Wilfred Owen – ‘Futility’

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it awoke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,—still warm,—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

Wilfred uses many specific features that amount to his individual poetry which include:

  • opening creates a chaotic scene of war with the use of an anonymous character – “him”
  • use of nature as disapproval of war with use of religious language “fields unsown” “rouse”
  • rhetorical questions are used to draw the reader to his views and opinions on war and it’s consequences “too hard to stir?” “Was it for this the clay grew tall?”
  • punctuation is used to emphasis pauses within his statements and emphasis on specific viewpoints “Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides….”
  • contrast in setting with growing life as  a farmer and in the army surrounded by death also extended oxymoron of “cold Star”
  • assonance

Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Futility’ demonstrates his beliefs and faith in the power of the sun and life that has been shattered, he has lost his awe and wonder in mans creation. Themes included in the poem are helplessness that death in war is inevitable, sadness and loss at the loss of all soldiers and the effects of conflict not only on the people that are affected but the economic and financial state of countries and the future stability of countries.


One thought on “Wilfred Owen – ‘Futility’

  1. A good first ‘look’ at the poem. You now need to look closer at the language which suggests that Owen is possibly in total despair – having lost faith in God, or at least the God he was brought up to believe in, and now questioning even the purpose of evolution, as laid out by Darwin and his disciples – questioning why did the clay grow tall? The ‘clay’ is both a Biblical reference to Genesis and the Judeo-Christian myth of creation and the scientific theory of all creatures evolving from single cell life-forms. You need to question and then comment on Owen’s use of the image and personification of the sun, and its role in evolution, and the formation of life. This is probably the saddest poem ever written – why ?

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