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Futility Analysis

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Introduction

Futility is deliberate and sparing. In the alliterative "At home, whispering of fields unsown," the repeated use of the letter 's' represents the wind blowing over a field. The effect is vital to the poem, as the sound of the wind is possibly the same that "always...woke him, even in France," and the wind which whispered to the dead man on a sunny morning, reminding him of tasks not completed. With the line, the central concept is given weight and form, as within it, we can almost hear what it is that "gently... woke" him when he was home, and which the poem's narrator forlornly hopes will rouse him from his final sleep. The difference is that this is spare and stands out from, rather than being lost in, the text: no word is wasted. ...read more.

Middle

Owen is already heart broken. He can no longer be shocked into revulsion like Rosenberg and we are not distracted by extraneous musings. Owen's sun, more subtly, is apparently a kind and merciful saviour and reviver of the dead (" If anything might rouse him now/ The kind old sun will know."). The blind trust of the ordinary soldier that those in charge know what they are doing is just as futile as the belief that the sun will bring a man back to life. Futility's furious line of questioning on the death of a young man- "Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides/ Full-nerved - still warm - too hard to stir? / Was it for this the clay grew tall? ...read more.

Conclusion

The pitiful hope that the man may still be saved, the desperate attempts to rationalise that hope ("Always it woke him.... Think how it wakes the seeds, -/ Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.") are no longer apparent, instead Owen is left with anger, confusion and disillusionment. He is no longer concealing his true sentiments. He simply cannot comprehend the meaningless loss of these lives and is unable to entertain the idea that they had lived only to die- "O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth's sleep at all?". This language recalls Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est ("coughing like hags," "blood-shod," "guttering, choking, drowning" "blood...Come gargling forth from froth-corrupted lungs"). The very lack of closure evinces an overpowering knowledge that these two men had died, thousands more had died, thousands more would die and there was nothing they could do. ...read more.

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