In writing his poem Strange Meeting, Wilfred Owen uses revision as a tool to both clarify his ideas and re-evaluate one of the central figures in the poem. By examining a reproduction of Owen’s original text and comparing it to the final, published copy, we are able to retrace his steps and, hopefully, gain a further understanding of his thought process and motivations concerning this particular poem. From these examinations, it is evident that Owen spent a large portion of the revision process attempting to alter the character of the “encumbered sleeper”, whom the narrator encounters in hell. These alterations could be viewed as an attempt by Owen to make this “vision” more ambiguous, vague, and otherworldly, and therefore to alter his readers’ perception of this character, the narrator, and the poem itself.
The sheer frequency of revisions concerning the appearance and characteristics of the ghostly figure are staggering when compared to number of revisions made elsewhere in the poem. Perhaps the first thing one notices while examining Owen’s revisions is the long stretch during the figure’s speech in which there are very few marks of revision by the author. In contrast, the sections in which the figure is described, or in which he describes himself, are heavily revised. It appears, then, Owen’s primary difficulty with the first draft of his poem was not with the content of what the ghostly speaker said, but with how the character was portrayed.
Owen pays strict attention during revision to every mention of this ghostly figure. There are at least six changes made to the text concerning the figure’s description, including two changes dedicated sol...
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...hat absurd; how can enemies be friends, and why should they fight and kill one another?
In order to bring about these changes in perception, Wilfred Owen focused the majority of his revisions on the character of the ghostly figure found in hell. By making this figure seem more abstract, vague, and otherworldly, Owen alters the significance of his poem and its statements and assumptions about war and battle from draft to draft. By making use of a few seemingly inconsequential revisions, he is able to use the re-evaluation of one character to affect the readers’ perceptions of both the other main character in the poem, and the poem as a whole.
Owen, Wilfred. “Strange Meeting.” The Norton Anthology of English
Literature The Twentieth Century Volume 2C Seventh Edition. Ed. M.H. Abrahms. New York, N.Y. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2000.
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