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A Comparative Analysis of John Misto's The Shoe Horn Sonata and Wilfred Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth

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Ideas and messages from existing composers are transferred to the audience by creating visually distinctive images which enables the audience to have an immediate impact on the way they feel or think towards a particular issue. From the close study of the following texts of the play The Shoe Horn Sonata by John Misto, the episode “Goodbyeee”, from the television series Blackadder Goes Forth, directed by Richard Boden and the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, we can see that responders are able to perceive the messages given by the artists’ texts by engaging with the distinctively visual.

John Misto’s play The Shoe Horn Sonata is dedicated to all those Australian women who were interred throughout Japanese prisoner of war camps during the Second World War. In his play centred on Bridie and Sheila, Misto conveys their sense of survival during the hardships of war along with their tenacity and their willingness to survive. This is seen through the two women’s secrecy and truth by showing the intimacy of their friendship that they have endured to ensure each others survival. The distinctively visual elements of the play engage the audience’s empathy and are fulfilled by the effective use of dramatic techniques like humour, flashback and stage directions.

A distinct element conveyed is the characterisation of the women’s friendship which the two endure through their experiences as victims of war. Within the setting of the TV studio, the audience notices how inseparable the two friends were and the way they each helped each other to stay alive. And in the motel room setting the audience sees them fighting and arguing and there is an obvious rift in their reformed friendship. The two stage sets revolving around the television studio and the motel room allows this public and private world to be seen. This enforces upon the broken friendship which the two once shared throughout their experiences as prisoner of war.

During the war, they each had experiences where they both aided each other. This is fulfilled through the use of flashbacks when Bridie keeps Sheila alive. Humour is initiated into their sad conditions allowing for the audience to engage in the historical situation as portrayed in Act 1 Scene 3. “Wham! Right here, Every time I closed my eyes, Tap – Tap –Tap”. The shoehorn was used to keep Sheila alive while she was drifting off at sea. Alternatively, Sheila offered herself to the Japanese soldiers in return for medicine to save Bridie’s life. The event of these occurrences reinforces the strong relationship the two have for one another.

However, they hadn’t seen each other for fifty years after the war and their friendship had clearly diminished. Some dramatic techniques used are the way the two communicate in the motel room with the use of an imperative tone of voice in Act one Scene 8. “Did you ever miss me – in all that time!?” Whenever Bridie brings up issues between them, Sheila would always face away demonstrating stage direction and body language.

The shoe horn and the tobacco tin are a symbol of their ongoing friendship. They cherished them during the war and kept together, and when they reunited fifty years later they each had their object together which symbolized that even though they hadn’t seen or spoken to each for such a long time, their friendship would never be forgotten. In Act 2 Scene 14 Sheila says, “Oh by the way… I think this belongs to you”, handing the shoe-horn back to Bridie reinforces the re-enactment of their relationship. The distinctively visuals has an impact on the audience as they gain the insight in knowing the importance of friendship.

“Goodbyeee” from the series Blackadder Goes Forth is about British army soldiers that get notified of the impending ‘Big Push’, an offensive against their enemy. The film is set in the trenches during the World War 1 using satire and humour to engage the audience which serves as a sharp contest to the reality of the final moments of the ‘Big Push’.

The distinctively visual portrays the idea of the futile and pointlessness of war by extensively using cinematic technique at the climax of the film. The noble soldiers are lined up for their departure into the unknown with Blackadder saying “Good luck everyone” showing his genuine expression of concern. When the whistle is blown, the soldiers proceed over the top with the sequencing of the film played in slow motion. It is accompanied with the Blackadder theme song played slowly in piano which gradually becomes drowned by the sound of slow monotonous booming of cannon fire. This shows the patriotic soldiers being lost in the battlefields which create a dramatic and emotional atmosphere for the viewers to feel sorrow for the heroic figures. When the theme song fades into the booming of cannon fire, the visually distinctive elements create the feeling which we reflect on as how futile the war appears to be. The distinct message brings about how life in general can be so pointless and unfair, taken away so pointlessly by war violence.

Anthem for Doomed Youth connects with the play and the film in its ability to provide distinct ideas. Careful analysis of the poem allows viewers to distinguish that the poem is a lament for young soldiers whose lives are unnecessarily being lost at war. For the duration of the poem, the distinctive theme can be portrayed as young men who are dying pointlessly at war which reinforces upon the uselessness and the futility of war as shown in “Goodbyeee”. The poem creates a feeling of death and despair upon its viewers by illustrating visual imageries for example, the simile and rhetorical question of “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?” which introduces the poem to a bitter tone enforcing upon the pointless death of men, dying in vain and not even being recognised by their efforts through memorial services or ceremonies.

It is ironic from the following lines, that instead of the “peaceful passing-bells” the soldiers should receive, instead they are given “the monstrous anger of guns” demonstrated by personification and “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” portrayed using alliteration. The distinctively visual images as portrayed further reinforce the idea that lives are being lost permanently and the futility and violence of war is unable to resolve anything.

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A Comparative Analysis of John Misto’s the Shoe Horn Sonata and Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from
“A Comparative Analysis of John Misto’s the Shoe Horn Sonata and Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
A Comparative Analysis of John Misto’s the Shoe Horn Sonata and Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2022].
A Comparative Analysis of John Misto’s the Shoe Horn Sonata and Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Mar 12 [cited 2022 Sept 30]. Available from:
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