Exposure by wilfred owen
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Exposure by Wilfred Owen. Possible interpretations of ‘Exposure’. Exposure describes the extreme weather conditions which men were subjected to in the trenches and what they also died of . A different type of suffering. Exposing the actuality of war in the Trenches .

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Exposure by Wilfred Owen

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Exposure by wilfred owen

Exposureby Wilfred Owen


Possible interpretations of exposure

Possible interpretations of ‘Exposure’

  • Exposure describes the extreme weather conditions which men were subjected to in the trenches and what they also died of. A different type of suffering.

  • Exposing the actuality of war in the Trenches.

  • Perhaps Owen ‘exposes’ himself to public criticism?


Exposure by wilfred owen

Harsh monosyllabic words – emphasise the harsh conditions

Personification of wind – harsh, cruel

Assonance – sharp ‘A’ sound to indicate the physical pain

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us...

Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent...

Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient...

Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,

But nothing happens.

Ellipses, wants us to ponder on the idea, cruel winter

Assonance – O – slows pace – like time dragging on?

Assonance – elongated ‘e’ sound to emphasise their fatigue

Reference to Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale

Unnatural silence – makes soldiers nervous

Sibilance of the repeated ‘s’ sound creates the effect of whispering, an attempt to not draw the attention of the enemy, who are futilely using flares to see what is going on.


Exposure by wilfred owen

Distant sounds of war

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?

Weather brings back memories of watching fellow solders die on the barbed wire

Real war seems distant, while they nervously wait

Rhetorical question – is there presence pointless? How? Why?


Exposure by wilfred owen

Military language to describe the daily assault of the weather

Use of ellipsis – time dragging on? Make the reader reflect on soldiers’ misery?

Even dawn brings no comfort

The 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 army

Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,

But nothing happens.

Monotony of the weather; regardless of what happens, the outlook – war/weather -is grim, relentless

Dawn is personified as female, but a cruel and merciless taker not a creator of life – subversion of caring and compassionate Mother Nature

The incessant waiting continues


Exposure by wilfred owen

Has the battle started again? It is compared as less ‘deathly’ than the snow: use of sibilance (repetition of ‘s’ sound) – soft sound to highlight how deadly weather can be in comparison.

Alliteration of soft ‘f’ sound – highlight the seemingly perpetual onslaught of the snow

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,

But nothing happens.

‘Black’ – death?

emphasises the constancy of the extreme cold and misery

Passing time – watching snowfall. Weather uncaring.

Are they more likely to die from the cold than a bullet?

Repetition – waiting, waiting.


Exposure by wilfred owen

Juxtaposition of the fear and bleakness of trench warfare with the gentle images of the British countryside

Nature is the real enemy, coming unawares, silent assassin

Pale flakes with lingering 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?

Hypnotic effect of the snow

Memories of home

Wonders if the images are an sign they are dying

Use of half-rhyme – leaves us dissatisfied. Reflects his ideas that war is also not what it should be


Exposure by wilfred owen

Repetition of closed – emphasises the hopelessness of not being allowed into the warmth

War can kill spiritually?

Caesura: prepare us for their memories and thoughts

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed

With 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.

feelings of comfort and satisfaction linked with the dream of home

The fires are beautiful but, like jewels, offer no warmth or comfort

House is deserted; would they be welcome if they went home? They are compelled and expected to stay where they are.


Exposure by wilfred owen

War is for a just cause, to give security to the generations to come.

They fear that if the enemy isn’t conquered that there will never be fires burning in the hearths of home again.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;

Now 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.

He questions us - is war caused because man's love for God is dying or God's love for man is dying?

Suggests that the men die willingly for others – Christ-like


Exposure by wilfred owen

War can lead to a loss of faith in God/God is responsible for the suffering caused by nature

To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,

Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.

The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,

Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,

But nothing happens.

The reality of fulfilling this last duty for comrades

Death will come to some but from the conditions , not the enemy

Poem comes full circle - the same vicious cycle lies in wait for the fresh recruits.


Exposure by wilfred owen

  • Who is the biggest threat to man

    • Man himself

    • War

    • Bullets

    • Weather

    • Nature

    • Duty / Compulsion / Expectation

    • Absence of God

  • Your Task:

    • Pick one of these points and find three quotes to support your argument.


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