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Futility. By Josh Harden, Peta Bradwell, Lewis Blair, Yan and Melli Pullinger. The poem itself. Move him into the sun— Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields half-sown. Always it awoke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow.

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futility

Futility.

By Josh Harden, Peta Bradwell, Lewis Blair, Yan and Melli Pullinger.

the poem itself
The poem itself.

Move him into the sun—

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields half-sown.

Always it awoke him, even in France,

Until this morning and this snow.

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—

Woke once the clays of a cold star.

Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides

Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth's sleep at all?

structure
Structure.
  • Futility is structured in stanzas. It has an unusual rhyming scheme due to the fact that it uses an A B A B A B C rhyming pattern (it is in half rhymes), however it may be hard to see this because poetic licence is used. For example, ‘sun’ and ‘sown’ do not have the exact same sound – yet when reading the poem it gives the effect of a rhyme because of the fact the words sound so similar, also because they begin with the same cotenants (which we familiarise with rhyme when reading because parts of the word sound the same).
language
Language.
  • The title of the poem, ‘Futility’ refers to helplessness and uselessness. Due to the fact the poem is about war (we know this because it is from the conflict section), we believe that the title is supposed to be a reference to a hopeless war. This alone, gives us an insight into the poets opinions and feelings because of the fact that it is an obviously negative tone, which gives us reason to believe that the poet ‘Wilfred Owen’ has lugubrious feelings toward war.
personification
Personification.
  • Personification is a large factor in the poem ‘Futility’. Wilfred Owen uses a constant personification and theme of the sun throughout the poem. For example: ‘Move him into the sun – Gently its touch awoke him once’, the fact he writes as if the sun is capable of physically awakening someone is personification. He portrays the sun as a main character almost, making us feel as if it is not just an element, but it is almost a hero – because he implies it has the power to bring someone back to life.
semantic field
Semantic field.
  • The poem ‘Futility’ seems to have a semantic field of nature and sorrow. We can see this through the poets use of words that all link to one area e.g. ‘sun’, ‘fields’, ‘morning’, ‘snow’, ‘seeds’ etc. all link to nature because they are all natural aspects of life. He also uses dismal wording such as ‘cold’, ‘fatuous’, ‘break’ etc. these words all link to a sad and sorrowful impression. However it is not just the wording that triggers sad emotions in the reader, it is the way the poet talks as if he has lost hope. He refers to everything the sun does, such as waking people, in past tense – insinuating that the sun can no longer do this (not in Owens particular case anyway). Which creates a sense of giving up and failure, linking to the uselessness and hopelessness that the title implies.
who is the character
Who is the character?
  • Other than the sun, there is use of the word ‘him’ rather often in the poem ‘Futility’. This leads us to believe that the character is a male and due to the fact it is about war the chances are that he was a warrior or soldier in the war, this makes the whole poem make much more sense because we realise that the character Owen refers to has most likely died in battle, which offers an explanation to the sorrowful and hopeless tone throughout the poem and it also explains Wilfred Owens negative attitude to war. It explains this because Owens attitude gives across a lot of emotion and he doesn’t hold himself back when writing the poem or seem detached – he appears very involved in the poem (which gives us the impression that the character in the poem was known to him personally).
religious implications
Religious implications?
  • Toward the end of the poem Wilfred Owen begins to mention certain terms that could easily link to religion and the bible. For example ‘Was it for this the clay grew tall?’, this phrase could be referring to the creation story in the bible that states God ‘moulded’ man out of clay. The fact he questions the reason that ‘the clay grew tall’ leads us to believe that he may be questioning his faith, his existence. He is almost making a subtle rant to his ‘God’, questioning his reasons and possibly even wondering why he would allow a good person to die for such a pointless reason. The fact that the poet uses this terminology really puts himself and his views into the poem because it shows he has been personally effected and is quite obviously angered and disagrees with war.
reference to clay
Reference to clay.
  • Reference to the clay can also imply how feeble and breakable we are as humans. We have very malleable morals as they can be swayed extremely easily, we often follow the crowd as a race. The idea of humans being like clay also makes us think of weakness and vulnerability, because clay is something that can not only be changed, but it can be destroyed. Much like humans. We also believe that Owen was trying to link the idea of clay to the idea of toys, because much like toys and clay, commanders in war order men to go onto the frontline and in many cases, face their death head on, as if they were only a toy to be experimented with and their lives thrown around carelessly.
rhetorical questions
Rhetorical questions.
  • Wilfred Owen uses various rhetorical questions toward the end of the poem. It is like as the poem progresses, Owen slowly loses his composure. He starts off seeming strong, elegant and structured however as the poem heads toward a halt, he begins to almost rant. Asking open and unanswerable questions and questioning his own faith. It is as the poem is his grief period, he goes through denial when he believes the sun can awake him, he then realises it cannot and reflects on why – then he becomes frustrated and angry due to the fact he wants to know why it has happened. Why the world can ‘be so cruel’ you may say. Finally, he ends the poem on a final rhetorical question ‘O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earths sleep at all?’. He ends the poem unsure and still questioning – never getting his answer.