Compare the ways in which Owen portrays the extreme situations which the soldiers experience in exposure and spring offensive
Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 and became known as one of the most outstanding poets of the 1st world war. He himself fought on the front line during the war and witnessed first hand the extreme situations and terrible conditions soldiers experienced. Owen felt that war was pointless causing nothing but pain and suffering and this is shown in many of his poems. Both poems ‘Exposure’ and ‘Spring Offensive’ show the extreme situations and inhuman misery that soldiers went through.
In the poem ‘Exposure’ one of the main ways that Owen shows the awful, extreme situation the soldiers are in is by using strong, powerful imagery of nature and weather. The poem itself is about the awful situation the soldiers face who are out on the front line under freezing weather conditions. In the title alone ‘Exposure’ Owen is referring not only to the men being out at war but also to the way they are being exposed to the elements of nature as they are stuck all day in the trenches. Right at the beginning of the poem Owen uses powerful personification with imagery to leave the reader in no doubt of the awful situation the soldiers find themselves up against ‘merciless iced east winds that knive us’, he talks of the wind being like living force against the soldiers ready to knife them. The wind is as sharp as any knife going through them. Personification is used throughout when referring to the weather condition, in the second stanza personification is used ‘mad gusts tugging on the wire’ showing that powerful winds are fighting against the men. The soldiers not only have the opposition to fight but their situation has become extreme as nature as also turned against them. In the fifth stanza Owen gives life to the snow, ‘Pale flakes with fingering’ which reach out for the soldiers faces until they become ‘snow-dazed’, hypnotised by the snowy conditions. In the fourth stanza the weather is even seen as more of a threat than the war, Owen talks about flights of bullets being ‘Less deathly than the air’, reinforcing the fact that the wintry weather conditions are killing these men. The strong imagery gives a vivid description of the hellish, nightmarish situation the soldiers were in which comes to a climate in the final stanza when Owen claims ‘All their eyes are ice’, referring to the wintry conditions being too much to bear and they are freezing to death out in the trenches, their eyes have frozen over and the weather has taken their life.
Another way Owen shows how the soldier’s situation has become so extreme is through the fact that in ‘Exposure’ nothing actually happens. There is no journey or movement, just a lack of action or events. The men are still and left in a hopeless state of boredom and frustration, ‘Our brains ache’, shows not only that the situation the soldiers are put in is physically wearing them down but also mentally it is taking its toll on them. Owen uses repetition through the poem to enhance this feeling of utter boredom and hopelessness. When one thinks something may happen it is quickly stopped with, ‘But nothing happens’ .This is used at the end of four stanzas and the fact that it is used as the very last line of the poem reinforces the fact that the soldiers are exactly where they were at the beginning. Owen uses alliteration to quicken up the pace of the poem and makes one think that something is about to happen ‘sudden successive flights of bullets’ and ‘flowing flakes that flock’ but again nothing ever happens, this technique highlights the frustration the soldiers must have been feeling. The fact that nothing happens ends up with the soldiers questioning themselves ‘What are we doing here?’ the whole point of war seems meaningless now to them, they are trapped in a rut with nothing happening. The tone is one of despair, the soldiers need something to happen but nothing does,...
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