2 What do you know about World War One? Create a brainstorm of all the things that you connect to this Great War.TrenchesMillions diedRecruitmentHeroesConscientious objectorsShell shock
3 Arrange these words from the poem under headings of your choice achesilentconfuseworriedwhispercuriousnervousmadagoniespoignantmiserymelancholyshiveringattacksbulletssilenceshudderssnowflakeswindcringeSnow-dazedghostsdyingfrostshrivellingpuckeringcrispiceburyingBased upon these key words, what do you think the poem might be about?
4 Listen to the poem Audio B6 – Interactive Poetry What are your first impressions?What is the poem about?How does the speaker feel?What attitude is shown towards war?Now read the poem again while watching the slide show:
5 Wilfred Owen Born 18th March 1893 in Shropshire, England He enlisted in the army in September 1915He arrived in France in late December 1916 – right in the middle of one of the harshest winters.He was an officer and led his men in some bloody battles.He witnessed some terrible things and was shell-shocked himself, having to spend time in a hospital in Scotland to convalesce.He felt that the war was futile and spoke out about this in his poetry.He was killed on 4th November 1914, a week before the war ended.
6 Background DetailsThe winter of 1917 was particularly harsh for the soldiers in France. The severe weather became as much of a threat to their lives as the enemies they were fighting.Owen was a poet and soldier during the war and most of his poems are based upon his own experiences of war.In letters that he wrote to his mother from the trenches, he described how men literally froze to death during this terrible winter.
8 ImageryImages are often created using similes, metaphors or personification. What examples can you find in the poem?“winds that knive us”“mad gusts tugging on the wire, / Like twitching agonies of men”“gunnery rumbles, / Far off, like a dull rumour”“The poignant misery of dawn”“Dawn massing in her east”“flakes that flock, pause and renew”“Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces”“Slowly our ghosts drag home”“All their eyes are ice”Choose two images and write down what you consider the effect to be of each.
9 Find evidence to show that the weather is as deadly an enemy as the Germans “winds that knive us”“mad gusts”“rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy”“Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army / Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,”“Less deadly than the air that shudders black with ice”“Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces”“We cringe in holes”“Shrivelling many hands”“puckering foreheads crisp”
10 Where in the poem do the soldiers think back to their homes? Stanza six.What do you think the poet means by “on us the doors are closed”?The men cannot return to the comfort of their homes; their imaginings are short-lived as they return to their reality.What could Owen be saying about people back at home who can still “rejoice”?He may be criticising those who allow the fighting to continue and do nothing about it.
11 What does Owen mean by “love of God seems dying?” How does Owen show in the last two stanzas that the soldiers’ deaths are inevitable?He suggests that the men have to die for us to continue to have the things that we hold dear. “not otherwise can kind fire burn…”What does Owen mean by “love of God seems dying?”It is suggesting that within the horror that the men endure, it is nearly impossible to keep a love of God.
12 Why does Owen keep repeating “But nothing happens?” It helps to reinforce the hopelessness and pointlessness of what the men are going through.The repetition also reflects the monotony of the men’s experiences.
13 Words that emphasise how the soldiers feel Personification – brings the weather to life as another enemyWords that emphasise how the soldiers feelOur brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us…Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent…Low, drooping flares confuse our memories of the salient…Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,But nothing happens.Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.What are we doing here?Simile – highlights the strength of the windSimile – suggests that the sound of gunfire has become so constant, they barely notice it
14 The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow… Personification – nature as the enemysadThe poignant misery of dawn begins to grow…We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.Dawn massing in the east her melancholy armyAttacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,But nothing happens.Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,We watch them wandering up and down the wind’s nonchalance,The grey of the clouds links to the grey of the German uniformsAlliteration emphasises harsh and sudden sound of gunsRepetition highlights the monotony and pointlessness of their livesAlliteration emphasises quantity of snow
15 Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces – Alliteration makes the snow sound sinisterThey are barely consciousPale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces –We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.Is it that we are dying?Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozedWith crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;For hours the innocent mice rejoice: The house is theirs;Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed, –We turn back to our dying.They feel closer to dead than alivePeople back home can still feel happinessCaesura, reflects that they cannot return to this life – the punctuation is like a barrierMetaphor to show they are so close to deathThey have to return from their reminiscence to reality
16 Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn; The men have to fight for us to keep those things we hold dearSince we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;Nor ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.For God’s invincible spring our love is made afraid;Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,For love of God seems dying.Tonight, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,Shrivelling many hands, puckering foreheads crisp.The burying party, picks and shovels in the shaking grasp,Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,But nothing happens.The men even doubt the existence of God in this environmentMetaphor – shows that even those who are still alive have nothing left inside them
17 Links to the other poems? What themes does it share?Fear – “Our Sharpeville”; “Belfast Confetti”, “Parade’s End”Pain – “Belfast Confetti”; “Catrin”Violence – “Belfast Confetti”; “Our Sharpeville”Enemies – “Belfast Confetti”; “Our Sharpeville”Protest – “Half-Caste”
18 Exam Practice What kind of suffering is being experienced Explore how the poet presents ideas of suffering in “Exposure”.What sort of things should you include to show your understanding?What kind of suffering is being experiencedHow the poet feels about itWhat methods he uses to present the above.