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How does Owen use language to explore the harsh realities of war in Exposure?

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Introduction

How does Owen use language to explore the harsh realities of war in Exposure? From the title we can infer that the poem is an expos�. It indeed aims to expose the war-time propaganda of World War One. It almost appears comical when the moroseness of Owen's exposure is contrasted to the pro-war propaganda of the time. Owen is a monotone and sobering voice to the romanticised perceptions of war at the time. Society was largely ignorant of the realities of the war and Owen felt duty bound to expose what he believed to be truth about war based his own experience. The poem tells of the harsh weather conditions the soldiers experienced and the anxiety caused simply by being present at war. Owen effectively explains the harshness of the war by his blunt phrasing - in this way, Owen's message is never rarely ambiguous. The first line of the poem begins: "Our brains ache in the merciless iced east winds that knives us..." This dramatic image clearly describes the physical pain that Owen and his soldiers experienced. Being an opening line, it adds to the dramatic effect of the poem and by shocking the reader, immediately awakening them to the realities of war. Owen's lexical choice in using the phrase "brains ache" creates an unpalatable image in the mind of the reader evoking both shock and to a lesser extent empathy for the soldiers. This is followed by the word "merciless" creating a deeper emotional connection between the soldiers and the reader. ...read more.

Middle

The word "silence" adds to the sibilating effect and yet stems the intensity of the poem as silence greatly contrasts with the action in the same line. The reader can hear the whistling of bullets into the trenches which is followed by silence. The line is ended here. The audience reads on with anticipation to find out what happens next. Owen and the soldiers experienced a similar kind of anticipation whilst at war. The anticipation of the soldiers is met anti-climatically by the refrain of "but nothing happens" throughout the poem. Owen is suggesting that this is part of the misery of war - waiting for death. In the next line a gun assault described as "less deathly than air" or in other words there were no casualties. This suggests that the Owen was in fact expecting death. The sentence is negative as the word "less" is used. The audience gains the impression that It almost seems as if the soldiers are disappointed that the attack did not cause death. Arguably, Owen is implying that there were suicidal tendencies amongst the soldiers. The poem as whole is written from the perspective of the soldier and each stanza reflects what the soldiers are thinking and the last line of each stanza is a summarising conclusion. For example in the second stanza the hardship of war is described through the personification of the wind as an enemy with the phrase "mad gusts" and the poet also describes the "twitching agonies of men", both these descriptions reflect what the soldiers are thinking. ...read more.

Conclusion

He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantly." Owen was encouraged to write about the experiences particularly the ones he relived in his dreams by his doctor Arthur Brock as a therapeutic experience this may explain why exposure is laden with emotion particularly anger and resentment. Also, perhaps Owen's satirical style can be attributed to not an attempt to mock government propaganda but to his attempt to imitate the realistic and satirical style of his esteemed mentor Siegfried Sassoon. Although this point is arguably flawed as Owen makes a more explicit attempt to mock government propaganda in his poem Disabled: "How cold and late it is! Why don't they come And put him into bed? Why don't they come?" This is satirical of the propaganda posters that read "When will the next troops come?" which was attempt by the government to persuade potential troops to fight in the war that were not amongst the first to enlist. The quotation is satirical of the posters as here Owen is implying that if someone should become disabled as a result of the war there concern will be not with the war but how the hospital staff cares for them. Exposure explores the harsh realities of war principally through vivid descriptions from the perspective of the soldiers and although Owen often makes his meaning explicit, his poetic intentions are somewhat more subject to interpretation. Ultimately, the poem is a literary manifestation of Owen's traumatic experiences and thus is able to effectively explore war because Owen had lived through and dwelled upon the harsh realities that he wrote about. ...read more.

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