Wilfred Owen, selected poems Contents
- Wilfred Owen: Social and political background
- Wilfred Owen: Religious / philosophical context
- Wilfred Owen: Literary context
- Wilfred Owen: 1914
- Wilfred Owen: Anthem for Doomed Youth
- Wilfred Owen: At a Calvary near the Ancre
- Wilfred Owen: Disabled
- Wilfred Owen : Dulce et Decorum Est
- Wilfred Owen: Exposure
- Wilfred Owen: Futility
- Wilfred Owen: Greater Love
- Wilfred Owen: Hospital Barge
- Wilfred Owen: Insensibility
- Wilfred Owen: Inspection
- Wilfred Owen: Le Christianisme
- Wilfred Owen: Mental Cases
- Wilfred Owen: Miners
- Wilfred Owen: S.I.W
- Wilfred Owen: Soldier’s Dream
- Wilfred Owen: Sonnet On Seeing a Piece of Our Heavy Artillery Brought into Action
- Wilfred Owen: Spring Offensive
- Wilfred Owen: Strange Meeting
- Wilfred Owen: The Dead-Beat
- Wilfred Owen: The Last Laugh
- Wilfred Owen: The Letter
- Wilfred Owen: The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
- Wilfred Owen: The Send-Off
- Wilfred Owen: The Sentry
- Wilfred Owen: Wild with All Regrets
The Last Laugh - Synopsis and commentary
Synopsis of The Last Laugh
Owen recounts the deaths of three soldiers who are killed in battle. The first, perhaps an ‘old soldier’, dies calling out the name ‘Jesus Christ’; the second, a young boy, calls out to his parents; the third, a conscript, moans a term of endearment to his wife or sweetheart. Each man responds to his imminent death in a different way. In each case Owen describes in detail the responses made by the artillery and armaments which have killed them.
Investigating The Last Laugh
- In The Last Laugh Owen creates, in a very short space, three very different individual soldiers. From Owen’s descriptions of their deaths what sort of man does he suggests each is?
- How do the responses of the guns and shells add to our understanding of the characters?
Commentary on The Last Laugh
The Last Laugh is a short, blunt poem with a harsh title. It is unlike any of Owen’s other poems in that the title itself is cynical and harsh. Titles such as Exposure, Futility and Insensibility are abstracts of the reality the poems contain; The Send-Off, Strange Meeting and The Sentry point to the events in the poems; while Mental Cases, Disabled and The Dead Beat highlight the horrors of war. The last laugh of this poem belongs to the instruments of war which guffaw and titter and grin.
Owen drafted the poem during training in Scarborough in February 1918. He originally intended the poem to be called Last Word. He sent a draft to his mother, a very devout Christian who would have been shocked by the opening line: ‘“Oh! Jesus Christ! I’m hit”’. Owen wrote to her that:
From his correspondence to his mother it seems that she was upset by the reference to Jesus Christ:
Investigating commentary of The Last Laugh
- Owen’s choice of poem title says a lot about his feelings about war. What do you think is added to the poem by its new title?
- How would the title Last Words have toned down the anti-war message which Owen wished to communicate?
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.