Exposure – Wilfred Owen

Language Features

“Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us”
– This is an example of personification, the east winds are ‘knifing’ the author. In other words they are stabbing the author with cold. This language feature is used instead of just saying that the wind is ‘cold’ as it adds more interest. Its saying that the wind is so icy it’s piercing through them.

“Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous, But nothing happens.”
– The author uses listing in this way to slow the piece down. It gives time to set the scene, they’re scared its freezing and nothing is happening to interest them. Also the emotive language used gives insight into what the soldiers are thinking. They have confused feelings about the silence, wondering why nothing is happening; these feelings set the scene of what the soldiers feel.

“But nothing happens.”
– This phrase is repeated at the end of multiple stanzas throughout the piece. This is partly an oxymoron as it is used at the end of a verse which clearly has gunfire at the start. “Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.” Yet it still says that nothing had happened. But the phrase “But nothing happens” is for the most part used to add to the feeling of slowness which the poem depicts. It’s repetition is too emphasize the, cold slow deaths/pace of the soldiers/poem. This phrase is also used at the end which is a nice touch to finish of the poem, saying that all that has happened during the poem, does not matter; it says that nothing of importance has happened in the whole poem.

“glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed With crusted dark-red jewels.”
– The crusted jewels are a metaphor for the embers left after a fire.
I think the author compares them to jewels as the soldiers would love to go over to the warmth of the fires. So the fires are precious or treasured to them.

-Wilfred Owen personifies dawn

How is the idea of exposure (being dangerously exposed to the natural elements/weather) represented in the poem?

Right from the start line “Our brains ache in the merciless iced east winds that knive us” They are exposed to this wind so cold it feels like knives stabbing them and makes their brains ache. The wind is presented as a merciless enemy stabbing them with knives of ice. The word merciless conveys the wind as a real danger as it is never relenting.

“We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.” This quote adds to the misery of the war and the exposure they are facing. They are being exposed to rain enough to soak them through. Rain, and dark grey skies caused by rain, makes the scene dreary and miserable. The weather is an enemy to the soldiers mentally in this case. The misery of the weather would challenge their mental state making it difficult for them to get moving and keep fighting.

“Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence. Less deadly then the air that shudders black with snow.” This quote is presents the weather as a very deadly enemy. It presents the weather as more deadly than even the war itself, with the bullets and bombs and death.

“We cringe in holes.” This is quite a powerful short sentence. It tells the reader how the weather was so harsh and merciless has defeated the ‘we.’ Some of them have given up, cringing to death in holes. Further down the stanza it says “-Is it that we are dying.” This means that they are so miserable and brain numbed by the weather that they don’t even realize they are dying anymore. “Slowly our ghosts drag home” They no longer feel like humans, they are hollow, empty beings. It gave me an image of ghosts slowly dragging their former body’s by ropes.

“Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shriveling many hands.” Whence the sun goes down, the icy enemy returns. It

One Reply to “Exposure – Wilfred Owen”

  1. Billy, your thoughts on how the idea of “exposure” are presented in the poem are well-developed. You even go further to explain what these details suggest about the men’s experiences and thoughts in war. Your analysis of language techniques needs more depth overall- what atmosphere or messages are attained through these language techniques? Go further to explain the effect of these lines on our understanding.

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