Soldier's Dream - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery in Soldier’s Dream

Weapons of war

By creating a simple image of the weapons of war and their destruction followed by the image of their reinstatement, Owen creates a powerful picture of the pro- and anti-war lobbies of his time. The image of bayonets rusted beyond use by the tears of Christ is a powerful statement about Christianity and peace. The counter-image of Michael empowered by God to ensure the continuity of the war reflects the establishment’s support of death and destruction.


  • The half dozen weapons which Owen chooses for Jesus to destroy symbolise the whole armoury Owen encountered on the Western Front
  • The tears and smiles of Jesus represent all those who protested against the slaughter
  • It is significant that God sends Michael, the leader of his own heavenly army, to turn the tide of peace
  • Just as the weapons are both literal and symbolic, so is the dream. The dreaming and the awakening from the dream stand for all the hopes and dreams of Owen and his comrades in the midst of the seemingly unending carnage of war.

Investigating imagery and symbolism in Soldier's Dream

  • Some critics find the poem unconvincing. It is in their view ‘whimsical and quirky’. What is your feeling about the poem?
    • Is there a way in which it ‘jars’ on you?
  • Would you agree that Soldier’s Dream is very much a ‘one off’ poem, that Owen never writes anything else remotely like it?
  • Look at Soldier’s Dream alongside At a Calvary near the Ancre and Le Christianisme.
    • Compare Owen’s use of the figure of Christ in all three of these poems.

Themes in Soldier’s Dream

The pity of war

Owen’s anti-war theme is clear in the poem. The pity of war which Owen so much wished to communicate is here in the smiles and kindness of Jesus.

Man’s inhumanity to man is ironically represented in the person of God and his angel. The brutality of war is represented by the list of weapons in the first stanza. Owen’s ‘truth untold’ (which is such a powerful theme in Strange Meeting) is touched on here when Jesus seeks to save both sides by making sure that there are no bombs: ‘of ours or Theirs’ l.5. Does the idea that only ‘our’ armaments are repaired suggest Britain’s greater culpability for continuing the bloodshed?

The motif of visions and dreams, in which Owen can escape the harsh reality of the war and see beyond it to reconciliation and peace, underlines the whole poem.

Investigating themes in Soldier's Dream

  • Dreams figure in many of Owen’s poems. The real longing for peace in this poem is expressed in a dream. Remind yourself of Strange Meeting which also is about a dream
    • How different is the message in that lengthy and complex poem to the theme of Soldier’s Dream
  • Remind yourself of the poem Exposure in which the soldiers dream of home.
    • How does Owen create the pity and the poetry in each of Soldier’s DreamStrange Meeting and Exposure?


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