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 Parable of the Old Man and the Young - Imagery, symbolism and themes
Imagery and symbolism in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
In the main stanza of The Parable of the Old Man and the Young Owen creates an extended metaphor. Abram and Isaac each stand for the promoters of war and the soldiers who are sacrificed. The ancient implements from the Old Testament story, the knife, fire and bindings, are transmuted into symbols of war: fire arms, uniform paraphernalia and trappings of battle.
The angel represents pity and the ram symbolises pride. Thus God is urging war-mongers to sacrifice their own pride rather than the ‘youth’ of the nations. The old man represents those in authority, the politicians and generals, who want the continuance of the war. In his arrogance he disobeys God’s wishes and slaughters not only his son but
The image of God
At the end of The Parable of the Old Man and the Young Owen imagines God urging the cessation of war in the same way as he stopped the sacrifice of Isaac. This is a different representation of God compared to six months previously when, in The Soldier’s Dream, God furthers the cause of war by sending the Archangel Michael to repair the weaponry that 'kind Jesus' had destroyed in the cause of peace.
The parables of Jesus in the New Testament used earthly situations as analogies of heavenly truths. Here Owen inverts the idea by using a story about what God and his angels say to teach about an earthly situation.
Investigating imagery and symbolism in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
- Owen uses the image of the seed in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young as a symbol for the future. He also uses it in the poems 1914, Futility and Exposure
- Make a note of the image of seed in each of these poems
- Why do you suppose Owen limited his image to half the seed of Europe in a World War?
Themes in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
Jon Stallworthy, the editor of The Poems of Wilfred Owen says:
In The Parable of the Old Man and the Young inhumanity is the main theme. The ‘old’ leaders of nations made willing sacrifices of their ‘young’ for the sake of maintaining their own military and political status. The understandable fear and confusion of the innocent sacrifices on the Western front, represented by Isaac, contrasts to the arrogance (and safety) of those who send them.
Investigating themes in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
- Owen presents the part played by God in the war in a more positive way in The Parable of the Old Man and the Young (written in 1918) than he did in the autumn of 1917 when he wrote The Soldier’s Dream. Look at the different approaches Owen takes to divine intervention in the two poems.
- What do you think may have caused Owen to write in such a different way about such a fundamental theme?
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