Mental Cases. Wilfred Owen. Mental Cases. CHARACTER In Stanza 1 who is Owen describing? . The poem is narrated by someone who is observing returned soldiers who have been placed in a mental institution.
Simile / Word Inversion
“Drooping tongues from jaws
that slob their relish, Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Value-laden diction and word inversion heightens the impact of the repellent image of bared teeth and aggressive manner,
The simile links the living with the dead, emphasising their separation from normalcy as well as hinting at how war has made them ‘wicked’.
Their mannerisms and tortured physical condition causes these men to appear almost as animals. ‘Drooping tongues’ and slavering jaws conveys their dehumanised appearance. War has stolen their humanity.
Metaphor / Personification
“What slow panic gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets? Ever from their hair and through their sweated palms misery swelters”
The “chasms” around the eyes of the soldiers are a result of endless sleepless nights and mental anguish. “Misery” has also been personified. The almost sweat out the pain they are consumed by.
“Memory fingers in their hair of murders”
The soldiers are so distraught by the memories of people they have killed and of the deaths of their comrade's that they try to physically tear the memories from their head. Their memories are compared to fingers poking and prodding them but which they can’t remove.
In Stanza 3 the soldiers have lost visual contact with the outer world as they focus instead on an inner sight fractured by pain and death.
“Their heads wear this hilarious, hideous, Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses”