and suffered shell shock with violent nightmares about war.

* Became involved with other ‘war’ poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves.

* Went back to France to the front with a strong feeling he would never return.

* Killed seven days before the Armistice.

LITERATURE OF W.W.I

A phenomenon in itself. Earlier “war literature” had generally been heroic, (possibly because literate people of earlier ages saw little of sustained, aggressive action).

W.W.I. - unique literary response especially from participants i.e. soldiers on the field. Poems are only small sample of huge volume of literary material.

Writings from the early stages of war mirrored belief that Allied victory would be achieved quickly and easily. By the time Owen joined it was clear that the nature and duration of the war had changed dramatically. Literature then became stark and realistic with little heroism or national pride.

 


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