The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh

By Wilfred Owen

 ‘O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped—In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled—Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.

Another sighed,—‘O Mother,—mother,—Dad!’
Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
Leisurely gestured,—Fool!
And the splinters spat, and tittered.

‘My Love!’ one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets’ long teeth grinned;
Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
And the Gas hissed.

Summary of The Last Laugh

  • Popularity of “The Last Laugh”: “The Last Laugh” by Wilfred Owen, a phenomenal English poet, and soldier is a sad poem. It was first published in 1918. The poem recounts the horrors of wars. It draws readers’ attention toward the miseries and horrific deaths of the soldiers who participate in warfare. Wilfred’s excessive use of poetic devices, sombre tone, and element of realism has made this poem echo the greatness of the writer.
  • “The Last Laugh” As a Representative of Death: This sad poem explores the sudden death of the three soldiers. It begins with the sad demise of the first soldier, who calls his Creator while counting his last breaths. The sound of the heavy machine guns around him shows the destructive nature of war in which he participated and lost his precious life. The second stanza further introduces us to another dying soldier; he remembers his family before his end. While expressing the strange sounds of the war machines, the speaker mocks the use of these destructive weapons that are used to kill human beings. The third stanza, however, sheds light on another poor soul dying helplessly in the same field. While dying, he calls out to his lover, but she is too far to hear his last words. The poem ends with disturbing war scenes where violence and crude emotions supersede the emotions of kindness, love, and care.
  • Major Themes in “The Last Laugh”: The destructive war, death, and loneliness are the major themes of the poem. The poem presents a disturbing war scene where soldiers are losing their lives. It shows how one after another soldier is down to the ground, but the music of war never fades away. Through this simple text, the speaker makes his readers understand the extreme misery and loneliness of the war soldiers. Despite having families, loved ones, and dreams of a prosperous future, they die helplessly on the battlefield. Although they remember and recall their families during those trying times, no one gives them a helping hand. Resultantly, they die amid firing, chaos, and violence.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Last Laugh”

literary devices are modes of making poems melodious and meaningful. The analysis of the devices used in the poem shows this fact as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ and /o/ in “Till slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud” and again the sound of /e/ in “Another sighed,—‘O Mother,—mother,—Dad.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “Tut-tut! Tut-tut” and /v/ in “In vain, vain, vain.”
  3. Apostrophe: An apostrophe is a device used to call somebody or something from afar. Here, the poet has used an apostrophe to call the creator such as; “O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died” expressing sorrow and sadness by calling God directly.
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /n/ in “Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead” and the sound of /l/ in “Till slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example:

“And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
Leisurely gestured,—Fool!
And the splinters spat, and tittered.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Wilfred Owen has used imagery in this poem such as “O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died”, “Till slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud,” and “Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead.”
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. This is an ironic poem that presents the horrific and helpless death of the war soldiers versus the laugh of war weapons.
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used death as an extended metaphor just to show that when it comes to taking our soul, no one can help or save us.
  4. Onomatopoeia: It refers to the words which imitate the natural sounds of things. The poet has used the words “Tut-tut! Tut-tut” in the first stanza of the poem where it is stated as;

“The Bullets chirped—In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled—Tut-tut! Tut-tut.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows symbols like misery, death, and pain to show how brutally soldiers die on the battlefield.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Last Laugh”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows descriptive diction but a tragic tone.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem with each having the same number of verses. .

Quotes to be Used

The following lines from “The Last Laugh” are useful to quote while talking about the death of soldiers and how they die in the battlefield.

O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped—In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled—Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.”