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The poem ‘Futility’ by Wilfred Owen deals with the speaker’s desperation after the experience of death on the battlefield which leads him to question the sense of life as well as sense of creation in general.
At the beginning, the whole situation is vague for the reader. The verbal indistinctness points to the role of the poem attributes by using only words of someone who is immediately involved in the situation and affected by it. The reader has to try and work things out, to try to understand the speaker’s inside and outside situation, and see through his verbal reaction to understand the poem itself.
This is shown as at the beginning of poem, he starts with an imperative of “Move him into the sun-” (line 1). The speaker starts his speech by addressing the people who are beside him and the cesura at the end of the line leads on so that after it, he speaks to himself.
The switch of addressees, from those around him to himself already indicates that two levels that will be dealt with throughout the whole poem, the factual language of the imperative verb ‘Move’ refers to the rational side, while the emotional language use in the two stanzas represents the emotional side which takes over immediately after the cesura break.
The pace and rhythm of ‘Futility’ is slow and reflective, with commas and other punctual devices such as the cesuras at the sentence at the beginning of each stanza, used regularly to make the reader read the poem slower, adding a grieving feel to the poem.
The soldier in ‘Futility’ is not referred to by any name – simply ‘him’. This is suggestive of the lack of identity and this focus on this individual soldier is also a representative of the all the soldiers that has been killed in action being left unburied on the battlefield. The ‘sun’ which is mentioned in line 1 is also seen to be a ‘giver of life’ – possible symbolising God, as he wrote in line 12, “Was it for this clay grew tall?” this has connotations with the bible which said that man was made from the earth, and clay is from the earth. The “whispering of fields unsown” signifies a young life with great potential being cut short – and the reality that he will not be returning back home, a place where he was comfortable and satisfied, to complete the rest of his life, as it has been lost in such meaningless conflict, this is Wilfred Owen’s attitude to conflict.
The other poem which I have chosen is called ‘Mametz Wood’ by Owen Sheers. It was written about the events of when farmers digging a field in preparation for planting and in so, bones of corpses from the Battle of the Somme are discovered. ‘Mametz Wood’ is similar to ‘Futility’ as they both deal with the grim subject of death on the battlefield, and how those who fell to this fate were often left where they fell. It is also similar to ‘Futility’ in a sense that they both don’t deal directly with the moment of death but they are a reflection on the loss of the young life.
The language used in ‘Mametz Wood’ and ‘Futility’ are both respectful towards the soldiers and mainly concentrates on the great sacrifice made by the soldiers, rather than the details of the battle itself as a death in battle is usually seen as an honourable fate. Memories in horror of finding the bodies of the dead soldiers who died from the war are presented in ‘Mametz Wood’, this is shown in line 2 ‘the wasted young, turning up under their plough blades,’ The word ‘wasted’ suggests that the soldiers shouldn’t have died and this shows a similar attitude to conflict as ‘Futility’ as Wilfred Owen also thinks war and death is pointless or futile. In line 4 and 5, ‘A chit of bone, the china plate of a shoulder blade,
the relic of a finger, the blown’ also is another example of memories, as these are body parts of a person and it must be significant as the finger is also described as a ‘relic’.
Metaphorical vocabulary is used throughout the poem, such as “a wound working a foreign body to the surface to the skin” on line 12. This phrase creates a vivid image in the minds of the reader. The setting of Mametz Wood is different to that of Futility, as it set in the years long after the war, rather than during the conflict, as it is bones that are being found not the actual corpse of a soldier.
Both poems deals with a depressing subject thus emotive language has been used throughout both, and by using this emotive language you can tell that great thought and respect has been put into these two pieces with similar attitudes to conflict, of respecting the death of unnecessary deaths which conflict has caused.
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