The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

The poem, The Parable of the Old Man and the Young is basically the biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac with poet Wilfred Owen’s own ironical twist. In Genesis Chapter 22, God spoke to Abraham and commanded him to take his son to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice to God. However, in the end God’s intent was not for Isaac to be killed; this was God’s test of Abraham’s faith.  Abraham loved his son very much, but did not hesitate to follow God’s words for he was a man whose faith in God was strong. But unlike the “happy ending” in the Bible where God stops Abraham just as he is about to kill his son and sends a ram to be sacrificed instead, in Owen’s poem, Abraham refuses to kill the ram and kills his son instead and “half the seed of Europe one by one”.

Europe? But according to many religious beliefs this story did not occur in Europe.

Written during World War I, Owen uses this poem to voice his discourse with the then current war. Abram represents the government and Isaac, the soldiers who follow the orders given to them without asking any questions or hesitations.  Owen realized how the soldiers suffer in wars and how harsh they were treated. In the poem, when Abram was told to stop and sacrifice the ram instead, he refused and killed his son which implied the actual situation during First World War in Europe, where dictators sacrificed their soldiers instead of land.


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