Futility: Kind Old Sun

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Joseph Chan ENGL 1202 / R50 Essay 1 Dec 8, 2010 Futility As much as Yeats dismisses Wilfred Owen’s poetry as “all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick.” (Langley 4), “Futility” arguably is one of his world renowned war poems. By using a fallen comrade in the arena of war as the topic and by applying imagery, diction, rhyme scheme, and tone as the technique, “Futility” effectively argues for the fact that war is vain and unproductive; it also questions the meaning and creation of life as a whole. Presented in a total of fourteen lines and seven lines per stanza, “Futility” resembles somewhat a sonnet but technically it is not. In terms of word sounds, Owen uses a combination of masculine rhyme and consonance, or half-rhyme, such as “snow” (5), “now” (6), and “know” (7). A second example is “tall” (12), “toil” (13), and “all” (14). By employing such structure, Owen successfully shares his view of the world with subtlety – a world that should be in order but instead it is filled with turmoil and confusion as a direct result of futile and senseless war. When reading “Futility”, we find it quite natural, like someone speaking, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The poet achieves this by using the technique of enjambment on some of the lines in his poem. Through the voice of a third person, Owen begins his poem by suggesting to wake the soldier by “[moving] him into the sun” (1) because “[its gently] touch has awoke him once” (2) before. Owen strategically selects diction such as “gently” (2), “whispering” (3), and “rouse” (6) to create a soft and mellow tone in its first sentence and to provide us

with a clear perception of his mindset which is calm, content, and hopeful. The poet remains confident that the “kind old sun” [7], which symbolizes a life-long friendship with the soldier, is going to wake his comrade because it has always managed to do so, “even in France” (4). It is not “until [that] morning and [that] snow” (5) then he realizes the soldier is...
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