Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, – but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands’ palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

The poem “Mental Cases” was written by Wilfred Owen in 1918 which I read on 16/03/2018 at approx. 10:30 am GMT+13:00. This poem talks of a soldier in World War one who is going mad from all the experiences he is having, seeing all these dead bodies of men that once lived happy lives in such a state is demoralising and harsh on the mind. In the second stanza there is a new narrator speaking from a third person’s perspective about not just the person from the first stanza but of a collective of all the men who are seeing such horrors and what is happening in their minds and how they cannot escape it no matter how long ago the event may have been it will remain seared into their minds and their memory for as long as they live. In stanza three the third person narrator is still talking, and he is really going into detail about what is going on in these men’s minds and is really trying to say that living for them is like a terrifying horror movie that they feel everything from and can never escape.×

I would recommend this text to anyone who could understand the concepts put forward in the poem as it presents the ideas of what was happening in not only world war one but also in the minds of the soldiers minds and how that was affecting their well-being in such a brutal and blunt manner that you don’t even have to imagine what they were seeing and how they were perceiving it because Wilfred presents it in all of its glory in this poem. The way which he presents the images each only has one line then the next line is another image. This simulates what it would be like in the mind of someone who is “Mental” or has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) they see these horrific images every where while going through everyday activities and doing normal things then suddenly this image will flash into their mind which the reader really gets a sense of when you read the poem. The reader may also start to feel disgusted with the pure vulgarity of the images that each line holds if they can imagine and understand the language that is used as the language used isn’t commonly used in 2018 and possibly not even when it was written so the reader may have to search for the meaning of the words which when the definition is found it adds a whole new faucet to the short blunt structure of this poem.

It is also potentially speaking of how he was treated when he developed PTSD and that the commanders believed that they were just trying to get out of fighting and to go back home and where believed to unpatriotic and that they were to desert from their duty so they were not treated the way they should have been and Wilfred shows here that these men as well as those back home who believed that he was “deserting” because he was unpatriotic really had no idea what any of the experiences and what was happening in their minds and this poem is a way that Wilfred can tell these people what it was actually like going through all those things and then their commanders expecting them to just ignore their feelings and to fight with no problem. Wilfred explains that it was like being trapped in his own mind and there was no way for him or the others to “extricate” themselves because it is their mind that is playing these tricks and it is impossible to escape yourself. Which is what the title is trying to convey that all these soldiers whether they succumbed to the horrors or became insensitive to them like Wilfred talks of in “Insensibility”. This text teaches us about the world we live in because it shows us what is really happening in the minds of those who have such mental disorders and about how mental disorders today aren’t seen as a actual trouble and most people will tell these damaged people to “Toughen up” and to get on with it when it reality that’s like telling a person with a broken leg to “toughen up” and to get back to it. This has been going on for centuries and the ways to deal with mental disorders hasn’t really changed in its brutality in the BC’s people like this would have either been killed or told to get over it. The equivalent to this would be like still believing that everything was made from four elements which we have clearly moved very far past yet we still somehow treat mental disorders in a similar way. This is also how I see mental health in real life, people prefer to ignore it because it is difficult to understand and isn’t just like a physical injury where you can easily tell if you’re damaged or not in the mind the person may not even know that they are damaged such is a symptom of schizophrenia where the subject doesn’t even realise that they have the disease and believe that they’re perfectly fine which makes treatment particularly hard, speaking of treatment this is also why after world war 1 and 2 the treatment for mental patients significantly improved as people started to realise that these illness’s where actually real combined with people actually started caring because of the sheer amount of people that had mental illness’s meant that something had to be done about it.


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  1. James, it is clear that you have been challenged and intrigued by this poem. Well done for sharing your honest reflections thus far.
    Key areas to consider:
    – Supportive evidence. There are places in this response where specific evidence would be very beneficial. Select relevant quotations to support the analysis throughout the response- this is important.
    – Remember that this is a “Personal Response” so at any time, you can personally reflect on the information you are presenting. I.e. What you learned, felt, considered, compared information to… (This is all in the task outline)
    – I realise that this is your draft writing but at some stage, it would be beneficial to read this work out loud to someone, so that you can hear where the full-stop breaks, or comma pauses are needed.

    Keep going – a good start from your work last week 🙂


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