Collected Poems Characters

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Collected Poems Summary & Study Guide Description

Collected Poems Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Collected Poems by Wilfred Owen.

Wilfred Owenappears in Entire Book

Owen is the author of the poems in this book and a soldier who is killed in World War I. Owen is born Oswestry, England, in 1893, to a middle class family. Owen is especially close with his mother, but his father takes Owen to France twice in his teenage years, which is an experience Owen treasures. Owen is the eldest son with a sister and two brothers, whom he tries to look after. Owen enters London University in 1911, but is unable to afford the tuition. In order to continue his education, Owen becomes an assistant to the vicar in Dunsden. While working in this capacity, Owen loses his Christian faith. At the same time, Owen gains a deep concern for the poor and disadvantaged. Unable to continue working as the vicar's assistant, Owen moves to Bordeaux, France to work as a tutor to for two young boys. While in France, Owen meets Laurent Tailhade, who is the first professional poet Owen comes to know. Tailhade helps Owen with his poetry, and at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Owen is poised to publish a book of poems.

From the beginning of the war, Owen sees it as a tremendous waste and originally has no intention of joining the military. However, drawn by the excitement of battle and its potential to improve his poetry, Owen joins the British Army in October 1915. Owen is commissioned as an officer and arrives in France at the beginning of 1917. Owen is regarded as fine and brave soldier, but he is injured in the summer of 1917. While in the hospital, Owen meets Siegfried Sassoon, who is already considered the finest poet of World War I. Sassoon becomes both a mentor and friend to Owen. With Sassoon's help, by the time Owen returns to the front in the spring of 1918, he is a well-respected poet in his own right. However, Owen feels he does not have enough time to write, given the constrains of combat. In November of 1918, Owen is killed trying to lead his men across a canal. After his death, Owen is widely considered the best of the British War poets, exceeding even his mentor Sassoon.

Siegfried Sassoonappears in Introduction and Appendix One

Siegfried Sassoon is another war poet and a friend and mentor to Wilfred Owen. Sassoon is a published poet before the outbreak of World War I and serves in the military as an officer. By the time he is injured and taken to the Craiglockheart War Hospital in Edinburgh, Sassoon is the most celebrated British war poet of his generation. It is in the hospital that Sassoon meets Owen, and the two immediately begin to work closely together. Their relationship begins with Owen taking some of his poems to Sassoon, who gives Owen both criticism and praise for his work. Sassoon soon starts to read Owen his latest works, and the two form a mutually beneficial working relationship. After Owen returns to the front, he writes to Sassoon that he misses the hospital because he can no longer communicate on a daily basis with Sassoon and benefit from his advice. In one of Owen's letters, he refers to Sassoon as more important than John Keats, Jesus Christ, Elijah, and Owen's colonel in Owen's own life, making Sassoon the most important influence on Owen for the last, but most productive, months of his life. In 1918, Sassoon publishes "Counter-Attack", which Owen finds even more frightening in its description of the war than the war itself. After Owen's death, Sassoon put together the first collection of Owen's war poetry.

John Keatsappears in Introduction, Appendix One, and

John Keats is an nineteenth century English Romantic poet and Owen's greatest influence in his youth. In Owen's early life, he desires to be remembered as Keats has been and writes poems in a Romantic style. However, once Owen becomes involved in the war, Keat's influence on him diminishes, and Owen is more drawn to the work of his contemporary Siegfried Sassoon. Owen's work drifts away from the Romanticism of Keats during the war in favor a brutal realism.

German Soldierappears in Strange Meeting

Owen meets a German soldier while retreating from an attack. They both realize that they are in hell, and the German Soldier informs Owen that he killed the German Soldier. The German Soldier tells Owen that he knew him even in the battle and refers to Owen as his friend.

Abraham and Isaacappears in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Abraham (referred to in the poem as "Abram") is the Biblical father of Isaac. God orders Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but as Abraham prepares to sacrifice the boy, God tells him to sacrifice a ram instead. In the Biblical version of the story, Abraham spares Isaac, but in Owen's poem, Abraham still kills Isaac, along with half of Europe's young.

Deathappears in The Show and The Next War

Death takes Owen above the battlefield so that Owen can see it from a bird's eye view. The sight of the battle from above terrifies Owen, and he falls back down to earth with Death. Death then takes on the form of a worm and shows Owen his own severed head. Owen realizes that Death is not his enemy and that Death accompanies him constantly during the war.

Soldier Killed by Gasappears in Dulce Et Decorum Est

The Soldier Killed by Gas dies in a horrific way that reminds Owen of someone drowning. The Soldier's body is thrown into a cart, and Owen believes that if other people saw his death they would not be so convinced that it is glorious to die for their country.

The Sentryappears in The Sentry

When Owen and his men take refuge in a dugout, The Sentry finds them and asks to take shelter with them. The Sentry complains that he is blind, so Owen holds a light up to his eyes, which The Sentry cannot see. The Sentry later claims to see a light when there is none, which likely means that The Sentry is dying.

The Dead Beatappears in The Dead Beat

The Dead Beat is a soldier who collapses while marching. Other soldiers speculate that he might be faking an injury, but the stretcher-bearers assure the men something is legitimately wrong with The Dead Beat. The Dead Beat is taken to the hospital, where he dies very quickly.

The Suicideappears in S.I.W.

The Suicide eagerly enlists in the army when the war breaks out, believing it is the honorable thing to do and that death is better than dishonor. One night, when The Suicide is assigned to night watch, he shoots himself with his own rifle.

Erosappears in To Eros

Eros is the Greek god of love, and Owen worships Eros in his youth. Owen sacrifices everything to Eros and soon discovers that he sacrificed all things worth loving.

Antaeus and Heraclesappears in Antaeus: A Fragment

Antaeus is a figure in Greek mythology who is stronger than anyone while he is touching the ground. In Owen's poem, Antaeus wrestles Heracles, and Heracles defeats Antaeus by lifting him off the ground and squeezing Antaeus to death.

The Imbecileappears in The Imbecile

The Imbecile is a beautiful girl who has wronged someone, probably Owen. However, The Imbecile is unaware of what she has done and appears innocent and angelic.

Comrade in Flandersappears in To a Comrade in Flanders

The Comrade in Flanders is a friend of Owen's who goes to war before Owen. Owen writes that although they might never see the after lives of any of the traditional religions, they will always be remembered by their families and countrymen back home.

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