The Dead-Beat

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An early draft of the poem Owen included in a letter to Leslie Gunston in August 1917

"The Dead-Beat" is a poem by Wilfred Owen. It deals with the atrocities of World War I.

Composition[edit]

Owen developed the poem while he was a patient at Craiglockhart, a hospital for officers suffering with mental illness.[1] It was here that he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon and where his personal psychological healing from the traumas of war. "The Dead-Beat" marked the beginning of his writings as representations of soldiers who could no longer tell their own stories.[2]

In writing the poem, Owen received help from Sassoon, who he elsewhere called one of his dearest friends. Sassoon's influence is apparent particularly in the poem's anger over injustice.[3] Owen described the experience in a letter in which he suggested that the middle sections needed work.[1] The night he met Sassoon, he began writing "The Dead-Beat", as described in the letter: "After leaving him, I wrote something in Sassoon's style... The last thing he said was 'Sweat your guts out writing poetry!' 'Eh?' says I. 'Sweat your guts out, I say!'"[4] Pat Barker, in her novel Regeneration, describes a fictitious workshop between the poets based on this letter.[1]

Analysis[edit]

Like many of his poems about the war, Owen explored both courage and cowardice in "The Dead-Beat".[5] He also attempts to emulate the vernacular of a common soldier in a realistic war setting.[3] In particular, "The Dead-Beat" depicts how war can isolate rather than unite individuals who share common causes or experiences.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Joyes, Kaley (2009). "Regenerating Wilfred Owen: Pat Barker's revisions". Mosaic. 42 (3): 169–83. ISSN 0027-1276. 
  2. ^ Hipp, Daniel. The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, and Siegfried Sassoon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005: 54. ISBN 0-7864-2174-6
  3. ^ a b Cuthbertson, Guy. Wilfred Owen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014: 204. ISBN 978-0-300-15300-2
  4. ^ Hipp, Daniel. The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, and Siegfried Sassoon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005: 55. ISBN 0-7864-2174-6
  5. ^ Cuthbertson, Guy. Wilfred Owen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014: 217. ISBN 978-0-300-15300-2
  6. ^ Hipp, Daniel. The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, and Siegfried Sassoon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005: 66. ISBN 0-7864-2174-6