Analysis – “Exposure” by Wilfred Owen The poem “exposure” by Wilfred Owen is written in Winter of 1917. It portrays the message of the real enemy of the soldiers being the cold and icy conditions. Moreover, it provides us with a lively description of the persistent cold and awful conditions during one of the worst winters in the first world war. It shows that most of the soldiers were exposed rather than shot by enemies. The poem portrays all the opposing facts to make young men not join the war as it is nothing heroic.
Owen uses all his senses to describe the frosty atmosphere and sets a lamenting and descriptive tone. The rhyme scheme is ABBA and the stanzas are continuous, emphasizing the continuous suffering of the British. It is written in first person plural, which makes us feel with the soldiers and put ourselves into their position. The poem starts off with “Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us… “. The assonant al “i” sounds in the words “brains”, “merciless”, “iced”, “winds” and knife” evoke a hushing sound of the cold wind blowing around the trenches.
Furthermore, these sounds are very sharp Analysis – “Futility” by Wilfred Owen In “Futility”, Wilfred Owen describes the grievances of losing a companion as well as the worthlessness of war. He provides a sorrowful and desperate tone throughout the poem, which takes place within the battlefields of France during World War I. The speaker is unidentified but is believed to be one of the soldiers mourning over the lifeless body of their associate. Throughout most of the poem, the speaker questions the sun’s ability to provide energy as well as breathe life into the motionless soldier.
Owen’s aims throughout the poem are to introduce one of the several possible sorrows of war and effectively define war as a pointless act that will lead to devastation. The poem is made up of one stanza consisting of fourteen lines all of which deal with the agonies of the soldiers after they had witnessed the death of one of their associates at war. The symbolism presented within the poem emphasises the thoughts and feelings of the speaker towards the situation. The sun symbolises power and represents God throughout the poem.
The statement “Woke, once, the clays of a cold star” further verifies that God is… Meaning of futility: uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result. Wilfred Owen’s poetry usually describes the grotesque reality of the frontline of WWI; however, this poem concentrates on the meaning of existence, and the futility (pointlessness) of war and inevitability of death. The narrator of this poem is having an existential crisis; what is the point of being born if you are just going to die a few years later?
It is common for people to question death and what comes after death, especially if that person is surrounded by death or on the verge of death themselves. Soldiers are faced with death every day, the death of their fellow soldiers and of their enemies; being surrounded by death on a daily basis can lead anyone to feel betrayed by life and life-givers. The anonymity of this poem allows it to universal; it can be describing any soldier. This poem also serves as an elegy, which is a song, poem, or speech that expresses grief for one who is dead, and it is usually melancholy in tone.
Move him into the sun- (line 1) The poem begins with the narrator ordering that the man be moved into the sun; this leads us to believe that the narrator is of a high rank than the person he was talking to, someone of low rank would not be giving orders to someone who outranked him. Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields half-sown. (2- 3) The sun is personified in this poem; the sun is described as gently touching the man, rousing him from sleep, which is a motherly thing to do. The sun woke the man briefly, and his last moments were filled with memories of his childhood on a farm.
The sun whispers to him, which is another human quality. Fields half-sown has a dual meaning: first, fields are only partially seeded (it’s the beginning of planting season); second, it is a metaphor for a life not fully lived. Many soldiers in WWI were barely eighteen years old, and hadn’t even had the opportunity to experience life. Always it woke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow. If anything might rouse him now The kind old sun will know. (5-7) The sun had always roused him before, but this time was different.
There is a contrasting of sensations: sun (warmth and life) and snow (cold and death). The man is unable to be revived, because the sun is being partially blocked by the snow. The “old sun” is the only thing that can save him now. The sun is once again personified by the narrator referring to it as “kind. ” Think how it wakes the seeds- Woke once the clays of a cold star. (8-9) The sun is life-giving; it makes seeds and men grow. The sun is considered a dwarf star, whose temperature ranges from three thousand to ten thousand Kelvin (K). A massive star’s (temperature is around 50,000 K.
Therefore; a cold star could be referring to the sun, which has a comparatively cold in temperature. “Cold Star” is also an oxymoron; a star may vary in temperature, but they are not cold. I believe what the narrator is trying to say here is that like the seeds are given life, the sun was also given life. Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir? Was it for this the clay grew tall? (10-13) “Limbs” has a twofold meaning: first, a limb is a branch of a tree, which fits in with the nature them; second, limbs are projecting paired appendages (legs, arms, or wings).
The creation of nature and mankind is very delicate. The narrator doesn’t understand how the sun can give life to seeds, but not a body that is still warm. “Clay” is mud, and comes from the Earth. “Clay grew tall” is referencing Genesis 2. 7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground — ;” so clay symbolizes man. The narrator is asking what the point of life if; why is man born just to die? Is life pointless? -O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth’s sleep at all? (13-14) The idea that the sun can bring a dead man back to life is “fatuous” (foolish) and futile.
Men enlisted because of some promise of heroism made by government propaganda, which convinced them that they needed to prove their bravery and nationalism by fighting for their country. Young men were exceptionally susceptible to such advertising; because they think that fighting in the war would them make them more attractive to women and earn the respect of their family and friends. The casualties of WWI were high; many boys didn’t even get the opportunity to live or love. The narrator’s final question is what made the sun give life to man at all if it was ultimately just going to take it away. Futility
The front line on a bright winter morning. A soldier has recently died though we don’t know precisely how or when. Owen appears to have known him and something of his background and he ponders nature’s power to create life, setting it against the futility of extinction. Only five of his poems were published in Wilfred Owen’s lifetime. FUTILITY was one of them. It appeared, together with HOSPITAL BARGE, in “The Nation” on 15th June 1918, shortly after being written – at Ripon probably – although Scarborough is a possibility. At about this time Owen categorised his poems, FUTILITY coming under the heading “Grief”.
It takes the form of a short elegiac lyric the length of a sonnet though not structured as one, being divided into seven-line stanzas. Owen uses the sun as a metaphorical framework on which to hang his thoughts. The sun wakes us (lines 2 ;amp; 4), stimulates us to activity (3), holds the key of knowledge (7), gives life to the soil (8), gave life from the beginning, yet (13) in the end the “fatuous” sunbeams are powerless. “Move him into the sun”. “Move” is an inexact word yet we feel the movement has to be gentle, just as the command has been quietly spoken. What a contrast with the body “flung” into the wagon in DULCE ET DECORUM EST. ) Of course, we may have been influenced by “gently” in line 2 which reinforces the previous impression, while “touch” again not quite an exact word, is surely light, reverent even. A similar tone characterises line 3 with “whispering”, so soft a sound. “Fields half-sown” (“unknown” in an earlier version) has its literal sense of work on the farm that this man will never now complete, and a metaphorical one as well, suggesting the wider tragedy of life left unfulfilled. “Even in France” (line 4).
No fields here to speak of, no seeds to grow on ground devastated by war. Does the mention of snow startle? Sun, sowing, may have put a different picture in our minds. Line 7 “kind old sun” again suggests the softer emotions, “old” being literally true of the sun but again, as used here, a term of affection. Stanza 1, then, seems tender, almost unchallenging. Stanza 2 is very different. “Awoke”, “woke”, “rouse”. This poem is about their opposite. In stanza 2 Owen invites us to share his thoughts, and soon a note of bewilderment is struck that becomes near despair.
The questions he asks, prompted by the sight of his dead comrade, seem direct and rhetorical at the same time. So much has gone into the making of a man (“so dear achieved”), how can the sun that has done all this in the end do so little? Line 12’s “Was it for this the clay grew tall? ” has life, in man, reaching its peak merely to come to nothing, and the poem ends, fittingly, in ambiguity: – O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth’s peace at all? Why ever did the sun do anything so fatuous is one question, while another is – what was the cause of the sun behaving in this way?
Depending whether the stress falls on “what” or “made” in line 13. A clever end to Owen’s set of imponderables. Notice the simplicity of the diction which together with the use of so many words of one syllable accords with the elegiac, deeply felt mood. Owen is careful, however, to avoid smoothness. The first and last lines of each stanza are shorter than the rest. Some lines begin with the stress on the first syllable (trochee), some on the second (iamb). He makes much use of his favourite pararhyme (half rhyme): sun-sown, once-France, seeds-sides, star-stir, tall-toil, snow-now; which also helps to disturb the natural rhythm.
The problem Owen faces in FUTILITY is how to reconcile the miracle of creation with the evil of that creation laid waste, which intimates futility in two senses, first the futility behind the paradox of life made death, and second the futility of trying to find an answer. Where Owen stood at that time in relation to his practice as a Christian is impossible for us to know. At least the bitterness of ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH and DULCE ET DECORUM EST, in FUTILITY gives place to the pity that characterises his finest work, and manages, I think, to transcend the pessimism and the bleakness.
Notes Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) is one of the most famous English poets to emerge from the First World War. He was born on the borders of England and Wales and was interested in becoming a poet from an early age. War broke out in 1914 and he joined the army the following year, aged 18. Before long he had to return to England to get treatment for shell-shock (what today we would call Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – severe anxiety brought on by a stressful situation like war). He was sent to a hospital in Edinburgh and there he met the already well-known poet and writer Siegfried Sassoon.
Owen returned to the trenches a year later and wrote some of his best-known poems. He was also decorated for his courage in battle, before being killed on 4th November 1918, just a week before peace was declared and the war finally ended. Only five of Wilfred Owen’s poems were published in his lifetime. Futility is one of them. It shows Owen’s great technical skill and also the important influence of Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon had encouraged Owen to put more of his own personal experiences into his poetry. He had also turned him against the war.
Instead of seeing the war as a justified attempt to free Belgium, Owen now saw the war as a struggle between Imperial powers looking to expand their lands overseas. Futility reflects this sudden change from patriotic hope to despair. Futility is written in 14 lines like a sonnet. It is not structured like one though. This poem has two seven-line stanzas. The two-stanza structure reflects the poem’s change in tone, from hope and confidence to despair. The poem begins with a statement that suggests an action happening now.