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Futility By Wilfred Owen. Images of War. Look at these images and write down the feelings they evoke What they say about World War 1. “Poppies” – “a multisensory explosion”.

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By Wilfred Owen

images of war
Images of War
  • Look at these images and write down the feelings they evoke
  • What they say about World War 1
poppies a multisensory explosion
“Poppies” – “a multisensory explosion”

‘I was thinking of Susan Owen [mother of World war One soldier ad poet, Wilfred]… and families of soldiers killed in any war when I wrote this poem. This poem attempts on one level to address female experience and is consciously a political act.’

Susan Owen

Wilfred Owen

who is wilfred owen


He is now thought of as the poet who exposed the brutalities of trench warfare and the senseless waste of life caused by World War One.

Who is Wilfred Owen?

Despite his views on the senseless waste of war, Wilfred Owen was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of his courage and leadership during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line in October 1918.

He was born in 1893 and died in 1918.

Owen spent only four months fighting and only five weeks in the front line, but the shock of the horrors of war was so great that he decided it was his task to expose the ‘Pity of War’, to represent in poetry the experiences of the men in his care.

Owen was killed on 4 November 1918 trying to get his men across the Sambre Canal. The news reached his parents seven days later, on Armistice Day.

In a letter to his mother, Susan, Owen wrote: ‘I came out again in order to help these boys; directly, by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their suffering that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can.

definition of futility
Definition of ‘Futility’


1. The quality of having no useful

result; uselessness.

2. Lack of importance or purpose;


3. A futile act or event.

  • What does its use suggest about the poet's attitude to war?

Suggests he can’t move himself – makes us wonder why

Who is he?

What does he represent?

Movehim into the sun –

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields half-sown.

Always it woke him, even in France,

Until this morning and this snow.

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know.

Resigned tone line title

What profession was he before the war?




Idea repeated but nothing will wake the soldier

Both stanzas start with a command making the reader…

The sun is powerful, it brought life to earth but it can’t help now

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?

Why does the poet end the poem with a question mark

Questions the reasons forgiving life in war – suggests it’s pointless

Anger – hints at the pointlessness of war

exploring the text
Exploring the Text

Presentation of nature

* Find all the references to nature.

* How is nature presented? Why?

Use of sounds

* Track the sounds of words in this poem?

* What do you notice? How is Owen using the

sounds of words?

Direct address

* What examples of direct address are there?

* What do they help to achieve within the poem?