27th February 2018

Exposure by Wilfred Owen

In this poem, Owen talks about the “exposure” as something bad which is not helping the soldiers; it’s cold, it’s windy so the soldier not only has to try to survive to the war

-”Iced east winds that knive us”: It’s so cold that the wind is actually hurting the soldiers

-”Mad gusts”: The noise of the wind is almost painful

-”Rain soaks”: The rain is so

-”Clouds sag stormy”: it doesn’t look it will stop being rainy and windy

-”Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow”: The war is bringing less death than the cold

-”Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our face”: the snow is coming down, falling on the soldiers

-”Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud”: during the night, everything freezes, even the mud

These references tell us that the war is even harder because of the weather, the men are fighting not only with the enemies, but also with the weather; while they are trying to survive to the war, they have to survive even to the rain, to the wind, to the snow. Therefore we can identify the weather as a real enemy, that is fighting with these extreme weather conditions.

It is presented as an enemy by Owen in many cases; the one I was really impressed about is “Less deadly (the bullets) than the air that shudders black with snow” because it really gives the idea of how strong the wind and the snow are.

The difference between the war and the weather is given by the title “exposure”. The soldiers can’t do anything against the snow, the rain and the wind, they can only continue fighting, trying to resist to this exposure.

Language techniques

Personification: “pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces”: The personification is used to emphasize what’s happening, using human qualities for something non-human. In this personification we can understand how cold and hard to deal with these conditions are. It let us understand that the flakes touch the soldiers as if they were fingers. The soldiers are struggling with the war and with the snow which, as if it was a human, it is annoying the soldiers, making what is already hard even harder. Therefore, by using this language technique, Owen help us understanding even more what is going on.

Repetition: “But nothing happens”: The repetition is usually used to emphasize feelings and people’s ideas. Owen is saying that even if a lot is happening, the soldiers are suffering the weather, bullets fly through the air, nothing is really changing, the war doesn’t seem to be finishing, no one seems to be winning, there is only death, and this never changes. It’s like when we watch a football match, no one is scoring so we think “nothing happens” even if the players are struggling, they are trying their hardest; the same is happening to Owen, even if everyone is struggling, fighting to survive, that is the normality, so it’s as if nothing happens. and he wants us to understand this, so he use this repetition.

The same is happening with the other repetition, which is also a rhetorical question, “What are we doing here?” Owen is letting us understand his idea of the war as something useless and pointless. What re they doing there? Why are they there? We know Owen is completely against the war and in this poem he tells us his idea by using this question. This question is referred to everyone, friends and enemies and, maybe, he is trying to find an answer by asking us, the readers; he is looking for help because no one knows why they are there, what they are doing, what they are dying for.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Great initial ideas, Fred. Continue to be specific when you explain the effect of lines or language techniques: “Less deadly (the bullets) than the air that shudders black with snow” because it really gives the idea of how strong the wind and the snow are” – how strong? why is this important? Also, consider why personification is effective? How does it affect our image of the non-human object or thing?


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