Through phrases such as ‘war and madness’, Mental Cases and Disabled establish themselves as a rebellion against the old tradition of not questioning orders. Owen’s poetry lashes out at the works of Jessie Pope and likewise propaganda, yet does so by not making a tirade about the nature of war, but by attempting to reason the consequences of it. Owen’s poetry exhibits the nightmarish truth of emotional and physical injuries, which both shock and sicken the reader. It becomes even more shocking that out of these injuries the physical injuries are conveyed as the worst.
Owen usually goes into great repulsive detail of the physical injuries such as ‘treading blood from lungs’ in Mental Cases. Contrasting this, the first stanza of Disabled plainly states the physical injuries of the persona in, ‘legless, sewn short at elbow’. Henceforth, Disabled concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by omitting focus on the physical injuries whereas Mental Cases concentrates on the emotional injuries of war by centralising around the physical injuries. Therefore in both Mental Cases and Disabled it is not what is being said, but rather what is not being said that is most significant. Taking this in account, it is for this reason that Disabled establishes that the physical injuries of war are the worst as is not the emphasis of the emotional injuries, it is the lack of emphasis on the physical injuries that makes it so striking.
Likewise to Disabled, Mental Cases also portrays physical injuries as worse than emotional injuries. ‘Always they must see these things and hear them/batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles’ shows that these men are emotionally injured as they are being haunted by the horrors they have seen. The internal rhyme of ‘batter’ and ‘shatter’ is surprising because it is upbeat and an antithesis to the violence the actually words describe. As a result, the rhythm is supporting the mental disturbance of these men and consequently the worst of their suffering it would seem is due to emotional injuries. On the other hand, it is key to take in account the reason for the men’s emotional suffering. ‘Shatter of flying muscles’ creates an image of the bullets piecing through the men as if they were glass reflecting the fragility of their lives. Literally, however, it is referring to the physical fatalities and injuries. It therefore means that the emotional injuries are product from physical injuries and henceforth, physical injuries must be the worst of the two as without it, emotional injuries would be considerably impotent.
Structurally, although Disabled and Mental Cases contrast each other, they both convey that physical injuries are worse than emotional injures. Likewise to the body of the persona, the structure of Disabled is broken down into irregular stanza lengths reiterating the title Disabled. Each line in Disabled ends on full stops giving the effect of the persona’s separate memories, which provides a personal insight into the persona and causing him to seem real. Even though the reader is well aware of the persona being make belief, the reader is able to feel sadness for the persona’s incapability of returning to those times because his story itself was genuine for many in the Lost Generation. Consequently, the structure of Disabled highlights that physical suffering is the worst because without the use of it, we would not be able to accept the persona in Disabled as real and thus lack sympathy for his emotional injuries.
Contrasting this, the structure of Mental Cases is disordered and lacks the ‘pretty’ pararhyme schemes in Disabled. The commas and questions, short sentences and internal rhyme schemes creates a sense of immediacy and a direct tone reflecting that Owen is confronting the reader. Moreover, the original title for Mental Cases is Purgatory Passions reflecting the connotations to Dante’s Inferno and thus explaining the structure’s chaos. Correlating a walk through a hospital ward with purgatory seems extreme; however, this can be justified by the hellish anguish of the patients. Purgatory is a spiritual experience so the anguish the patients are feeling are clearly emotional, yet to reach purgatory there firstly must be death. This therefore recapitulates that physical injuries are worse than emotional injuries as the emotional injuries could not happen to the hellish extent they are in Mental Cases without the physical injuries.
As a Romantic, Owen thought that logic could not merit humanity’s emotions highly enough, yet as someone been through the horrors of war Owen realised that emotion could not cope well enough with physical suffering. Consequently, we see that the mentality of those in Mental Cases or Disabled is chaotic; in Disabled the persona is lost between warn memories and the cold present whereas in Mental Cases the personas’ senses are lost between life and purgatory. All these anguishes are emotional injuries, however, more importantly the causes of them have been due to physical injuries thus making them worse than the emotional injuries.